OUR COURTS: Fines loom for late tax returns
COURTS regularly hear and determine Commonwealth offences such as failure by a person to lodge tax returns on time or failing to declare income to Centrelink.
Commonwealth offences carry strict fines and potential time in prison.
The law expects a taxpayer to take reasonable care to ensure tax returns are lodged on time.
Failure to lodge a tax return on time could result in a complaint and summons by the Commissioner of Taxation being issued to appear before a magistrate.
A maximum fine of up to $3600 can be imposed for each offence and a conviction recorded.
Under the Social Security Act, a person who knowingly obtains a payment or instalment of a pension, benefit or allowance which is not payable to them in part or at all commits a Commonwealth offence and faces a maximum penalty of $2000 or 12 months imprisonment and an order to repay the payments they received.
An example would be a person who receives a pension or Newstart allowance but does not declare income they have earned while receiving those payments. Persons charged with such offences face potential sentences that can result in imprisonment being served even where they have no prior convictions.
A person commits Centrelink fraud if they engage in conduct, such as making false or misleading statements about their income or financial situation, in order to receive a financial advantage and can be charged under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.
A sentence for such an offence can result in a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.
Such offences impose absolute liability and the defence of mistake of fact is not available.
For example a person cannot defend such a charge or complaint on the basis they had made a mistake about the amount of money they were earning while receiving Centrelink benefits or they were too busy to lodge their tax returns on time.