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AFP, ATO and Treasury unite in curbing COVID-19 fraud

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
29 April 2020 2 minute readShare
curbing COVID-19 fraud

The ATO and the Treasury will be working directly with the anti-fraud taskforce run by the Australian Federal Police to identify fraud related to the stimulus measures being implemented to shelter the economy from COVID-19.

The Treasury has engaged in discussions with the AFP, alongside the Australian Tax Office and Services Australia, in an effort to block fraudulent activity in relation to the economic stimulus packages.

Speaking before the Senate inquiry into the government’s response to COVID-19, Treasury Deputy Secretary Jenny Wilkinson, said her department is working with the fraud taskforce established by the Department of Home Affairs.

“I'm aware there is a fraud task force which is sitting within the Department of Home Affairs and I know that the Australian Federal Police are involved in that task force.

“It's also the case that the ATO and Services Australia are involved in all of those discussions,” said Ms Wilkinson.

Identifying rorts

A spokesperson for the ATO told My Business that the Tax Office has already set up a confidential tip-off hotline on 1800 060 062 to report JobKeeper fraud or behaviour of concern to people. People can also report illegal behaviour by completing a tip-off form online at ato.gov.au/tipoffform.

“We know that the overwhelming majority of Australian employers are honest and want to see this assistance reach those who need it most. The ATO will work with employers to avoid and overcome genuine mistakes,” the spokesperson said.

“There may be a very small number of people who seek to fraudulently access money they’re not entitled to. These people will be caught and will be subject to significant penalties. The ATO’s robust and efficient compliance measures will quickly identify those who try to rort the system.”

The ATO confirmed it has set up a dedicated team examining all tip-offs, including claims relating to JobKeeper.

“We take all information referred to us seriously.  When we receive information through a tip-off, we will cross check the information and assess whether further action is required which may include penalties.”

“We are working closely with the Fair Work Ombudsman and will refer tip-offs to them, as permitted under the law,” the ATO noted.

The Tax Office earlier identified a list of schemes that may be used to artificially create or inflate an entitlement to the cash-flow boost. It also confirmed it will begin applying scrutiny to arrangements that help an entity satisfy the turnover test to qualify for the JobKeeper payment.

“Integrity rules are in place to deny or reduce an entitlement to JobKeeper payments if schemes are contrived to ensure payment conditions are satisfied, such as temporarily reducing or deferring turnover. Exceeding your turnover predictions by itself does not trigger these integrity rules,” said the ATO.

“Our compliance focus will be particularly directed toward schemes where there has not been a genuine fall in turnover in substance, but arrangements are contrived to ensure the turnover test is satisfied.”

AFP, ATO and Treasury unite in curbing COVID-19 fraud
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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business. 

Maja has a decade-long career in journalism across finance, business and politics. Now a well-versed reporter in the SME and accounting arena, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies and enabling citizens to influence decision-making.

You can email Maja on [email protected] 

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