A woman was sentenced to five years jail, with two-and-a-half years to serve, in Orange District Court on Friday after being convicted of refund fraud.
Kathleen Noble, 49, lodged 140 false Business Activity Statements on behalf of eight related entities claiming GST refunds for purchases totalling $9 million between July 25, 2007 and November 13, 2012.
At the time the false expenditure claims were made, Noble was also receiving Centrelink benefits.
According to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) the items she claimed for were not all used for business purposes and therefore she was not entitled to receive the refunds.
Overall Noble claimed $957,710 in refunds and of that amount $394,550 in GST refunds were paid into bank accounts she controlled.
The ATO was unable to recover all of the money.
The remaining $563,160 in refunds were either credited to her ATO account, cancelled or recalled by the ATO.
Noble had control of her parents’ bank accounts as well as the various accounts linked to the entities, or businesses, which received and attempted to receive fraudulent GST refunds.
As well as the jail sentence, she has also been ordered to repay the ATO $394,550.
Noble was represented in district court by solicitor Clive Hill and pleaded guilty to the charges.
She said the fraudulent refund money was used to help in the operation of her family’s farm.
Noble cried throughout a cross examination, she told the court the fraud began with a few mistakes, such as putting a decimal point in the wrong place.
However, she found herself unable to stop and she began making false statements.
Noble said she lived on her parent’s sheep farm outside Cowra but due to financial losses as a result of the drought in about 2000, the bank took a large portion of the 600-acre property.
Noble said the family was left with about 200 acres.
After her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent death, and father’s ill health, she looked after the property and associated costs.
Noble gained access to her parent’s bank accounts when she became their carer.
ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston said tax refund fraud is not a victimless crime.
He said those who attempt to thwart the law will be exposed.
“Refund fraud cheats the whole community and disadvantages Australians who do the right thing,” Mr Cranston said.
“Given the extensive range of controls and systems in place to detect potential refund fraud, people should realise it’s only a matter of time before they’re caught.”