Helen Feulufai was convicted in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for making false statements in her income tax returns when she claimed refunds over three years amounting to more than $45,000 from the ATO.
The 27-year old Crestmead chef was convicted of three criminal offences for fraudulently claiming travel and clothing expenses as work-related deductions, as well as claiming fraudulent charity donations, in her 2016 to 2018 financial year income tax returns.
Ms Feulufai was employed as chef at a Queensland hospital where she was supplied with a full work uniform, including personal protective equipment and tools by her employer. In her capacity as a chef, Ms Feulufai was not required to travel or use her own motor vehicle in the course of her employment.
She also attempted to claim charitable donations to an organisation not registered as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) in order to obtain refunds to which she was not entitled, the ATO said.
Based on the information provided in her return, she claimed a tax refund of $16,970 in the 2016 financial year, $14,417 in the 2017 financial year and $13,691 in the 2018 financial year.
Ms Feulufai has been ordered to repay the refunds, as well as a $3,000 fine and an additional $20,000 to the tax commissioner and court costs.
Ms Feulufai had undergone two previous audits in 2012 and 2014, for attempting to claim similar deductions. On both occasions, she was sent an audit finalisation letter and provided education with regard to the valid deductible expenses for Travel, Vehicle and Charitable Donations.
“This case also serves as an important reminder that you must be able to provide valid deductable expenses in your income tax return – including travel and clothing expenses as well as any charitable donations,” said ATO Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic.
“Taxpayers who can’t substantiate their claims should expect to have them refused, and may be penalised for failing to take reasonable care when submitting their tax return.
“Even if you lodge through a tax agent your claims must be legitimate and you must be able to justify them if asked to by the ATO. If you intend to push the boundaries, or perhaps fudge some parts of your return the ATO has you in its sights.”
Work-related expenses are firmly in the ATO’s sights this tax time, after its first Individuals not in business tax gap report, revealed an $8.7 billion gap caused primarily by incorrect claims for deductions for work-related expenses and omitted income.
In 2018, over 3.6 million people made a work-related car expense claim totalling more than $7.2 billion. In addition, around six million people claimed work-related clothing and laundry expenses totalling nearly $1.5 billion.