A dozen warrants were executed across the country this week as part of Operation Protego, as the ATO continues to work with the AFP and other Government agencies to crackdown on individuals suspected of defrauding the community by inventing fake businesses to claim false refunds.
The ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) launched a coordinated action on 15, 16 and 17 June in 12 locations across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland, which saw warrants executed against 19 individuals suspected of being involved in GST fraud.
ATO Deputy Commissioner and SFCT Chief Will Day said these warrants followed warnings last month for participants to come forward before stronger action was taken. However, despite these strong warnings, Mr Day said people were still attempting to engage in this fraud.
“The ATO has stopped more than a billion dollars in attempted fraud. This is a clear warning to individuals considering participating – you will not be successful, you are not anonymous, and you will face the consequences of your attempts.
“This week’s activity in relation to Operation Protego will most definitely not be the last,” Mr Day said.
“For those that have already committed this fraud, we know who you are, and you will need to repay the fake refunds you have obtained. You could face severe consequences, including jail if you do not speak to us before we knock on your door. Come forward now or face potentially tougher penalties.
“Most Australians play by the rules and expect the ATO to take action to protect Australia’s tax and super systems, and collect the revenue necessary to support the Australian community.
“Operation Protego was referred to the SFCT as a priority and we will continue to take swift and decisive action against anyone taking part in financial crime.
During this week’s raids the ATO, with the support of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), collected evidence, intelligence, and information to support its ongoing investigations. This activity follows the arrests of six individuals earlier this month in Victoria in connection to the fraud.
The fraud involves offenders inventing fake businesses and Australian business number (ABN) applications, many in their own names, then submitting fictitious Business Activity Statements in an attempt to gain a false GST refund. In some cases, people have been encouraged to hand over their personal details to facilitators.
AFP Commander Economic, Corporate Crime and Corruption, Christopher Woods, said that the exploitation of Australia’s tax system has a serious impact on the community and is a matter that the AFP takes very seriously.
“Every dollar fraudulently obtained represents lost funds that could have been used to benefit everyday Australians in our community,” Commander Woods said.
“The AFP is committed to combatting financial crimes and we will continue to work diligently with our partners in the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce to disrupt and dismantle criminals seeking to cheat the tax system.”
The SFCT was supported by Victoria Police, NSW Police, Qld Police Service, SA Police, Tasmania Police and WA Police in the operational activity.
Anyone who is involved is encouraged to come forward by calling 1300 130 017 rather than wait and face even tougher consequences later. More information is available at ato.gov.au/GSTrefundfraud
The ATO is reminding the community that:
- The ATO does not offer loans. If you see someone advertising a way to get a loan from the ATO, this is a rort.
- The ATO does not administer government disaster payments.
- If you are not in business, you do not need an ABN.
- You should never share your myGov login details. You may be giving your identity directly to criminals who can use it to impersonate you, or sell it to other criminals.
- False declarations may impact eligibility for other government payments.
- We have the data matching ability to detect these patterns and stop the fraud.
- Stealing from the ATO is not a victimless crime, you are stealing from people in need of government support and people using public services such as health care, education and infrastructure.
- The ATO shares information with a range of government partners when responding to fraud, including law enforcement agencies.
If you engage in tax fraud, you will be caught, and the best case is that you will need to repay amounts fraudulently obtained in full. The worst case is that you will go to jail.
If you have given your myGov details to a criminal it is vital you contact us so that we can assist you to protect your identity from being used to commit further crimes, including further tax crime in your name. For any matters where you believe your identity has been compromised, phone us on 1800 467 033 for assistance.
We take all reports of tax crime seriously. If people are approached by third parties with something that seems too good to be true – it probably is – they should contact our Tax Integrity Centre on 1800 060 062 or visit ato.gov.au/tipoff. Reports can be made anonymously.
The ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce has provided the following video and still footage.
Video footage of ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) coordinated action:
- Video 1 (MP4, 36.9MB)This link will download a file
- Video 2 (MP4, 1.4MB)This link will download a file
Photos of ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) coordinated action:
- Photo 1This link will download a file
- Photo 2This link will download a file
- Photo 3This link will download a file
- Photo 4This link will download a file