What triggers investigations?
Investigations are started for a number of reasons, including as a result of:
- routine checks
- information received from a variety of sources, including data matching
- specific legislative issues
- customer and industry trend analysis, and
What happens if I am being investigated?
In most cases an investigator will:
- contact you and let you know that an investigation is occurring
- explain the investigation process and scope
- specify what records you must produce
- provide a reasonable period for you to prepare your records
- arrange a time and place to interview you or your representative
- confirm arrangements in writing.
During the investigation, the investigator might:
- conduct an interview
- examine and test some of your records, and
- make other enquiries to check your compliance with the relevant legislation.
The investigator will provide you with written advice about the investigation's outcome, including any proposed action.
What powers do investigators have?
Investigators have a range of powers. While they vary according to the provisions of each Act, in general investigators are permitted to:
- gain access to buildings and property
- inspect, examine, copy and seize books, documents and records
- search premises
- require you to answer questions, provide information, and give reasonable assistance.
If you do not comply with an investigator’s lawful request, increased penalties or prosecution may result.
How do I prepare for an investigation?
The length of an investigation depends on how quickly, comprehensively and accurately you provide all relevant information. These tips will assist you and our investigators:
- Ensure the records requested by an investigator are made available within the agreed timeframes.
- If you discover discrepancies or undeclared tax liabilities, you should voluntarily disclose these to the investigator as this may result in reduced penalties.
- When dealing with complex matters, you may want to ask your legal or financial representative for advice. We encourage you to do this if it helps you understand the issues involved.
- If you have questions about an investigation, contact the investigator for assistance.
What can I expect?
We act impartially and apply the law consistently to make fair and equitable decisions.
In relation to investigations, you can expect to:
- be provided with a reasonable amount of time to produce your records
- negotiate the time and place for an interview, with arrangements confirmed in writing
- engage with a professional and courteous investigator
- see the investigator’s authority to conduct the investigation
- have your right to get advice and be represented by a person of your choice respected
- have your affairs treated in strict confidence
- be provided with the expected duration of the investigation
- get a receipt for any records or other material the investigator removes from your office or home
- be given the opportunity to explain the reasons for irregularities, discrepancies or decisions.
What are my obligations?
Your obligations are to:
- provide the investigator with reasonable assistance and access
- be honest, cooperative and courteous
- provide prompt, full and free access to all relevant information, documents, data and systems as required.
What are penalty and interest provisions?
Penalty and interest policies relating to non-compliance are based on the level of culpability. Penalties usually start at 25% of the primary liability, but can range from 0 to 90% depending on the level of culpability and the type of non-compliance.
Penalty tax may be reduced if you make voluntary disclosures before or during an investigation, something which we encourage. If you obstruct or hinder an investigation, penalty tax may be increased.
Interest is charged on underpayment, late payment or failure to pay a tax liability. Interest may also be reduced in certain circumstances.
What happens at the end of an investigation?
At the end of an investigation you can:
- expect an explanation of the results or findings
- request that the investigator explain how penalty and interest provisions have been applied
- request advice about the objections and appeal process
- discuss any aspect of the case with the investigator or their manager.
Can I object or appeal against a decision or assessment?
If you are dissatisfied with a decision or assessment you are entitled to lodge a formal written objection. You have 60 days from the date of the assessment or decision to lodge an objection. Objections are handled by staff acting independently from the investigator.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of an objection you can:
- ask for it to be referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), or
- lodge an appeal for hearing in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Refunds of overpaid tax
In most cases you can apply for a refund of any overpaid tax in the last five years.
We take our privacy obligations seriously and are committed to responsibly handling personal information and protecting your privacy.
All our staff are bound by legislative secrecy provisions. Information gathered during investigations is treated in the strictest confidence and will not be used or divulged, except in accordance with the law.
Occupational health and safety
If any of our staff are required to attend your workplace, you are requested to inform them of your occupational health and safety requirements when they arrive. This includes any relevant hazards, emergency response procedures and any personal protective equipment requirements.