Woman cops suspended sentence for ignoring 91 tax returns

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A 65-year-old Geraldton woman ordered to lodge her outstanding 91 tax returns has been sentenced to a 12-month suspended sentence in prison for repeatedly failing to submit Business Activity Statements (BAS) and income tax returns.

Judith Ahearn, who is a partner in a road freight business, was last week sentenced in the Geraldton Magistrates Court after being found guilty of 91 charges of failing to comply with a court order.

Mrs Ahearn’s failure to lodge her BAS dates back to October 2008, with her unlodged income tax returns falling in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 financial years.

Last week’s sentencing follows years of warnings and notices from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), as well as two previous court-imposed fines of $30,000 and $20,000 for non-lodgement.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said the court’s decision is a reminder of the seriousness of refusing to engage with the tax office.

“The ATO works hard to maintain a level playing field for all taxpayers,” Mr Vujanic said. “(This) court decision shows that no one is above the law.

“Despite our repeated attempts to engage with Mrs Ahearn to resolve her outstanding tax returns, she has shown a complete disregard for her basic obligations as a member of the Australian community.

“While we’re disappointed that we have not been able to resolve this matter outside of the court system, we hope that the sentence handed down sends a message to the community that lodging your tax returns is not optional.

“Our key message to anyone who’s having issues is to work with us to sort things out. Burying your head in the sand isn’t helpful for anyone.”

What is the longest you have gone without lodging a tax return? Have you ever been in trouble with the tax man? Were you able to resolve it easily?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 30
  1. 0

    ATO want me to do returns for the 5 yrs I lived in the Philippines..

    • 0

      The real issue is the HUGE effort involved in doing some returns. It takes me several weeks from woe to go and the ATO expects people to ‘comply’ with no sympathy for what they are demanding as a legal obligation.
      I can understand that the woman concerned probably had had enough and then dug her heels in and took a stance. The system is so complex and so time consuming that she has a point.
      I respectfully suggest that people’s time needs to be paid for if compliance involves significant time input for little income at the end of the day.
      I guess those who have not been hit up with this would not understand. It is horrific and probably one reason for putting your money under the bed rather than making it work.

    • 0

      Why should this woman be the exception to the rule. We all knows our obligations as taxpayers…if we all did this what a mess there would be.

      I am an ordinary taxpayer and both husband self pay an accountant every year to do our tax returns and prior to 5 years ago we did ourselves.

      This woman is part owner in a company and there is no excuse in my books at all for non compliance.

      The court system is weak and the sentence was pathetic.

    • 0

      Noodles as an ordinary worker you would never be allowed to get away with what business do. They are the Golden Ones who can do no wrong as far as our current Government believe.

      It’s all Rudd/Gillard and greedy unions fault dontcha know.

      If it was an ordinary worker they would be in prison right now.

  2. 0

    Why doesnt ATO just go and do her books for her then garnish her account – simple and easily done

    • 0

      The issue is the ATO does not want to do the work so they put it back on taxpayers.

    • 0

      ATO just ineffiecient, as is Centrelink. Both our State & Fed Govn’ments don’t give a flying shiiite abt anyone on what they consider ‘Welfare.’ Reckon the OAP should be the basic wage unless have $2M in assets including home, can get a Homesafe loan (no repayments ’til sold by kids!?) if cash poor.

  3. 0

    Wow !!! A suspended sentence. That will teach her!!!

    • 0

      A suspended sentence comes with conditions, in this case the condition could be that she submitted the returns required. Probably an attempt by the court to ensure the lady complied with the tax laws. If she failed to submit the returns required she would know she was going to be gaoled for 12 months.

  4. 0

    I don’t see a problem, partner in a road freight business required to submit BAS statements by law, tax office repeatedly reminded her she ignored them, what did she expect? She is very lucky not to be in prison IMHO, but I am biased I guess as I do my tax return every year at this time, even though I am a pensioner, it’s the law, and I abide by it, fighting the tax office is never gonna end well for the tax payer!

    • 0

      Ignoring letters from the tax department is rather courageous. They won’t forget. Had an accountant all the years I was employed to do my return. When I finished work life he lodged a final tax return and have not won the lotteries to start activating the account again. But I am still buying tickets . . .

  5. 0

    Does the 12 month suspended sentence in prison mean that she can’t vote any more?

  6. 0

    Always lodged my tax return. When ATO disallowed one of my professional subscriptions in 1981 as a tax deduction it offered me the option of accepting their ruling or paying $10 to go to court . I sent them the $10 to go to court. A month later they responded with a refund cheque of the $10 plus an adjusted tax refund for the tax deduction claim. 18 years later I had to do a paper audit for business motor vehicle expense tax deduction claim for that financial year. Never heard from them after that and got my fair tax refund. It pays to know and follow all the ATO rules to the very edge but not over the edge 🙂 🙂

  7. 0

    Always do my tax and better to be honest. Honesty wins out. Even after you are deceased the ta department still expects the person attending to your final affairs to lodge a final tax return. No escaping from the grave.

  8. 0

    I didn’t bother lodging a tax return for three consecutive years. I was on a very low income under the tax threshold and according to the ATO website I didn’t need to. I worked it out that the ATO owed me a few dollars from franking credits on some shares I held but it wasn’t worth the effort of claiming. I figured the ATO could have it in return for me not lodging a claim. Got a very terse letter and phone call from the ATO telling me that even if I don’t get a refund or have to pay, I still have to lodge a “Nil Return”. So, it seems that regardless of whether we aren’t eligible for a refund and don’t have to pay, we still have to lodge some sort or return every year.

    That was two years ago. Just last month I received a letter from the ATO saying that because I only ever lodge a claim for franking credits, they’re going to lodge my return for me!! It seems that they’re trialling a system where they automatically lodge my return based on the information they receive from my bank and the company whose shares I hold.
    So now we’re back to square one where I won’t be lodging any returns – but this time I will be covered

  9. 0

    What’s the point of reporting this woman’s age? Are we supposed to feel sorry for her because she is 65?

    She is not a ‘little old lady’ confused by the enormity of filling in a BAS statement then bullied by the wicked ATO. She is a business woman who has consistently and willfully refused to meet the obligations of the business she owns! Frankly, she got off light.

    • 0

      Yep agreed KSS and you can bet that she’ll want an ‘entitlement’ age pension – for all the income tax (she never paid).

    • 0

      She thought they wouldn’t catch up with her because she had done it for so long. The ATO should jump on them straight away instead of allowing things to go this far.

  10. 0

    I don’t think this punishment will deter anyone ????

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