Beware of bogus tax agents

As the Australian Tax Office (ATO) reveals the three areas it will be scrutinising most closely this year, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) has issued its own warning – beware of unregistered tax agents.

The TPB says it has been made aware of a number of individuals posing as registered tax agents and lodging tax returns on clients’ behalf. This has often involved accessing the clients’ myGov accounts and lodging through myTax.

Chief executive Michael O’Neill said the TPB was investigating 37 such cases and would take the worst of them to the Federal Court.

Unregistered agents often try to convince potential clients that they can obtain unrealistically large tax refunds, he said.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he added. “Using an unregistered tax practitioner can cost thousands of dollars in tax bills and penalties.

“It also means you are not covered by safe-harbour provisions that offer protection against penalties from the ATO when a registered tax practitioner fails to lodge on time or makes a false or misleading statement on your return.

“We urge everyone this tax-time not to share their personal myGov password with anyone, and if they plan to use a tax agent, to make sure they are registered with the TPB.”

The TPB suggests you:

  • Check your tax practitioner is registered on the public register.
  • Never share your myGov password with anyone as that puts your personal information at risk.

It also says you should not be charged by anyone to lodge or prepare your tax return through your myGov account.

The ATO, meanwhile, says it will be doing extra audits on claims involving investment properties, cryptocurrencies and laundry.

Last financial year, about 1500 property investor taxpayers were audited, resulting in penalties of about $1.3 million.

The ATO says deductions must be genuine and that income from rent, even from renting out a room, must be declared.

It also said that last year, about 6 million people claimed work-related clothing and laundry expenses totalling almost $1.5 billion.

An estimated 500,000 to 1 million Australians have invested in crypto-assets and this year, the ATO is collecting bulk records, including purchases and sales from designated cryptocurrency service providers. This is part of a data-matching program to ensure people are paying the right amount of tax, The Age reports.

Do you expect a return this tax time? Are you sure your agent is registered, or do you complete your own tax return?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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