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91 missed returns lands taxpayer with suspended sentence


Failing to lodge 91 returns over a decade has seen a business owner issued a suspended sentence, and follows tens of thousands of dollars in court-ordered fines being handed down. 

By Jotham Lian 9 minute read

Following years of warning and notices from the ATO, as well as two previous court-imposed fines of $30,000 and $20,000 for non-lodgment, Judith Ahearn has been issued with a 12-month suspended sentence in the Geraldton Magistrates Court. She was found guilty of 91 charges of failing to comply with a court order.

Ms Ahearn, who is a partner in a road freight business, failed to lodge her BAS returns dating back to October 2008, with unlodged income tax returns falling in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 financial years.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said the sentencing was a reminder to the community that lodgment of tax returns were “not optional”.

“The ATO works hard to maintain a level playing field for all taxpayers and today’s court decision shows that no one is above the law,” said Mr Vujanic.

“Despite our repeated attempts to engage with Mrs Ahearn to resolve her outstanding tax returns, she has shown a complete disregard for her basic obligations as a member of the Australian community.

“While we’re disappointed that we have not been able to resolve this matter outside of the court system, we hope that the sentence handed down today sends a message to the community that lodging your tax returns is not optional.”

Speaking to Accountants Daily, Accodex chief financial officer, Caitie Copley, said Ms Ahearn’s case was more than likely to be an isolated case.

Instead, Ms Copley said tax agents might be more accustomed to seeing new clients who have inadvertently forgotten to lodge several years of returns after working abroad.

“Some of them may be that they've been overseas for a long period of time and when you're living in another country it's not really at the forefront of your mind to do an Australian tax return so the majority of the cases are the ones that have gone overseas and they are not sure if they have to lodge an Australian tax return,” said Ms Copley.

“Other ones are people who have forgotten and generally are refundable anyway; they are your usual PAYG employees that have forgotten.”

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Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian


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.

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