During tax time, accountants are warning all Australians to be on high alert for tax scams. Australians paid more than $2.1 million to tax scammers pretending to be the ATO in 2019.
“Criminals know that many Australians doing it tough want quick tax refunds and that creates easy targets for tax scams,” said Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) Tax Leader Michael Croker said.
“While the Federal Government and the ATO have tightened online security, individual Australians should protect themselves from becoming a victim of tax fraud.
“From phone scams to tax identity theft, scammers often exploit key dates to make their threats more believable. That’s why it’s vital to protect your information, especially as tax time approaches.”
Here is Michael’s top 5 tips to avoid falling prey to scammers
- Protect Your Personal Information Online
“It sounds simple but make sure you protect your personal financial information online – using strong passwords and where possible, two factor authentication,” Mr Croker said.
“Reduce the amount of personal information you share online via social networking platforms and keep your financial affairs as private as you can.
“With only a few pieces of information, fraudsters may be able to hack into your accounts or impersonate you.
- Walk don’t run and use trusted lodgement channels
The ATO starts processing 2020 tax returns on 5 July 2020 and expects to start paying refunds from 16 July 2020. It says the majority of electronically-lodged tax returns will be processed within 12 business days of receipt.
“Sometimes the ‘pre-fill’ information from employers, banks, government agencies, health funds and other third parties doesn’t appear on ATO systems until late July,” Mr Croker said,
“Try not to rush things. Many people lodge before they have all of the information about their income and deductions so be sure to check you have all the records needed before lodging.
“If lodging yourself, use myTax linked to your myGov credentials. Every year we hear stories of fake tax lodgement websites and fake emails which look like they’ve come from the ATO.
“Never give your tax details to a ‘mate’ willing to do your tax return for you, that’s like handing over your wallet.
“If using a tax agent, make sure they’re registered with the Tax Practitioners Board and beware of any agent promising a bigger tax refund by encouraging you to make dishonest claims.
“Good tax agents help you get your tax right. They calculate what you’re entitled to: no more and no less.”
- COVID-19 Scams
“With so many Australians on JobSeeker and JobKeeper, CA ANZ is expecting ‘pay it back’ scams with criminals pretending to represent government agencies or employers,” Mr Croker said.
“They’ll make out that you’ve been overpaid or you weren’t entitled to COVID-19 benefits in the first place.”
- Report All Suspicious Activity
“If you’re even slightly unsure whether an ATO interaction is genuine, do not reply. Instead contact the ATO to verify the interaction before you proceed,“ Mr Croker said.
The ATO hotline to verify if contact is genuine is 1800 008 540.
- Speak to Your Local Chartered Accountant
“If you have any concerns or questions when submitting your tax return, speak with your local Chartered Accountant,” Mr Croker said.
“Remember your local CA can file your tax return for you using secure online lodgement connections directly into the ATO’s systems and as your tax agent, they’ll deal with any ATO follow-up contact.
“Talk to my accountant’ is a great line to use if a tax scammer calls.”
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