Australian tax officials have headed off $1 billion in attempted frauds since January, with people attempting to hoodwink the taxman with a GST scam warned they could face jail time when caught.
A taskforce led by the Australian Taxation Office, working with the federal police, issued warrants across the country this week to people suspected of lodging claims for false businesses.
Warrants were issued against 19 people on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday by the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) in 12 locations across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.
Offenders generally invent fake businesses and obtain an Australian business number, often in their own name, before submitting a false activity statement to the ATO.
The person then hopes to claim a GST refund.
Participants were given a warning last month to come forward before further action was taken, ATO Deputy Commissioner and SCFT chief Will Day said.
People continue to attempt to engage in fraud despite the warnings, Mr Day said.
“The ATO has stopped more than a billion dollars in attempted fraud,” he said.
“This is a clear warning to individuals considering participating – you will not be successful, you are not anonymous, and you will face the consequences of your attempts.
“You could face severe consequences, including jail, if you do not speak to us before we knock on your door.”
He said people could avoid tougher penalties by coming forward.
“For those that have already committed this fraud, we know who you are and you will need to repay the fake refunds you have obtained,” he said.
Exploitation of the tax system has a major impact on the community and is taken seriously by federal police, AFP Economic, Corporate Crime and Corruption Commander Christopher Woods said.
“Every dollar fraudulently obtained represents lost funds that could have been used to benefit everyday Australians,” Commander Woods said.
This week’s warrants follow the arrests of six individuals also suspected of GST fraud in Victoria earlier this month.