Former Channel 7 newsreader Simone Semmens has been sentenced to 34 months in jail after being found guilty on all 10 charges of dishonestly causing loss to the Commonwealth.
Ms Semmens had purchased, developed and sold 10 luxury properties in Toorak, Portsea and Caulfield North between 2005 and 2011 for a combined profit of $4.4 million, but paid no GST despite advice from her accountant and bank manager.
Her company, Semco Developments Pty Ltd, had been set up as a property development company to purchase, renovate and sell houses, but Ms Semmens claimed that the properties were for personal use.
“You remained stubborn and steadfast that you did not owe GST or tax at crucial times,” said County Court Judge Scott Johns.
“The evidence in the trial revealed you to be stubborn and steadfast in your insistence that you did not owe GST or any other form of tax.”
ATO’s assistant commissioner and head of its Criminal Law Program, Ian Read, said the sentencing sent a clear message to property flippers.
“If you are buying, selling or developing a property that isn’t your primary residence, you have tax obligations,” Mr Read said.
“This wasn’t a one-off property sale; this is a case of someone deliberately carrying on an enterprise without meeting their tax obligations.
“There are many TV shows that make flipping properties look like a fun and lucrative thing to do. People also need to be aware of their tax obligations.”
Mr Read said Ms Semmens was knowingly carrying on an enterprise and was aware of her tax obligations and chose to dishonestly evade paying over $1.7 million in GST.
“People like this are obtaining an unfair advantage over Australians who are doing the right thing and robbing the Australian economy of revenue that could have been spent on essential services. Tax crime is not victimless and we will not tolerate when people try to cheat the tax system,” Mr Read said.
“We know most people try to do the right thing, and we will support people who do. But to ensure the community doesn’t miss out on essential funding and to protect the integrity of the system, we have to crack down on those who deliberately do the wrong 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.