A 32-year-old Queensland woman has been sentenced to three years’ jail, after fraudulently obtaining nearly $200,000 from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The former registered tax agent, Alana Hodge, lodged 47 business activity statements for seven of her clients without their knowledge, obtaining $192,140 between 2015 and 2017.
Hodge, who was trusted by her clients to manage their business tax obligations, instead changed their bank account details and contact information in the ATO business portal.
The 32-year-old also attempted to claim $65,056 in GST refunds, but the funds were not released because the ATO had already been tipped off about her dodgy behaviour.
Along with a jail stint, Hodge will be required to pay $158,845 in reparations.
“The ATO knows that the majority of registered agents do the right thing, but unfortunately there are some agents who take advantage of their clients for financial benefit,” ATO assistant commissioner Adam Kendrick said.
“As demonstrated in today’s case, even registered tax professionals can be dishonest and take advantage of their clients.
“That is why it’s important for the ATO and Tax Practitioners’ Board (TPB) to work together to maintain the integrity of the tax profession and identify those who try to undermine their trusted position.”
The TPB terminated Hodge’s registration in October 2018, banning her from being a registered tax agent for five years.
How to spot a dodgy tax agent
There are a few tell-tale signs that your tax agent may be dodgy, according to Dereen Wallace at Paris Financial:
If they are withholding information about your tax;
If they encourage the use of an unauthorised bank account to receive tax refunds;
If they are unresponsive to your queries;
There are client complaints or poor reviews; or
They can’t explain claims on your tax return.
“Essentially, a good tax accountant should be able to maximise your return and simultaneously explain to you how they have managed to do so,” Wallace said.
If you believe your tax agent is committing a crime, you can anonymously report it to the ATO via the app, or by calling 1800 060 062.
Read next: How do you know if you need a tax agent?
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