On 4 December 2019 a case of fraud and theft was heard in Mt Druitt Magistrates Court NSW against an unregistered tax agent. The case highlights the risk of identity crime and the importance of not sharing your private myGov password information.
Information obtained from the hearing of Benjamin Cox revealed that he had fraudulently posed as a tax agent and lodged over a thousand individual tax returns using each taxpayer’s personal myGov access. He charged clients for his services and also stole some refunds his clients were due,using his own bank details to take the payments.
Mr Cox advertised his services through Facebook and Gumtree, targeting vulnerable people in the community who were unfamiliar with the Australian tax system.
In court Mr Cox pleaded guilty to the following charges:
- Dishonestly obtained financial advantage etc by deception under the NSW Crimes Act 1900 paragraph 192E(1)(b).
- Dealt with identity information to commit etc indictable offence under the NSW Crimes Act 1900 section 192J.
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.
Tips to identify 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.
Giving an unregistered agent your myGov password also puts your personal information at risk.
Make a complaint
If you know of someone providing tax agent services for a fee or other reward who is not registered, you can let the Tax Practitioners Board know at tpb.gov.au/complaints