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TPB cautions ‘beware of COVID-19 stimulus fraudsters’

The Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) has issued a warning to the community and businesses to take extra care when seeking assistance in accessing the government’s COVID-19 stimulus measures.
TPB cautions ‘beware of COVID-19 stimulus fraudsters’
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  • Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
  • May 21, 2020
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The TPB's warning follows the identification of a growing number of complaints and intelligence about fraudsters posing as tax experts, providing misleading advice and support relating to COVID-19 stimulus benefits, often provided on a ‘no benefit – no fee’ basis.

According to the TPB, the arrangements are often promoted through social media channels, claim to offer advice and support along with unnecessary services in a subscription or locked-in contract. Some also involve businesses with thousands of clients. 
The organisations involved may claim that the advice being provided is ‘assured’ by a registered tax agent, however, the TPB cautioned, that advice may be incorrect and breach the Tax Agent Services Act (TASA).

The TPB confirmed it would prioritise investigations into organisations that have been involved in such conduct.

TPB chair Ian Klug, AM, said, "We are investigating organisations operating in this way to establish how, and which, services are being provided and whether they are in contravention of the law.

"We are concerned about protecting the consumers of taxation services as we know the accuracy of the advice given by unregistered agents is not reliable and there is no safe way to ‘assure’ advice by an unregistered tax adviser simply by involving a registered agent on the fringe of the business.
"Incorrect advice may prevent the full amount of the benefit from reaching its intended recipients. Also, incorrectly received benefits may have to be repaid and recipients may be liable for penalties and interest."

The community is urged to check whether their tax practitioner is registered on the public register at www.tpb.gov.au/onlineregister and follow the TPB’s tips when seeking taxation or COVID-19 stimulus advice.

"If you are not a registered practitioner and your business is engaged in providing advice or services related to any of the COVID-19 stimulus benefits such as JobKeeper, Cash Boost or early release from super, you are in breach of the TASA and may be liable for a civil penalty imposed by the Federal Court," Mr Klug noted. 

The TPB advised any small business or individual unwittingly caught up in unfair contracts with businesses offering ‘assured’ tax services to seek legal advice.
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