$40,000 fine for tax and GST returns reduced to $8000 on appeal

A man who was fined $40,000 for failing to lodge tax and GST returns had an appeal granted and his fines reduced to $8000 last Friday.

Geoffrey Donald Littlewood, 60, of Gormans Hill was sentenced in Orange Local Court on February 28 where he was fined $20,000 for failing to lodge eight tax returns and $20,000 for failing to lodge 32 GST returns from from 2006 to 2014. 

However, Littlewood appealed the sentence saying he would have to sell his house to pay the fines and the tax documents had been lodged by his court date.

His severity appeal was held in Orange District Court last Friday when Judge Jennifer English upheld the appeal saying the fines were too harsh.

Littlewood was represented in court by solicitor Justine Ringbauer who said her client had impaired vision and difficulty reading and writing and could not look at a computer for more than 10 minutes at a time but has since hired an accountant.

Mrs Ringbauer also said at the time the first tax returns were missed, her client’s relationship with his long-term defacto broke up and it was his defacto who had done the bookkeeping for various businesses he has started or been involved with.

She said the former couple also shared a PO Box, where the Australian Tax Office (ATO) sent all correspondence, which her client said he did not receive. 

“He says the first correspondence was a court attendance notice,” she said.

She said when he did start gathering paperwork there was difficulty getting information from 2007 to 2009 because his accountant had retired.

Although Littlewood said he did not receive notices from the ATO by post, he did receive a phone call in 2015, and it was his non compliance with this that contributed to the offence.

Littlewood did take take his paperwork to an accountant on August 5, 2016, and on August 15, 2016, the tax claims from 2009 to 2016 were lodged.

Mrs Ringbauer said there were more credits due to him than he owed on GST. 

However, that was not made clear to the local court magistrate on the day of sentencing.