A 33-year-old man stole nearly $13,000 in tax refunds from vulnerable people by pretending to be a tax agent.
The man, Benjamin Cox, was sentenced at the Mt Druitt Local Court on Thursday after also charging those people a fee to lodge their tax returns.
Related story: 2 years jail for 'audacious' $1.5 million tax refund fraud
Related story: Fake tax agent charged over $145,000 refund theft
He has received a two and a half year prison sentence, and was also ordered to pay more than $13,000 in compensation to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and his victims. He has also had $22,000 of assets seized.
According to the ATO, Cox targeted “vulnerable” people, fooling more than 1,000 people into believing he was performing a tax service for them.
He targeted people through Facebook and Gumtree, charging $100 to act as their ‘tax agent’. He then used their MyGov login details to submit tax returns on their behalf, before stealing $12,866.62 in refunds by having them directed to his own bank account.
ATO assistant commissioner Adam Kendrick said Cox’s actions damaged the integrity of the tax system and profession.
“Not only was Mr Cox pretending to be a tax agent and providing services without a registration, he was stealing from his clients,” Kendrick said.
“These unregistered preparers pose a threat to vulnerable taxpayers and risk the reputation of registered tax agents.”
He said unregistered preparers “pose a serious threat” to the community.
How to spot a fake tax agent
There are a few tell-tale signs.
According to the ATO, you should look out for an agent asking for your personal myGov login details to access your ATO Online account.
“A legitimate tax practitioner will never ask for your myGov credentials – they use dedicated ATO Online services to lodge returns for their clients,” the ATO said.
Additionally, your tax agent will have access to personal information like your Tax File Number, so you shouldn’t be required to pass along information like this.
“You can protect yourself by checking that your tax agent is registered and never sharing your myGov login details and password with anyone, including your tax agent.”
You can also check that a tax practitioner is registered by heading to the Tax Practitioners Board website.
Make your money work with Yahoo Finance’s daily newsletter. Sign up here and stay on top of the latest money, news and tech news.