The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been hot on the trail of tax cheats, last year charging 1200 people with tax and superannuation offences uncovered using the agency's data-matching techniques.
Data matching sees the ATO collate data from a number of third parties, including government agencies and private enterprises, matching income and welfare information against reported taxable income. The process highlights those who aren't reporting their income correctly, prompting ATO staff to take a closer look at an individual's or a business' books. The Trading Post, eBay and Centrelink have all participated in the ATO's data-matching efforts.
Commissioner of Taxation Michael D'Ascenzo said that the co-operative initiative means that tax cheats now have a greater chance of being caught.
"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," D'Ascenzo said in a statement yesterday.
The ATO said yesterday that 48 people were prosecuted last year for serious offences, with sentences ranging from three months to nine years and 11 months, while 1149 individuals and 370 companies were hit with convictions for less serious offences, such as failing to lodge a tax return or providing misleading information.
Under the microscope last year were taxpayers failing to comply with the GST system — those taking part in the cash economy and not reporting cash-in-hand income — while others were pursued for not filing tax returns, including a Sydney-based investment and data consultancy firm, which copped an $11,000 fine for failure to lodge GST statements.
D'Ascenzo said that the data-matching technology ensures that Australians don't all pay the price for tax evaders.
"The community as a whole pays the price for the actions of tax cheats. We take the responsibility of protecting the community from tax cheats very seriously, and rigorously seek to identify people making false claims in their tax returns," he said.