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  • Queensland chef convicted for cooking up fraudulent claims

    A 27-year-old Crestmead chef was convicted of three criminal offences for fraudulently claiming travel and clothing expenses as work-related deductions as well as claiming fraudulent charity donations in her 2016 to 2018 financial year income tax returns.

    Ms Helen Feulufai was convicted in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today for making false statements in her Income Tax Returns when she claimed refunds over three years amounting to more than $45,000 from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). In addition to repay the refunds, Ms Feulufai was ordered to pay a fine of $3,000 as well as an additional $20,000 payment to the Taxation Commissioner and court costs.

    Ms Feulufai was employed a chef at a Queensland Hospital where she was supplied with a full work uniform including personal protective equipment and tools by her employer. In her capacity as a chef, Ms Feulufai was not required to travel or use her own motor vehicle in the course of her employment.

    Ms Feulufai also attempted to claim charitable donations to an organisation not registered as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) in order to obtain refunds to which she was not entitled.

    Based on the information provided in her return she claimed a tax refund of $16,970 in the 2016 financial year, $14,417 in the 2017 financial year and $13,691 in the 2018 financial year.

    Ms Feulufai had undergone two previous audits in 2012 and 2014, for attempting to claim similar deductions. On both occasions, she was sent an audit finalisation letter and provided education with regard to the valid deductible expenses for Travel, Vehicle and Charitable Donations.

    Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said the ATO takes strong action to protect honest taxpayers who are claiming the right amount – no more and no less.

    “This case also serves as an important reminder that you must be able to provide valid deductable expenses in your income tax return – including travel and clothing expenses as well as any charitable donations.

    “Taxpayers who can’t substantiate their claims should expect to have them refused, and may be penalised for failing to take reasonable care when submitting their tax return.

    “Even if you lodge through a tax agent your claims must be legitimate and you must be able to justify them if asked to by the ATO. If you intend to push the boundaries, or perhaps fudge some parts of your return the ATO has you in its sights,” Mr Vujanic said.

    The ATO has previously warned that scrutinising work-related expenses is a priority area. In 2018, over 3.6 million people made a work-related car expense claim totalling more than $7.2 billion. In addition, around six million people claimed work-related clothing and laundry expenses totalling nearly $1.5 billion.

    For more information on the work-related deductions you can claim, visit ato.gov.au/workrelatedexpenses

    To report suspected tax fraud visit ato.gov.au/reportaconcern or call 1800 060 062.

    Last modified: 21 Jun 2019QC 59406