Northam pig farmer jailed for GST fraud

A PIG farmer from Northam has fallen foul of the Australian Tax Office, copping a two-and-a-half-year jail term for GST fraud totalling $109,000.

James Whitwell was sentenced in the District Court last week after pleading guilty to two charges of tax fraud.

District Court Commissioner Denis Reynolds also ordered Mr Whitwell to repay the stolen money.

Tax Commissioner Michael Carmody said identifying and investigating fraudulent GST claims was a high priority for the ATO’s 3,000 investigators.

A spokesman for the Tax Office said there were five convictions for GST fraud in 2001-02 and 38 matters were referred to law agencies.

The spokesman said data for 2002-03 was not available.

Mr Whitwell’s attempted fraud appears to have been very crude.

He simply added two extra zeroes when filling in the figures for operating expenses and capital acquisitions on his BAS forms.

Mr Whitwell obtained a GST rebate of $36,364 on his December 2002 BAS form.

After succeeding once he tried again, inflating the figures on his January 2003 BAS form to obtain a $73,000 GST rebate.

He received a 12-month sentence for the first conviction and a two-and-a-half year sentence for the second conviction, with the two terms to be served concurrently.

Mr Whitwell will be eligible for parole after 10 months.

The magnitude of the rebates was way out of proportion with the normal finances of the piggery business, Downstream Enterprises Pty Ltd.

The court was told that its monthly sales were typically between $1,600 and $3,000 while its monthly expenses were typically between $3,000 and $7,000.

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions principal legal officer Darren Renton said Mr Whitwell had been declared bankrupt in 1997.

Mr Whitwell had retained a 99 per cent shareholding in Downstream Enterprises, with his wife holding the remaining 1 per cent.

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