Any resellers currently flaunting sales tax laws be warned - the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is on the warpath.
Late last month a Melbourne-based reseller and wholesaler pleaded guilty to charges of sales tax fraud, incurring a three-year jail term for defrauding the Commonwealth of $1.14 million. Robert Graham Thomas, who traded as Gardenvale-based dealer "Roger Wilco Computers" later had this sentence reduced to two years and suspended after agreeing to provide further assistance to Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigations.
The maximum penalty under the Common-wealth Crimes Act is a $100,000 fine or 10 years imprisonment, or both.
According to ATO assistant commissioner Mike Cebalo this case is just the first of around 25 cases expected to be bought before courts under the Crimes Act this year.
Cebalo said these actions are the result of joint inquiries being made by the ATO, the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
He added that still more offences are under investigation. "We have information concerning many more people in the industry that we expect will also lead to further charges," said Cebalo.
"The fact that they themselves haven't had their name up in lights yet doesn't mean that they haven't been identified and aren't the subject of attention as well."
Cebalo also points out that while fraud in itself is a crime, any people who deal with others who have dealt fraudulently with taxable goods are also guilty of a crime, and run the risk themselves of being prosecuted.
While the investigations date back to last year, Cebalo says they have received added attention following federal budget reports that sales tax evasion in the computer industry is resulting in an $80 million a year revenue loss for the Commonwealth. Cebalo believes there is an entrenched criminal element operating in the computer industry. "I think our experiences since then (the budget) has simply reinforced the belief. We're not saying that there's just unrelated ad hoc occurrence, it's much more widespread."
Information on sales tax fraud can be reported to the ATO on (03) 9275 9670.