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Take note of payroll compliance in wake of fraud case, accountants told

In the wake of the $165 million tax fraud last week involving a payroll service provider, a mid-tier accounting firm has advised businesses to assess their payroll provider arrangements and review associated risks.

Take note of payroll compliance in wake of fraud case, accountants told
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In one of Australia’s biggest tax scams, the AFP arrested and charged 10 people linked to Plutus, a company that provides payroll services to clients.

According to the AFP, the 10 were part of a syndicate that allegedly diverted legitimate client funds, that were supposed to service tax obligations, for their own personal gain.

BDO tax partner Mark Molesworth said the case highlighted the importance of assessing a payroll provider’s integrity and associated risks.

“If you use such a service, you should be aware that paying these amounts to the service provider does not meet your obligations to the ATO,” Mr Molesworth said.

“If the service provider does not make the payments to the ATO as required, it will be the employer who the ATO will target for payment, not the service provider. An employer could potentially have to pay the amount again to the ATO even though they have already paid the amount to the service provider.

“It’s not just fraud that could be the risk. Financial failure of the service provider would also trigger big complications, particularly if the ATO hasn’t received up-to-date withholding tax remittances.”

Mr Molesworth reminded businesses that they have the obligation to ensure the tax withheld from employees’ wages is remitted to the ATO.

He added that businesses should ensure that their payroll providers are registered with the Tax Practitioners Board as a tax agent or BAS agent, have arrangements to hold funds until they are remitted to the ATO, and that their trust accounts and financial statements are audited each year.

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