The tax man is calling thousands of Australians to carefully comb over their tax returns to ensure they’ve provided the correct information, after a fraudulent tax agent was caught preparing illegal tax returns for clients.
Western Australian fraudster Jessa Van Stroe, known also as Jessa Layola, has been ordered by the Federal Court to stop preparing and lodging income tax returns.
Van Stroe has never been registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB), meaning she was illegally charging clients payment to lodge their tax returns.
"Taxpayers may be required to amend their tax return if details are incorrect," an ATO spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
"The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is urging anyone who has used the services of Jessa Van Stroe to urgently review their income tax returns and ensure that the details provided to the ATO are correct and able to be substantiated."
Australians can do so by logging into myGov or calling the ATO on 13 28 61.
Amendments might reduce or increase tax owed, though the ATO will treat these amendments as a voluntary disclosure.
But Aussies should make these amendments sooner rather than later, the ATO warned.
"Time limits apply," the spokesperson said. The fastest way is to lodge an amendment via myGov, which may take around 20 days to process.
The TPB is now in the process of contacting taxpayers from Western Australia who used Van Stroe’s services.
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The Board is working alongside Curtin University’s Curtin Tax Clinic, which is providing free tax advice to anyone impacted by Van Stroe’s illegal activities.
“It is important for anyone who has used the services of unregistered preparers, like Ms Van Stroe, to review their tax returns,” said Curtin Law School head of taxation discipline Professor Dale Pinto.
“Unregistered preparers do not have the necessary skills or expertise to provide tax advice and by using her services these taxpayers have no protection against penalties which could be applied for mistakes Ms Van Stroe may have made,” he added.
CTC co-founders Annette Morgan and Donovan Castelyn said the clinic was happy to provide free help in situations like this.
“It aims to assist unrepresented taxpayers in meeting or complying with their tax affairs,” they said.
The clinic is staffed by students under the supervision of experienced tax practitioners, and provides students with valuable experience, they added.
Australians have also been reminded that only tax agents who are registered with the TPB are legally allowed to charge fees to lodge income tax returns.
This ensures they follow laws and act professionally, the ATO spokesperson said.