A 33-year-old Sydney man has been sentenced at the Mt Druitt Local Court after pretending to be a tax agent and charging several people a fee to lodge their tax returns, only to then steal their refunds.
As a result of his actions, Mr Cox received a two and a half year prison sentence to be served in the community by way of an Intensive Corrections Order. He was also ordered to pay over $13,000 in compensation to the ATO and his victims, and has had $22,000 worth of his assets seized.
Mr Benjamin Cox pretended to be a tax agent to more than 1,000 people, charging $100 for his services and using their myGov login details to submit income tax returns on their behalf. He also stole $12,866.62 worth of refunds by having them directed to his personal account.
Mr Cox advertised his services through Facebook and Gumtree, targeting vulnerable people in the community who were unfamiliar with the Australian tax system.
The ATO and TPB are working closely to identify and put a stop to unregistered preparers. People pretending to be tax agents often promise refunds that are too good to be true or provide discounted services much cheaper than legitimate registered tax agents.
Another tell-tale sign to look out for is that unregistered preparers often use a taxpayer’s personal login details to access their ATO Online account through myGov to lodge tax returns. A legitimate tax practitioner will never ask for your myGov credentials – they use dedicated ATO Online services to lodge returns for their clients.
The ATO, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) and NSW Police received complaints about Mr Cox and he was promptly arrested after a joint investigation into his activities.
Assistant Commissioner Adam Kendrick welcomed the sentence handed down today, saying that Mr Cox’s actions risked damaging the integrity of the tax system and the tax profession.
“Not only was Mr Cox pretending to be a tax agent and providing services without a registration, he was stealing from his clients.
“These unregistered preparers pose a threat to vulnerable taxpayers and risk the reputation of registered tax agents.
“They pretend to offer legitimate services to the community, but in reality they pose a serious threat not only to the people that use them, but to the broader community and the tax system as a whole.
“Your tax agent has access to your personal identifying information like your Tax File Number. Giving information like this to an untrustworthy person can end badly, as shown in this case. You can protect yourself by checking that your tax agent is registered and never sharing your myGov login details and password with anyone, including your tax agent.
“We have a shared interest with registered agents, the TPB and tax professional associations to protect the community and the integrity of Australia’s tax and super systems,” Mr Kendrick said.
Taxpayers can check if their tax practitioner is registered on the Tax Practitioners Board website at tpb.gov.au
If you know of someone providing tax agent services for a fee or other reward who is not registered, you can let the TPB know at tpb.gov.au/complaints, or make a tip-off to the ATO at ato.gov.au/tipoff