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Warning: Fake tax experts offering JobKeeper, JobSeeker help

Happy mature Couple in Meeting With Advisor at home

Millions of Australians have joined the queue to receive government assistance in the past few weeks, but some have been conned out of their money.

The Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) warned this week that it had received complaints and information about scammers posing as tax experts.

Many are tempting Australians seeking professional help with 'no benefit, no fee' deals.

"The arrangements are often promoted through social media channels, claim to offer advice and support along with unnecessary services in a subscription or locked-in contract," the TPB stated.

"Some of these arrangements involve businesses with thousands of clients. The organisations involved may claim that the advice being provided is 'assured' by a registered tax agent."

Falsely claiming to be a registered tax agent is illegal and can attract a $52,500 penalty for each breach by an individual, and $262,500 for a company.

How to tell if a tax expert is fake

The TPB has a search engine where Australians can check the registration of anyone offering to act as a tax consultant.

Last year, a court stopped a Brisbane man whose clients were potentially up for millions of dollars of debt to the Australian Taxation Office.

While using a 'backyard' consultant could save a few dollars in fees, all the legislated protection against errors go out the window.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said TPB chief executive Michael O'Neill. 

"It also means you are not covered by safe-harbour provisions that offer protection against penalties from the ATO when a registered tax practitioner fails to lodge on time or makes a false or misleading statement on your return."

Often liaising with a fake tax expert involves the client handing over their tax file number and login details for MyGov, exposing them to identity theft.

"We urge everyone this tax-time not to share their personal myGov password with anyone, and if they plan to use a tax agent, to make sure they are registered with the TPB," O'Neill said.

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