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ATO crackdown: Aussies face criminal charges over missing $284m

·3-min read
The Australian Taxation Office letter head and a person holding $100 notes
The Australian Taxation Office letter head and a person holding $100 notes

Aussies are facing a massive crackdown by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) who are chasing $284 million in JobKeeper overpayments.

So far, the ATO has retrieved around $138 million from individuals and businesses it has determined were rorting the stimulus scheme.

However, despite the missing millions, an ATO spokesperson told Yahoo Finance they had decided not to pursue the full amount as it determined some were legitimate accidents.

“[We are] pursuing $82 million and not pursuing $64 million because they are considered to have been claimed in good faith and passed onto employees,” the spokesperson said.

“Pleasingly, we have seen very low levels of fraud in relation to the economic stimulus measures.”

The ATO alleges some businesses had misrepresented the wages they were paying in order to boost the amount of stimulus they received.

“Where we have identified suspected fraudulent activity, we have acted quickly and decisively,” they said.

The ATO said after reviewing over 200 matters of suspected possible fraud against the JobKeeper Payment, many of those matters were not considered appropriate for criminal treatment.

“We are prioritising matters for criminal treatment where there are more deliberate or intentional arrangements, where there are more sophisticated arrangements and repeated attempts, or arrangements involving a tax professional,” the spokesperson said.

Criminal convictions

So far, the ATO has completed 20 investigations and has another four ongoing investigations.

Two people have already been convicted for making false and misleading statements while another two are before the courts facing similar allegations.

Seven other instances are being considered for criminal prosecution and six warning letters have been issued in relation to JobKeeper payments.

It has also applied penalties to over 115 JobKeeper matters, while three were determined to not be appropriate to prosecute.

The ATO said it is working with the Australian Federal Police as part of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT). The ATO is leading nine ongoing operations tackling alleged crimes against the stimulus measures.

Five of those centre on the JobKeeper Payment and four on the Early Release of Super scheme.

A further three SFCT operations have been finalised – one matter was successfully prosecuted, one matter had insufficient evidence to progress as a criminal investigation; and one matter is now subject to further intelligence gathering activities.

To date, 47 businesses are seeking to make voluntary JobKeeper repayments, of these 33 have repaid $159 million.

The spokesperson said there are another 14 businesses the ATO are in discussions with for another $66 million.

“These businesses were entitled to receive the JobKeeper payments but have decided to make the repayments,” the spokesperson said.

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