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Making a tip-off

How to make a tip-off about community members who gain an unfair advantage by intentionally doing the wrong thing.

Last updated 27 June 2024

The term ‘black economy’ has now changed to shadow economy. This change reflects the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) definition of unreported or dishonest economic activity.

Importance of making a tip-off

Most Australians believe in a level playing field and feel it’s unfair for others to gain a competitive advantage by intentionally doing the wrong thing. This puts pressure on Australians who are doing the right thing and has broader impacts on our community.

We are committed to tackling illegal activity and behaviour of concern, especially when it comes to phoenix, shadow economy, and tax evasion to protect honest businesses and the community.

Making a tip-off is not just limited to tax and superannuation issues. We want to hear when someone is gaining a competitive advantage over those who are doing the right thing.

You can tell us your concern, if you or someone you know is doing the wrong thing. Learn more about our fight against tax crime.

How to report

It only takes a few minutes to make a tip-off and you can remain anonymous. If you know or suspect phoenix, tax evasion or shadow economy activity, report it by:

  • completing the tip-off form (the form is also available in the Help & support section in the ATO app)
  • phoning us on 1800 060 062
  • lodging an unpaid super enquiry about your employer (but not about another business)
  • writing to us. Mark all letters 'In confidence' and post to:

Australian Taxation Office
Tax Integrity Centre
PO Box 188

  • where possible we recommend you submit additional supporting documentation or evidence via the tip-off form. Don't submit us your original documents as we can't guarantee their return.
  • if you would like to submit supporting documentation or evidence in relation to a new tip-off please complete the tip-off form and follow the prompts to upload the attachments. Where you would like to submit an attachment regarding an existing tip-off, provide the Tip-Off reference number when prompted.
  • if you prefer to speak to us in a language other than English, phone the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 13 14 50 for help with your call.
  • tax professionals can provide information by calling 13 72 86 (Fast Key Code 3 4).
  • remember to make note of the reference number when you submit your tip-off form. You will need to quote the reference number if you want to add any information later.

What can you report

We want to hear about the following behaviours:

  • demanding or paying for work cash in hand to avoid tax obligations
  • not reporting or under-reporting income
  • underpayment of wages
  • tax evasion and fraud
  • bypassing visa restrictions and visa fraud
  • identity fraud or identity takeover
  • Australian business number (ABN), goods and services tax (GST), and duty fraud
  • illegal drugs and tobacco
  • sham contracting – presenting an employment relationship as a contracting arrangement
  • illegal phoenixing – deliberately liquidating and re-forming a business to avoid obligations
  • involvement in tax avoidance schemes that go beyond the policy spirit of the law and involve deliberate steps to avoid the tax and super systems
  • excise evasion
  • illegal purchase of Australian property by a non-resident
  • money laundering
  • unregulated gambling
  • counterfeit goods
  • schemes targeting self-managed super funds (SMSFs)
  • illegal early access to superannuation, including establishing an SMSF for that purpose
  • fraudulent claims and behaviour of concern relating to government payments and subsidies.

Concerns you may have

You might be offered:

  • a discount for cash, a cash deal or a 'cashy', a discount for cash or mates' rates, generally without a receipt
  • a job for cash wages, without payslips or superannuation entitlements
  • an arrangement that promises tax benefits, such as inflating or artificially creating deductions
  • access to your super before you’re legally entitled, including setting up an SMSF to gain access.

You might see someone:

  • not ringing up a sale on their till or keeping the till drawer open
  • paying cash wages
  • having 2 sets of books
  • deleting transactions on the point of sale system
  • avoiding paying child support or other obligations
  • not declaring all their income
  • claiming work-related expenses they are not entitled to
  • advertising a tax planning scheme that is outside the intent of the law
  • failing to lodge returns or keep proper records.

Other examples may include:

  • business owners claiming personal expenses on a business account so they can claim deductions
  • business owners not lodging their activity statement or tax returns
  • business owners paying their employees late or less than they should
  • business owners not paying superannuation or other employee entitlements – see super for employers and working as a contractor
  • a small business tax client whose reported income falls outside our small business benchmarks
  • tax professionals encouraging you to claim incorrect or inflated deductions, or to hide or incorrectly change income that you should be reporting. If you are concerned about the conduct of a tax professional, you should also select the TPB option in the tip-off form.

Tax professionals who are concerned about the conduct of another tax professional

As a tax professional, you might:

  • see others representing themselves as tax professionals when they are not
  • be concerned about the inappropriate conduct of a client's previous tax professional. Consider a voluntary disclosure so your client avoids possible penalties and interest charges.
  • be concerned about the competency of another tax professional, such as whether an approved SMSF auditor is not meeting their obligation to conduct an independent and adequate audit
  • hear about clients who have been offered or are involved in potential tax avoidance schemes
  • hear about clients being offered early access to their superannuation by setting up an SMSF including borrowing or direct property purchases.

