As Australians begin to collect receipts and lodge their tax returns, the Australian Taxation Office has issued a stern warning against anyone considering committing a tax crime on their refund this year.
“Those who deliberately cheat the system will be held to account,” the ATO stated.
The tax office revealed a series of crimes committed by Aussies at tax time, with penalties ranging from major fines to jail time.
Queensland man Joseph Kanowski earned himself five years behind bars after using stolen identities to get his hands on fraudulent tax refunds and social security payments, the ATO revealed.
“Joseph Kanowski took over an unsuspecting individual’s myGov account, navigated to ATO online services, and changed the payment destination details to his own,” the ATO stated.
“He then submitted two false income tax returns, netting himself $8,027 in fraudulent refunds.”
Months later, Kanowski used the personal information of another individual to set up a myGov account in their name.
That time, he wrongfully obtained a further $5,260 by submitting an original and amended income tax return for the previous year.
But he didn’t stop at tax refunds - Kanowski also made a number of false Centrelink claims, which resulted in him wrongfully claiming social security payments.
He also impersonated other Centrelink customers and organised for their payments to be redirected to his account, according to the ATO.
Kanowski was charged with four counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, and was ordered to pay the money back on top of doing time for his crime.
Helen Feulufai, from Crestmead in the south of Brisbane, was also convicted for making false statements on her tax returns.
Feulufai claimed clothing and travel costs as work-related deductions on her tax returns for financial years from 2016 to 2018, despite never being required to travel or use a car, and receiving a full work uniform by her employer, the ATO stated.
There was also the case of Micah Robby Elstak, a Brisbane man who lodged 62 fraudulent tax returns and attempted to claim $565,895 worth of refunds.
Elstak was sentenced to five years in jail after hearing 106 charges relating to the identity theft of 52 taxpayers.
How to protect yourself against identity theft
The ATO said while there are measures in place to prevent and detect tax crime, it’s important to keep your personal information safe.
“As an added level of security, you should use multi-factor authentication where possible,” the ATO stated.
“Using SMS codes as your sign-in option for myGov is a quick and secure way to sign in to access ATO online services.”
And, if you think your tax file number or personal information has been stolen, you can phone the ATO’s client identity support centre on 1800 467 033.
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