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ATO receives 727 tip-offs about dodgy road freight operators

The Australian Tax Office received 727 tip-offs about road freight operators allegedly dodging their tax or super obligations in the last financial year.

That accounts for just 1.7 per cent, however, of the 43,000 calls it had across a raft of industries in 2021-22, with building and construction, hairdressing and beauty services, cafés and restaurants, and management advice and related consulting services also singled out for scrutiny.

Here’s where the road freight-related calls came from:

  • NSW – 225 tip-offs (31%)
  • VIC – 192 tip-offs (26%)
  • QLD – 188 tip-offs (26%)
  • WA – 56 tip-offs (8%)
  • SA – 33 tip-offs (5%)
  • TAS – 19 tip-offs (3%)
  • ACT – 9 tip-offs (1%)
  • NONE SPECIFIED – 4 tip-offs (1%)
  • NT – 1 tip-off (0.14%)

The tax office said that approximately 95 per cent of tip-offs received and analysed were deemed as being suitable for further investigation or retained as useful intelligence.

In one road freight case cited, the ATO said it received a tip-off from a former employee who was concerned that he and several other drivers were receiving cash wages.

“He was concerned that this was being done to avoid the company’s tax and superannuation obligations,” said ATA assistant commissioner Peter Holt.

“He stated that he had not been paid his superannuation since he started working for the company. Evidence provided by the employee also showed that his former employer was charging GST even though the business was not registered for it.”

The ATO said it is using intelligence from tip-offs as part of its approach to dealing with the shadow economy (previously referred to as the black economy) which encompasses activities that take place outside of the tax and other regulatory systems.

The ATO estimates that the community misses out on around $11 billion in taxes each year as a result of the shadow economy.

“The last couple of years have been tough for some businesses,” added Holt.

“But this doesn’t make it okay to gain an unfair advantage over honest businesses playing by the rules. The shadow economy is an economic and social issue that affects all of us. As businesses recover from the impacts of Covid and natural disasters it is more important than ever to protect the vast majority of businesses who are honest and try to do the right thing.

“Every dollar of tax dodged is a dollar that can’t be used for vital services like health and aged care. We’ve all witnessed over the past couple of years how much the community relies on these critical services.”

Holt also added that it’s not just businesses the ATO has its eye on.

“We know that many customers also demand to pay in cash and ask for discounts to avoid paying tax, and we also know that many workers are demanding cash especially where there is a shortage of labour. Our message is – regardless of which party is driving the behaviour – it’s illegal and we’re on to it.”

Tip-offs can be made online at ato.gov.au/TipOff, via the ATO app, or by phoning 1800 060 062. All tip-offs are private and you can remain anonymous.

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