You can report your concerns to the Tax Practitioners BoardExternal Link or directly to us using the tip-off form.

How to make a good tip-off

The more information you give us when making a tip-off, the better we can work to protect honest businesses and the community.

Even if you only know partial details or can only complete some sections of the tip-off form, this information is still very useful.

If you are reporting an individual, useful information includes:

  • their name
  • address
  • phone number
  • social media details (for example, usernames and profile addresses).

If you are reporting a business, useful information includes:

  • name of the business
  • ABN
  • business address
  • phone number
  • website
  • social media details (for example, page name and profile addresses).

Other useful information includes:

  • information on a group or network, if there is more than one person or entity involved
  • details of the behaviour you have identified, such as
    • hiding income
    • creating false expenses or tax deductions
    • not lodging tax returns or activity statements
    • encouraging payment in cash with no receipt
    • their income not supporting their lifestyle
    • not paying correct super to employees
    • using someone else’s identity to claim refunds
    • creating false or fraudulent documents or records
    • deliberately liquidating and re-forming a business to avoid obligations
    • presenting an employment relationship as a contracting arrangement
    • undertaking unusual activities that do not seem right, such as crop growing or selling plain packet tobacco
    • giving financial or legal tax advice that does not seem right.

It is helpful to include your contact details, so that we can contact you for further information if we need to.

Our response – the results

When we receive information through a tip-off, we cross check the information and assess whether further action is required (see Data matching).

Different factors, such as the amount of detail provided, will help us assess your tip-off and enables us to act when appropriate.

Due to privacy laws, we won’t be able to inform you of the progress or outcome of any investigation based on your tip-off. However, rest assured we take all tip-offs seriously.

Information we have received

We received 47,115 tip-offs in the 2022–23 financial year. The most common behaviours reported were:

  • taxpayers not declaring all income (62% of tip-offs)
  • taxpayers demanding or paying for work cash in hand to avoid obligations (32% of tip-offs)
  • all sales not being reported (28% of tip-offs)
  • taxpayers having a lifestyle that does not match their income (26% of tip-offs).

Around 30% of tip-offs also report other unclassified behaviours, which allows us to keep track of emerging schemes and patterns of behaviour.

The top 5 industries reported for the 2022–23 financial year were:

  • building and construction
  • hairdressing and beauty services
  • cafés and restaurants
  • road freight transport
  • management advice and related consulting services.

What we have done with this information

Of the more than 47,000 tip-offs received and analysed in the 2022–23 financial year, approximately 90% were deemed as being suitable for further investigation.

Further investigation into tip-offs is carried out by our specialised teams and taskforces, such as the:

  • Standing Taskforce addressing shadow economy activities
  • Illicit Tobacco Taskforce
  • Serious Financial Crime Taskforce
  • Phoenix Taskforce.

We have strategies for sharing information directly with external agencies (where permitted by law) while maintaining taxpayer and informant privacy. These agencies include:

  • Services Australia
  • Fair Work Ombudsman
  • Tax Practitioner’s Board
  • Australian Border Force
  • Australian Federal Police.

Notable cases

Below are examples of tip-offs we received from the community, where sufficient information allowed us to undertake an investigation.

Example 1: illegal tobacco seizure

A tip-off made to the ATO tip-off hotline resulted in a tobacco importation seizure.

Details of the tip-off were referred to the Australian Border Force-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) for further investigation. The ITTF identified a shipping container mis-declared as “fitness equipment”. Following an examination, the container was found to contain 744 kg of loose-leaf tobacco, equating to revenue evasion of approximately $1,290,265 in duty and GST.

The illicit tobacco was seized and destroyed, due to it being a prohibited import and imported without the appropriate permit. Investigations remain ongoing.

End of example


Example 2: amended income tax returns results in a debt of over $170,000

A taxpayer amended their income tax returns over several years to show additional income and tax paid, which resulted in income tax refunds being paid to them.

The Tax Integrity Centre received intelligence about this. Through investigation, it was found that the taxpayer’s employment records were not valid.

Within a month, the ATO conducted an audit which resulted in shortfall penalties, relating to recklessness for income tax, and a debt of over $170,000.

End of example


Example 3: incorrectly claiming GST refunds

A taxpayer has been claiming GST refunds for machinery that has not been purchased.

The Tax Integrity Centre received a tip-off about this. During examination, they identified a pending refund that was due to be issued to the taxpayer and put this on hold.

The case was escalated to audit and over $70,000 in GST refunds were denied, as the taxpayer did not substantiate the claim.

End of example

Your privacy

Your privacy is protected by the Privacy Act 1988 and the strict secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, the Taxation Administration Act 1953 and other tax laws.

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