GST refund claims worth more than half a million dollars that were found to be fraudulent have seen a man sentenced to three years in jail.
According to the ATO, Simon Petzierides, a building developer from Melbourne, was given the sentenced on Friday (15 November) by the County Court of Victoria for tax fraud, which assistant ATO commissioner Ian Read said “wasn’t an honest mistake”.
The Tax Office said in a statement that Mr Petzierides was a director of two separate companies, Brooklyn Projects 392 Pty Ltd and Finnsam Pty Ltd.
It said that BAS statements he had lodged between 2010 and 2012 on behalf of Brooklyn Projects 392 had “dishonestly obtained a financial advantage of close to $420,000” through the use of false GST refund claims.
A further amount of more than $118,000 in GST refunds were found to have been fraudulently obtained by the director for Finnsam, taking the total value of the refunds to $537,616.
Furthermore, the ATO said that Mr Petzierides was also the director of a third company, Kenbuilt Homes Pty, which was deemed to have been used to claim “a large amount of input tax credits from demolition and earthworks services claimed to be provided to Brooklyn Projects 392 and Finnsam”, despite tax investigators finding no physical works carried out on the relevant site by Kenbuilt Homes or any sub-contractor on their behalf.
As well as imposing the jail sentence, Mr Petzierides was also given a reparation order to repay the full amount.
“This wasn’t an honest mistake made by a small business owner trying to do the right thing — it was a calculated and deliberate attempt to commit fraud and steal money from taxpayers,” Mr Read said following the sentencing.
“Investigations by our auditors showed very large GST refunds were being claimed over a period of time, and there were a number of methods employed to conceal the fraudulent behaviour including claims for invoices that were never issued, costs for services that were not provided and costs that were inflated through the alteration of legitimate invoices.”
The assistant commissioner said that the case demonstrated the ATO’s willingness to use its substantial resources and data-matching capabilities to investigate and pursue wrongdoing.
“We hope this sentence sends a warning to others considering engaging in similar behaviour — if you break the law, we will hold you accountable, even if it means pursuing you in the courts,” Mr Read said.
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