ATO airport raid may be just a start

A JOINT raid by the ATO, Centrelink, Department of Immigration and the police last week during which more than 100 taxi drivers were stopped at Perth domestic airport is likely to have been a practice session for more joint operations.

Aimed at the black economy, estimated to be worth more than $100 billion a year, the two-hour raid is understood to have uncovered about $100,000 in rorts.

Centrelink told WA Business News this was the first time these agencies had worked together in a high-profile operation, but it would not be the last, with several other industries earmarked for future attention.

Twelve of the taxi drivers were receiving Centrelink benefits. These have been suspended or cancelled, and a further 30 are currently under review.

A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration said the identification documents of a number of drivers were currently being verified. 

The ATO used the raid to check whether drivers had an ABN and were up-to-date with both their BAS and income tax returns. Official figures have not yet been released, but unconfirmed reports suggest at least a quarter of the drivers are of interest to the ATO.

It is no surprise the ATO chose to target taxi drivers. The office has identified businesses with turnover under $2 million as being most at risk of participating in the cash economy, and the tax commissioner has named taxis as an industry under scrutiny.

What is surprising, however, is the approach. This was a whole-of-government style raid, well coordinated and planned. It involved intelligence sharing, the use of real time data and inter-agency cooperation.

Given that 8pm on a Thursday evening is not Perth Airport’s busiest time, one can’t help but wonder whether this was just a practice run for a larger raid.

And if it’s not taxis next time, Centrelink has warned it is also interested in the building, harvesting and sex industries.

The ATO has 19 industries in its sights, including construction, motor vehicle retailing, art and antique dealing, fishing, the sex industry, tourism and hospitality.

The fishing industry is also a likely target, given the seasonal nature of the work, and the fact that half of Australia’s fishing businesses are based in WA.


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