The Australian Taxation Office has taken a leaf out of Prohibition-era America’s book, conducting a spate of raids on suspected moonshiners last week.
More than 70 ATO staff have visited several sites in Victoria related to suspected illegal alcohol production and supply.
While wine and beer can be legally made at home, those looking to make spirits are required to have a licence, even if it’s just for personal use.
The staff conducted ‘access without notice’ visits to seven homes and businesses, said ATO assistant commissioner Ian Read this week, noting that these access powers are “very rarely used”.
“The decision to carry out the operation was not taken lightly,” he said.
“An ATO audit identified an organised group involved in the alleged manufacture and supply of a significant quantity of illicit alcohol where Excise, Income Tax and GST have not been paid.
“This compliance activity conducted over the last two days was crucial to the audit process as it allowed our officers to secure vital documents. Attending the sites without prior notice ensured the documentation was not removed or destroyed.”
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The tax office did this to protect honest businesses, Read said.
The ATO raided a South Australian address in April for the same reason, following a tip-off that led to the discovery of 21 bottles of allegedly illegal alcohol and equipment used to make illicit spirits.
“Illegally distilled spirits can pose a health risk and even be fatal in some cases. This is due to the volatility of the distillation process and the possible toxicity of improperly produced alcohol,” ATO assistant commissioner Peter Vujanic said at the time.
“Severe penalties apply for manufacturing spirits without an excise manufacturer licence,” says the ATO website.
“To be granted an excise manufacturer licence we will consider your circumstances, such as the security of your premises and that you will pay the correct amount of excise duty when required.”
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