Almost 1,200 people were prosecuted and convicted for tax and superannuation offences in Australia last year, new figures show.
The statistics were released by Tax Commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo, who said that: “The ATO's use of sophisticated data matching technology is helping to close the net around those exploiting the tax and super systems.”
In total, 48 people were prosecuted and convicted of serious tax crime offences, with sentences ranging from three months to nine years and 11 months. Six of these convictions occurred under Project Wickenby, a cross-agency task force established in 2006 to prevent the promotion of or participation in illegal offshore structures.
From its launch to January 31, 2012, Project Wickenby has resulted in AUD1.26bn (USD1.32bn) in tax liabilities raised, and AUD597.14m in tax collected. 65 people have been charged under the project with serious offences, with 22 people convicted.
1,149 people and 370 companies were prosecuted and convicted for other tax offences in 2011. Such offences included failing to lodge a tax return, providing false and misleading information, or receiving a fee for preparing an income tax return when not being a registered tax agent.
As part of its Compliance Program the ATO is also increasing its focus on non-complying taxpayers in the goods and services tax (GST) system. Last year’s budget provided AUD337m in funding for this project over the next four years. The emphasis is on identifying people who do not lodge their business activity statements, and detecting businesses that over-claim entitlements or deliberately under-report taxable supplies that they make. In 2011, the ATO prosecuted 545 individuals and 211 companies for over AUD12.55m worth of GST offences.
Also increased is the ATO’s scrutiny of businesses deliberately not reporting cash income. Over 1.9m small businesses were evaluated against the ATO's risk detection systems during 2011. Last year, the ATO prosecuted 41 individuals and nine companies for over AUD3.22m worth of cash economy offences.
Commenting on the figures, D'Ascenzo said:
“People deliberately committing tax evasion are often caught by the sharing of information between government departments and other third parties. Cooperation across government departments has led to increased intelligence sharing and improved information gathering which is driving our data matching capabilities to new levels."
"We use advanced technology to bring together information from a range of government departments and other third parties to cross check personal and business records such as car registrations and supply orders for businesses. The ATO also undertakes risk profiling to identify people and businesses that may have not declared all their earnings or overinflate their deductions."
"We can see how personal and business claims compare to other tax payers. If alarms are raised the ATO investigates those claims and taxpayer records more closely."