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  • Making a tip-off

    We are committed to tackling illegal activity and behaviour of concern, especially when it comes to COVID-19 stimulus measures, phoenix, black economy and tax evasion, to protect honest businesses and the community.

    Making a tip-off is not just limited to tax issues – we want to hear when someone is gaining a competitive advantage over those who are doing the right thing. If you are concerned that you or someone you know is doing the wrong thing, you can tell us about it.

    To report any known or suspected illegal behaviour you can either:

    • complete the tip-off form (the form is also available in the contact us section of the ATO app)
    • phone us on the ATO Tip-off hotline on 1800 060 062.

    What you can report

    We want to hear about the following behaviours:

    • illegal activity and behaviour of concern relating to COVID-19 including JobKeeper or JobMaker Hiring Credit
    • demanding or paying for work cash in hand to avoid obligations
    • not reporting or under-reporting income
    • underpayment of wages
    • bypassing visa restrictions and visa fraud
    • identity fraud
    • 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 intent 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.

    Examples of concerns you may have

    You might be offered:

    • a discount for cash, a cash deal or a 'cashy', without a receipt or a discount for cash or mates' rates
    • a job for cash wages, without payslips or superannuation entitlements
    • an arrangement that promises tax benefits, such as inflating or artificially creating deductions.

    You might see someone:

    • not ringing up a sale on their till or keeping the till drawer open
    • paying cash wages
    • having two sets of books
    • deleting transactions on the point of sale system
    • avoiding paying child support or other obligations
    • not declaring all of their income
    • claiming work-related expenses they are not entitled to
    • advertising a tax planning scheme that is outside the spirit of the law
    • failing to lodge returns or keep 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 that are paying their employees late or less than they should
    • business owners that aren't paying superannuation or other employee entitlements
    • 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 complain to the Tax Practitioners BoardExternal Link.

    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 voluntary disclosure so your client avoids possible penalties and interest charges)
    • hear about clients who have been offered, or are involved in potential tax avoidance schemes
    • want to report your concerns to the Tax Practitioners BoardExternal Link or directly to us.

    See also:

    How to make a good tip-off

    When making a tip-off, the more information you give us, 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, user names 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.

    How to report

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

    • completing the tip-off form (the form is also available in the contact us 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
      Locked Bag 6050
      DANDENONG VIC 3175

    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 it if you want to add any information later.

    Our response – the results

    When we receive information through a tip-off, we cross check the information and assess whether further action is required. Factors such as the amount of detail provided will help us assess your tip-off and enables us to take action where appropriate.

    Due to privacy laws, we won’t be able to inform you of the outcome of the information you provide. We also won’t be able to provide you with progress updates. Rest assured we take all information seriously.

    What we have received

    For the 2019–20 financial year we received approximately 56,000 tip-offs. So far in the 2020–21 financial year we have received 19,000 tip-offs. Approximately 16% of the total tip-offs received have been allegations of misconduct in relation to the governments COVID 19 stimulus measures. As of mid-October, we have received around 10,400 JobKeeper tip-offs.

    The top five most common behaviours reported in the tip-offs were taxpayers not declaring all income (58% of tip-offs), demanding or paying for work cash in hand to avoid obligations (28% of tip-offs), all sales not being reported (23% of tip-offs), has a lifestyle that does not match their income (23% of tip-offs) and other behaviours (17% of tip offs).

    The top five categories of JobKeeper tip-offs received relate to allegations that employers are not passing on the full $1500, allegations that businesses have not met the turnover requirement, fair work issues, employee eligibility and the ‘one in all in’ principle

    The top five industries reported for the 2020 financial year were Building and Construction, Cafés and Restaurants, Hairdressing and Beauty Services, Cereal Grain Wholesaling, Management Advice and Related Consulting Services, and Road Freight Transport.

    What we have done with this information

    Of the 56,000 tip-offs received in the 2020 financial year, 71% of tip offs received and analysed were deemed as suitable for further investigation by specialised teams and taskforces within the ATO, such as the Black Economy Standing Taskforce, Illicit Tobacco, Financial Crimes and Phoenix Taskforces.

    The ATO has also developed specialised teams to address allegations relating to Jobkeeper and other government stimulus measures to ensure we are actioning tip-offs faster and investigations are progressed in a timely manner.

    We’ve developed strategies for sharing information directly with external agencies where permitted by law such as the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Tax Practitioner’s Board, Australian Border Force and Australian Federal Police whilst maintaining taxpayer and informant privacy.

    Recent cases

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

    Example 1 – Illegal lodgment of income tax returns

    We received an anonymous community tip-off which resulted in a jail sentence for an international student involved in a tax fraud scheme relating to illegal lodgment of Income Tax Returns for the purpose of gaining a financial benefit. The student obtained the visa details of a number of foreign nationals residing in Australia and used these to generate TFNs and lodge paper tax returns on their behalf. The returns were paid into accounts managed by the student, netting him more than $117,000. An overseas caller reported the fraud after they had been approached to take part.

    End of example


    Example 2 – Security company avoids its employee obligations

    Several tip-offs were received that suggested the company was undertaking a number of unfair behaviours such as:

    • forcing employees to work as contractors
    • paying ‘cash in hand wages’
    • not paying the correct amounts or any super
    • not meeting several tax and regulatory obligations.

    An investigation resulted in a significant amount of tax, penalties and interest being applied to the business.

    End of example


    Example 3 – Social media gives us access to information

    A member of the community made a tip-off about a taxpayer who had bragged on Facebook about inflating their income tax refund by claiming deductions they were not entitled to. The individual’s age, locality, occupation and high school details were obtained from their Facebook profile. Our investigation resulted in amendments to the deductions and offsets claimed by the taxpayer over two years of tax returns. The taxpayer was required to pay under-reported income tax and shortfall interest charge.

    End of example


    Example 4 – Employer is paying less than the required $1500 per fortnight for JobKeeper

    A tip-off was received that alleged a marketing company claimed JobKeeper for four employees resulting in payments of approximately $12,000 a month. Two of the employees were discovered to be ineligible for the JobKeeper payment with one on work experience and not paid anything and the other employed after 1 March 2020. The two other employees were eligible, but the employer did not pay them the full $1,500 per fortnight in some fortnights, breaching the wage condition requirement meaning the employer was not entitled to any JobKeeper payment for that employee for any fortnights where less than $1500 was paid.

    We determined that it was not an honest mistake and required the employer to repay $22,500.

    End of example


    Example 5 – Sole trader business included spouse as employee for JobKeeper where spouse had no employment history with the business

    A tip-off was received for a sole trader who claimed JobKeeper for one employee – the spouse. The spouse was also employed elsewhere. After JobKeeper was announced, the employer lodged backdated Single Touch Payroll data and BAS to show payments to the spouse and PAYGW. There was no other history of employment. Bank statements did not show the wage payments being made to the spouse.

    We determined that it was not an honest mistake and required the business to repay $6,000.

    End of example

    See also:

    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.

    See also:

    Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra.

      Last modified: 07 Dec 2020QC 16789