The tax office’s tip-off hotline has been running hot as the financial year counts down its final days – with Australians dobbing on suspected tax dodgers at nearly double the rate of this time last year.
“Honest businesses have had enough of competitors cheating the system and getting an unfair advantage,” Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said.
The ATO said on Friday it had received nearly 60,000 reports of suspected tax evasion, the black economy or illegal phoenix activity between July 1, 2018, and May 31, 2019.
That number represents a 42 per cent increase on the same period in the previous financial year. And it is businesses who are the focus of increased attention.
“More than half of all referrals … were for suspected under-reporting of income or about the cash economy – for example, businesses demanding cash from customers or paying their workers cash in hand,” the ATO said on Friday.
The tax office’s Black Economy Taskforce estimates the black economy costs the community up to $50 billion each year – or about 3 per cent of gross domestic product.
Mr Holt said the number of calls to the hotline suggested the ATO was on track for more than 70,000 community referrals by June 30. That compared to 51,000 referrals in 2017-2018.
Mr Holt said the tax office was committed to supporting businesses to meet tax and super obligations, and offered resources to help them get it right.
The record number of referrals coincides with improvements to the process for tipping off the ATO about suspected tax evasion.
The tax office will launch its new Tax Integrity Centre – described by Mr Holt as “the taxation equivalent of Crime Stoppers” – on July 1. It will provide a single point of contact for reporting suspected illegal activity.
“Tip-offs help us build a more complete view of risk. A community tip-off may be the missing piece of the puzzle that we need to finalise an investigation and seek prosecution action to help protect honest taxpayers,” Mr Holt said.
“Even if you only know part details, this information is still very useful. It helps us understand industry trends and emerging issues and forms part of our engagement strategies.”
The Tax Office hotline is 1800 060 062. Tip-offs are private and anonymous. The ATO does request contact details, but these remain confidential.