Prosecution: Failure to Lodge Tax Return
Did you know it is an offence to fail to lodge an income tax return and can result in criminal charges and a criminal record.
The charge is heard by a magistrate at the Local Court.
Generally the ATO gives fair warning that you have failed to lodge a tax return (or BAS return) and sends you a letter. DON’T IGNORE THEM
If the ATO decides to prosecute they will issue what is known as a Court Attendance Notice (CAN). The CAN will have the date of the court hearing and list all of the offences for failure to lodge a tax return.
A separate CAN will be issued for income tax returns and BAS returns.
Tax returns include Income Tax Returns and Business Activity Statements (BAS) returns. Where a taxpayer reports their BAS on a quarterly basis this means the number of offences (and consequent penalties will be quadrupled.
Depending on the circumstances, the Magistrate may decide not to issue a conviction. However this is relatively rate and depends on the circumstances.
If the ATO decides to prosecute you for a failure to lodge your tax return, not only will you have a criminal record, but you will pay a hefty fine. The size of the fine depends upon how many outstanding tax returns you have – it could reach $200,000 or more.
The size of the fine largely depends upon mitigating circumstances as to why you didn’t lodge. The court considers such things as your individual circumstances, the reasons why you failed to comply and take into your character and any previous convictions.
At the conclusion of the sentence the Magistrate generally makes a court order requiring the defendant to lodge their tax returns within a particular period of time.
If you fail to lodge your tax returns and receive a Court Attendance Notice, you should engage a lawyer to represent you at the hearing so that the you receive the least amount of penalties. In some cases, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to receive a “no conviction recorded”. Waterhouse Lawyers have successfully obtained no convictions in sutiable cases and successfully argued for substantially reduced penalties