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The Wild West of Late Lodging Your Tax Return

Picture this: the year is 2019, and in the vast land of Australia, criminals are on the run – not from robbing banks or rustling cattle, but from late lodging tax return. That’s right, folks – tax disputes aren’t just about whether the right amount has been paid. Sometimes, they can lead down the dark path of criminal convictions.

In the 2019 financial year, authorities convicted a whopping 38 people of ‘serious tax crimes’ in the land down under, while another 1,094 faced convictions for summary tax offenses. You might be thinking, “What kind of dastardly deeds could these outlaws have committed?” Well, partner, saddle up, and let’s find out.

The Most Wanted: Failure to Lodge Tax Returns

It’s not gunslinging or cattle thievery that tops the list of tax-related crimes in Australia. Instead, the seemingly innocuous summary criminal offense of not/late lodging an income tax return or a business activity statement (BAS) when it’s due takes the lead. According to section 8C of the Taxation Administration Act 1953, these varmints are wanted by the law.

Now, you might have heard of some outlaws trying to dodge their tax debts by simply not/late lodging a tax return or a BAS. But let me tell you, partner, this strategy is about as wise as trying to put out a fire with a barrel of gunpowder. Not only will you still owe the tax, but you can also end up with a criminal conviction, a court-ordered fine, and a tax debt that has been accruing interest since the day your returns were due.

The Showdown: Types of Charges

When it comes to wrangling these tax evaders, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) employs a few different strategies. For income tax returns, the ATO typically issues a formal notice and sets a deadline to file outstanding returns. Failure to meet that deadline results in facing criminal charges in court under section 8C.

As for those who haven’t lodged their BAS, the process differs slightly. You won’t usually receive a formal notice, but if you haven’t filed by the due date, you could still face criminal charges. Therefore, it’s best to file those BAS promptly to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the law.

The Great Escape: Avoiding Conviction

Now, you might be wondering if there’s any way to avoid conviction for these tax crimes. While most charges prosecuted under section 8C do result in a conviction, there is a small chance that your case could be dismissed or withdrawn. But don’t celebrate just yet – the difference between a withdrawal and a dismissal is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

A withdrawal occurs when the ATO agrees to request the court to withdraw the charge. This can happen if you can convince the ATO that there are extenuating circumstances or that you have a defense that the court is likely to accept. If the ATO requests the court to withdraw the charges, the court usually complies.

On the other hand, a dismissal is when the court decides that even though the ATO has proven the charges, it would be inexpedient to inflict any punishment given your circumstances. If the court dismisses the charges under section 19B of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, you won’t end up with a conviction. However, convincing the court to do so can be as tricky as herding cats, so it’s best to consult a specialist lawyer.

The Last Stand: Defending Yourself

The ATO considers failure to lodge offenses as “absolute liability” offenses, meaning they don’t have to prove that you intended not to file your returns. All that matters is that you didn’t file, regardless of your intentions. This simplifies the ATO’s case against you. However, if you can demonstrate that you were incapable of filing your returns, you might have a defense.

If you think you have a good defense, your first step should be to apply to the ATO to withdraw the charges. If the ATO doesn’t withdraw the charges and you still want to claim a defense, you’ll need to plead ‘not guilty’ in court and present your evidence to the judge.

The Final Showdown: Consequences of Conviction


In most cases, if authorities charge you under section 8C, they will likely convict you and impose a fine. In some instances, especially if you have a history of failing to lodge your returns, you might even receive a prison sentence. Additionally, if you haven’t filed your returns or BAS by the time of conviction, the court can order you to do so within 90 days, or else you may face further charges and potential jail time.

The Cavalry: How We Can Help

As expert tax law wranglers, we’ve helped many clients who’ve been charged with failure to lodge tax returns and BAS under section 8C to lodge their tax returns on time, and to talk to the ATO to help the clients to reverse the Failure to Lodge Penalty normally it is up to $1,375 per late incident.

So, partner, if you find yourself in the wild west of tax crimes, don’t hesitate to call for backup from the best tax accountant in Sydney. We’ll help you saddle up and face the challenges head-on, ensuring you stay out of the tax law slammer.