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ATO targets 40,000 Aussies in GST fraud crackdown: 'No place to hide'

·3-min read
A supplied undated image obtained Friday, June 17, 2022 shows an ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce executing a search warrant in co-ordination with the AFP, June, 2022. A taskforce led by the Australian Taxation Office, working with the AFP, issued a dozen warrants across the country this week to people suspected of defrauding the community by lodging claims for false businesses. Source: AAP/Supplied by the Australian Taxation Office
The ATO is working with police and raiding people suspected of fraud. (Source: AAP/ATO)

Aussies who invent fake businesses have been warned their name “could be next” on the list as police carry out sweeping raids targeting alleged GST fraud.

A further five suspected offenders are being investigated, with police executing five search warrants this week led by the ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) as part of Operation Protego.

It follows raids against 19 people last month in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, SA, WA and Queensland.

The ATO's deputy commissioner and SFCT chief, Will Day, said this week’s action showed there was “no place to hide” for the 40,000 Aussies suspected of being involved in major GST fraud.

“We know who has lodged a BAS and who has created a fake business. If you think you won’t be caught, think again,” he warned.

“Your name could be next on our list, and you could face severe consequences, including jail.”

A stock image of the Australian Taxation Office.
The ATO has warned Aussies not to engage in fraudulent behaviour. (Source: Getty)

The national crackdown is aimed at Aussies who invent fake businesses to claim false refunds, with around $850 million in potentially fraudulent payments being investigated.

The average amount being fraudulently claimed is $20,000.

Since the launch of the operation in May, sophisticated data analysis and modelling has stopped $1 billion in fraudulent refunds being issued.

Day said the ATO had “zero tolerance” for fraud and had a “clear and deliberate strategy” to pursue suspects.

“We have seen social media play a key role in promoting this type of GST fraud, with some accounts even claiming to be financial advisers," he said.

"We’ve also had reports of people offering to buy and sell myGov details in order to access these refunds.”

As part of Operation Protego, the taskforce is also sharing information relating to all individuals accused of fraud. The details of around 29,000 individuals have been provided to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to date.

“This demonstrates the strength of our partnerships and shows that we are working across agencies to bring criminals to account,” Day said.

“This week’s actions demonstrate that the SFCT takes all forms of financial crime seriously. We have information-sharing arrangements in place and we are also working with financial institutions, police, social media platforms and other government agencies to stop this fraud from being promoted and perpetuated.”

Anyone who suspects they may have given their details to a criminal is being urged to contact the ATO immediately so their identity can be protected from being used in crimes.

For any matters where you believe your identity has been compromised, phone us on 1800 467 033 for assistance.

Reports of tax crime can also be made anonymously by contacting the Tax Integrity Centre on 1800 060 062 or visiting ato.gov.au/tipoff.

Day said those involved in tax fraud were also encouraged to come forward and should call 1300 130 017 rather than wait and face even tougher consequences later.

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