There are lots of good things about living in Australia but, when it comes to tax time, you’ve probably thought about upping sticks and moving to the Bahamas.
We hear the Bahamas is a beautiful place but we also reckon there are good reasons you should ‘tough it out’ in Australia and continue to pay your legally required share of tax.
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of our top three reasons you should think twice before skipping out on the ATO.
1. Everyone else is paying tax
Each year the majority of Australian individuals and small business owners stress and moan about paying taxes and then go on to submit honest, accurate tax returns (with perhaps a bit of creativity around what constitutes a deduction). Unless you’re superman, and spend your time saving tax payer dollars by rescuing planes falling out of the sky, we believe you’re probably obligated to pay tax like everyone else. You may not agree with 90 per cent of what the government chooses to spend it on but we suggest you find one thing you can support and tell yourself that’s where your tax dollars are going. In all seriousness the country would quickly fall to pieces if everyone dodged tax and it therefore follows we all have an obligation to pay up.
2. Penalties, criminal convictions and jail time
If the moral argument doesn’t sway you, what about the fact that the government can apply serious penalties to perpetrators of tax crime that can have long term consequences? Tax crime includes things like: not declaring cash wages as income, falsely claiming refunds or benefits and avoiding paying tax. If you are caught out, you could be hauled before the courts to face criminal charges (this would not only be humiliating but it could limit your ability to travel overseas). At the very least if you commit tax crim, you could face fines and possible additional penalties and, you can bet the farm the ATO will be keeping a very close eye on your future tax returns. This could mean ongoing extra hassle and questions each time you lodge a return.
If you’re a very high income earner or operate a large business you could be snagged by the Tax Avoidance Taskforce, which was established in 2016. The taskforce funded to the tune of $679 million over four years has the investigative powers to tackle complex, multi-jurisdictional tax crime.
3. It’s getting harder to get away with it
You might think the above repercussions are nasty but the odds are you won’t get caught. The reality is that the Australian government, like governments around the world, has continued to strengthen its abilities to detect tax crime, mostly through technological advances. Not only can it see your bank and investment details and access information about you from state and federal government agencies, it can now conduct data matching, modelling and tracking, giving it greater abilities to pick up discrepancies. You can also be reported by work colleagues or customers who pick up on suspicious dealings.
But what if you can’t afford to pay your tax?
For every dodgy tax evader out there, there’s someone who’s willing to pay their tax but simply can’t afford to do so. If this is the situation you find yourself in; contact the ATO ASAP. Despite its reputation as the bad guy, the ATO does not want to see businesses or individuals run into the ground. The ATO can offer you repayment plan arrangements and even waive fines or stop charging interest.