Facing the Melbourne County Court on Friday, David Brandi, the principal of accounting firm Brandi & Co, was sentenced to two years in jail but was released immediately on a $5,000 good-behaviour bond.
Mr Brandi had earlier pleaded to two counts of dishonestly obtaining a gain from the Commonwealth for offences dating back to 2010.
Between January and March 2010, Mr Brandi falsified business activity statements prepared on behalf of a property development company by including extra invoice amounts attributed to construction costs, which dishonestly inflated the GST refund claims.
A total of $135,248 in fraudulent GST refunds were obtained from the ATO and deposited into the practice’s bank account. The amount has now been repaid in full.
During the investigation, the ATO uncovered emails from Mr Brandi telling employees to “keep their traps and emails shut” about the false refunds. It also uncovered that Mr Brandi instructed one of his employees to provide false documents in an attempt to substantiate the claims.
The Tax Practitioners Board has now terminated Mr Brandi’s tax agent registration and imposed a five-year ban after ruling that he failed to act honestly and with integrity, and was not a person of good fame, integrity and character.
Mr Brandi has since lodged a review of the TPB’s decision with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
ATO assistant commissioner Ian Read said Mr Brandi’s behaviour was particularly disappointing given the trusted position he held.
“Tax and BAS agents play a vital role in contributing to and protecting the integrity of the Australian tax and super systems, and while the majority of registered agents do the right thing, unfortunately, there are some agents who take advantage of their trusted position for financial benefit,” said Mr Read.
“Our focus is on supporting those who are doing the right thing. We take a firm stance against those whose actions damage the integrity of the tax system, including against members of the tax profession engaging in this type of behaviour.
“Mr Brandi’s actions show a complete disregard for not only the law, but also his clients’ trust. Tax fraud is not a victimless crime — those who engage in this criminal behaviour are obtaining an unfair advantage over those who do the right thing.”
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.