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  • 14 years overseas, fake tax agent gets caught coming home

    A 44-year-old Victorian man has been sentenced to 5 months in jail at the Parramatta Local Court for both obtaining and attempting to obtain a financial advantage by deception. Mr Ibrahim El-Hassan pretended to be a tax agent and lodged multiple false income tax returns on behalf of unsuspecting clients, and stole refunds totalling $43,205. He was also ordered to pay $43,205.63 in reparation.

    An investigation was first launched in 2006 after a bank employee noticed an account had received two Australian Taxation Office (ATO) refunds of more than $10,000 on the same day in different names. It was discovered that Mr El-Hassan had lodged five false income tax returns on behalf of clients who believed him to be a registered tax agent.

    Mr El-Hassan submitted false claims for motor-vehicle expenses which generated greater refunds, the difference of which he would pocket for himself, totalling $43,205. He also attempted to obtain a further $18,682, but this was stopped by the ATO.

    In December 2006, ATO officers worked with Victoria Police to execute a search warrant at Mr El-Hassan’s home. Six days later, he fled the country. He was arrested by the Australian Federal Police when he returned to Australia in August 2020.

    Assistant Commissioner Adam Kendrick welcomed this result.

    “We have a duty to the community to see these matters through. Today’s outcome shows that just because you’ve left the country, doesn’t mean your problems will go away. We will make sure to secure an outcome for the benefit of honest taxpayers and tax professionals.”

    “Mr El-Hassan’s actions showed a complete disregard for not only the law, but also his client’s trust by lodging fraudulent tax returns on their behalf while pretending to be a tax agent and providing services without a registration.”

    Unregistered preparers pose a threat to vulnerable taxpayers and risk the reputation of registered tax agents.

    “Tax agents play a vital role in contributing to and protecting the integrity of the Australian tax and super systems. Our focus is on supporting those that are doing the right thing, by taking a firm stance against those damaging not only the integrity of the tax system, but the tax profession itself,” Mr Kendrick said.

    The ATO and Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) are working together to identify and put a stop to unregistered preparers. People pretending to be tax agents often promise refunds or offer discounted services that are too good to be true.

    Another tell-tale sign to look out for is that unregistered preparers often use a taxpayer’s personal login details to access their ATO Online account through myGov to lodge tax returns. A legitimate tax practitioner will never ask for your myGov credentials – they use dedicated ATO Online services to lodge returns for their clients.

    “Your tax agent has access to your personal identifying information like your Tax File Number. Giving information like this to an untrustworthy person can end badly, but you can protect yourself by checking that your tax agent is registered and never sharing your myGov login details and passwords or access to your myGov account with anyone, including your tax agent,” Mr Kendrick said.

    Taxpayers can check if their tax practitioner is registered on the Tax Practitioners Board website at Link

    If you know of someone providing tax agent services for a fee or other reward who is not registered, you can let the TPB know at Link

    You can also anonymously report tax evasion and crime activities to the ATO via the app or by calling 1800 060 062.

    This matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

    Last modified: 21 Dec 2020QC 64473