A New Zealand resident who had been living and operating two businesses in Queensland has been jailed over an $800,000 fraud involving GST refunds on his BAS.
Anthony Lee, 65, was sentenced this week to five years and 10 months behind bars in the Brisbane District Court, in addition to being ordered to repay the money he claimed.
According to the ATO, Mr Lee was the director of Agri Beef Cattle Company, a cattle buying and exporting business, and HQB Exporters, which managed the exports.
The court ruled that in 2014, Mr Lee fraudulently claimed a total of $820,308 in GST refunds on the Business Activity Statements (BAS) for both companies.
He also tried to obtain a further $185,235 in refunds for Agri Beef Cattle Company. Additionally, Mr Lee was found to have provided false statement to the tax office in a bid to justify the fake claims, while no tax invoices were provided to substantiate the claims for HQB Exporters.
In total, Mr Lee was found guilty of eight charges: five of defrauding the Commonwealth, two of providing forged documents and one of attempted fraud.
“Contrary to popular belief, tax crime is not victimless: when you claim a refund you’re not entitled to, you are stealing from the whole community and disadvantaging Australians who do the right thing,” ATO assistant commissioner Peter Vujanic said following the judgement.
“Intentionally claiming a tax refund by providing false information to the ATO is not just deceitful, it’s illegal.
“Mr Lee set out to deliberately break the law for his own benefit and, even when caught, refused to take responsibility for his crimes.”
Mr Vujanic warned that the tax office has “sophisticated data analytics tools and intelligence” that it uses to detect fraud and inaccurate claims.
That was evidenced in September, when the ATO revealed it had already discovered $53 million worth of errors in 112,000 tax returns lodged in July and August.
The ATO has repeatedly warned that in the current tax year, it is cracking down hard on undeclared income and work-from-home expenses, which account for a large portion of the inaccuracies it identifies each year.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.