Revenue and Benefits Fraud
Deputy Director: James Carter
Top referring agencies:
- Services Australia (Centrelink) 67%
- Australian Taxation Office 8%
- State and territory police 7%
- Services Australia (Medicare) 6%
- Department of Health 3%
Matters on hand: 983
- General tax fraud and tax compliance including income tax and goods and services tax (GST) fraud
- Social security fraud
- