If you are charged with having committed a criminal tax offence, proceedings against you can be initiated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

In Australia, the tax system is a self-assessment environment, and it relies on taxpayers acting honestly in fulfilling their tax obligations. The Commissioner of Taxation has the power to ensure compliance with the tax laws, and is able to apply penalties including administrative penalties and prosecutions.

Serious taxation offences

In serious cases, taxpayers can be prosecuted for offences involving fraudulent conduct under the Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995. Tax fraud encompasses a range of frauds, including GST fraud and Business Activity Statement fraud.

The ATO takes tax fraud offences very seriously and successful prosecution will usually result in a serious fine at the very least, and in cases of serious or repeated offending, imprisonment.

What other taxation offences are there in Australia?

The law provides for a range of taxation offences, such as:

  • failure to lodge taxation returns or activity statements;
  • making false and misleading statements;
  • failure to correctly keep accounting records;
  • failure to pay tax or remit the tax deductions of employees.

When will the ATO prosecute?

When the ATO or CDPP decide to prosecute, they consider a number of different aspects, including the seriousness of the offence, the circumstances of the taxpayer, and whether or not the prosecution could act as a deterrent to the wider community.

Can I appeal a tax offence conviction or penalty?

Yes.

If you are dealt with in court for a tax offence, you have rights to appeal any conviction, as well as any penalty.  Such appeals must be lodged promptly, in accordance with strict time limits prescribed by law (usually within one month).

You should consult an experienced criminal lawyer urgently if you wish to appeal a taxation conviction or penalty imposed by a court.