Thousands of aussies have been accused of dubious tax behavior, those in the building and construction sector being at the top of the list.
Australians across the country made a total of 43,000 reports to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in the 2021-22 financial year, with businesses, customers, employees and members of the public taking the phone to report suspected offenders.
Hairdressing and beauty services come second on the list, followed by cafes and restaurants, road freight transport, management consultancy and related consultancy services.
More than 13,400 calls were made to the state ATO, closely followed by Victoria, 11,500, and Queensland, 9,200.
While the Sydneysiders were the main culprits, the Australians of the regions also exhibited their alleged local crooks.
The Sunshine Coast hinterland and Cairns in Queensland, Wellington in Sydney and Wodonga and the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria were among the top five regional sites for whistleblowers – nearly 7,000 calls from people outside the major cities.
Examples of questionable transactions include companies demanding money from customers or offering a discount for money, paying workers “cash”, not reporting all sales, not providing payslips to workers or even running illegal software that alters sales transactions.
The ATO currently uses whistleblower intelligence to combat the “underground economy,” which is estimated to cut our taxes by $11 billion each year.
ATO Deputy Commissioner Peter Holt said that while the past few years have been difficult for business, that does not excuse this kind of behavior.
“The underground economy is an economic and social issue that concerns us all,” Mr. Holt said.
“As businesses recover from the impacts of Covid and natural disasters, it’s more important than ever to protect the vast majority of businesses that are honest and trying to do the right thing.”
Mr Holt said the fraudulent behavior had put greater pressure on community services.
“Each dusted dollar tax is a dollar that cannot be used for vital services such as health and care for the elderly,” he said.
“We have all witnessed over the past two years how dependent the community is on these essential services.
The assistant commissioner, however, said it was not just the companies the ATO was investigating.
“We know that many customers also demand cash and ask for discounts to avoid paying taxes, and we also know that many workers demand cash, especially where there is a labor shortage. work,” he said.
“Our message is – whatever party is causing the behavior – it’s illegal and we’re on it.”
More than ninety percent of the tips received were deemed worthy of further investigation or were kept for intelligence purposes, Holt said, adding that community help in identifying scammers was “valuable information”.
“Sometimes that whistleblowing can be the last piece of the puzzle we need to take action,” he said.
While the tax expert confirmed that digital payments have grown in popularity due to COVID-19, he said the underground economy has not stagnated.
“Just because digital payments have gained popularity doesn’t mean the underground or cash economy is gone, it’s still here and we’re determined to bring it to light,” he said.
“It’s about keeping the playing field as even as possible.”
The ATO has confirmed that it has also received a number of tips as part of Operation Protego, which is investigating a major fraud involving participants inventing fake companies to claim bogus refunds.
Tips, which can be made anonymously, can also be submitted online at ato.gov.au/TipOff, via the ATO app or by calling 1800 060 062.