Australian Federal Taskforce Targets Crypto Fraud, Tax Avoidance

June 15, 2021, 11:00 AM AEST - 1 month ago

A multi-pronged taskforce that includes the Australian Tax Office (ATO), Federal Police, ASIC and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) is poised to investigate cryptocurrency transactions and their role in tax avoidance, fraud and money laundering.

The six-year-old SFCT (an acronym for the portentously named Serious Financial Crime Taskforce) claims responsibility for 40 current court cases involving individuals, along with 50 more operations it says are under investigation.

Focus On Money Laundering, Pandemic Stimulus Fraud and Misuse of Early Release Super Funds

Subjects of interest to the SFCT include the misuse of pandemic stimulus measures (such as JobKeeper), attempts to launder money via cryptocurrency, and fraud associated with last year’s early release of superannuation funds.

According to ATO deputy commissioner Will Day, who heads up the taskforce, “about 14” cryptocurrency exchanges are now sharing data with the SFCT.

Will Day, SFCT chief and ATO deputy commissioner

We’ve got a data matching program that we’ve had in place for a couple of years with digital currency exchanges … We are able to look at data matching to observe people’s spending habits, if they’re purchasing, say, luxury cars or real estate.

Will Day

In December 2018, the federal government injected $182 million in funding over four years to the ATO to extend its investigative brief. Also involved in SFCT activities are the federal Attorney-General’s department, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Border Force, and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.

Tax Time is Approaching in Australia

As tax time looms in Australia, the ATO is set to target Aussie crypto investors as they try to match data from crypto exchanges with taxpayers’ tax returns.

As well as investigating new crypto investors, the ATO may also target those who failed to declare their crypto holdings in previous years.

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