A suspected A$10 billion is being ripped from taxpayers by dodgy businesses and the Australian Taxation Office has launched a sophisticated Tax Integrity Centre to catch them.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on June 4, 2019

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is setting up a sophisticated hotline to dob in tax-dodging businesses that are suspected of ripping off taxpayers to the tune of A$10 billion.

The ATO has set up a Tax Integrity Centre that accepts tips offs via its website, its app or on the Black Economy hotline 1800 060 062.

The ATO hotline features data-matching tools that can spot patterns in the tip-offs from the public more quickly than before and strengthen protections for the dobbers.

“Our tip-off line is the ATO equivalent of Crime Stoppers for tax cheats and criminals,” ATO Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt told Fairfax.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Deborah Jenkins said in a speech to small business owners that the hotline would start on July 1, the start of the new financial year, and would let the public report any activity from businesses that indicates they could be dodging their responsibilities: including if “people are offered discounts for cash”.

“We want people to contact us and tell us about instances where people might not be doing the right thing,” Jenkins said.

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The centre will also review tip-offs about suspected phoenix activity when businesses are over-claiming deductions or paying cash-in-hand to avoid tax obligations.

The Australian Government’s response to a report from the Black Economy Taskforce committed to a new hotline with more sophisticated IT infrastructure so data-matching tools can spot patterns from public tip-offs quicker.

The ATO says cash transactions are acceptable as long as “they are reported correctly”.

“We actively encourage the community to contact us via the Tax Integrity Centre if they suspect that a business is unfairly offering a discount for cash to avoid meeting their tax and super obligations,” Holt said.

The ATO is currently finalising figures for its ‘small business tax gap’ measure, which will put a number on the amount of tax left underpaid by smaller operators. It is expected this figure will top A$10 billion.