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Organised crime

What is organised crime, it’s impacts and how the ATO takes action to tackle criminal activities.

Last updated 13 April 2022

Organised crime impacts the lives of Australians in many ways. It is a national security threat that is destructive, pervasive and sinister, costing Australia up to $60 billion each yearExternal Link.

Organised crime explained

Organised crime can involve a range of criminal activities such as:

  • illicit drug activity and illicit tobacco
  • tax or other financial crime
  • identity or cybercrime
  • money laundering
  • crimes against people (such as human trafficking).

Organised crime is transnational in nature, technology-enabled and increasingly functions as a business relying on professionals to help launder ill-gotten gains by setting up structures to place, layer and integrate funds.

Serious and organised crime harms our community, economy, government and way of life. Defrauding the tax and superannuation systems is not victimless and deprives the community of funding for essential services such as hospitals, schools and roads.

Tackling organised crime

The ATO contributes to Australia's Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework tackling organised crime and reducing harm to the community. The Framework sets out a coordinated and cohesive whole-of-government approach to address the significant threats from organised crime.

As part of our shared responsibility under the Framework, we take action to counter the impact of serious and organised crime on the tax and super systems.

We do this by:

  • targeting known business models used to facilitate tax crime such as:          
    • complex financial structures to conceal wealth
    • infiltration of legitimate industries by organised criminals
    • phoenix activity
    • refund fraud
    • abuse of offshore secrecy havens
    • concealment of income or assets offshore
    • intermediaries facilitating the use and abuse of offshore structures and accounts
  • working with state, Commonwealth and international law enforcement partners to share intelligence and coordinate strategies targeted at disrupting serious criminal behaviour
  • applying differentiated enforcement approaches to those who facilitate serious and organised crime, focusing on ensuring the correct amount of tax is reported and paid on all income, including profits derived from illegal activity.

We have the resources, data-matching capability and intelligence-sharing relationships, under the Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework, to bring even the most serious organised criminals to account.

Where we identify concerns about suspected tax fraud or evasion, we undertake audits, raise assessments, apply penalties and take firm debt recovery action. Our data holdings include:

  • property, other asset sales and purchases
  • Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and Australian Business Register (ABR) information
  • motor vehicle data
  • share transactions
  • bank interest, dividend and Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) data
  • migration data
  • foreign income data.

Our approaches under the Framework include:

  • coordinated targeting of organised crime in conjunction with other state and Commonwealth law enforcement agencies
  • demanding lodgment of outstanding income tax returns and business activity statements
  • pursuing civil debt recovery action against outstanding debt of key individuals, their business entities and family associates
  • undertaking audit activities in relation to income tax, GST, superannuation and Pay As You Go Withholding (PAYGW) obligations
  • supporting criminal investigations against those involved in tax crime
  • asset restraint and forfeiture using proceeds of crime actions through the joint agency Criminal Asset Confiscation Taskforce (CACT).

We also have an increased focus on:

Case studies

Our organised crime case studies reinforce that we are committed to disrupting, investigating and penalising the perpetrators of organised crime – there is no place to hide.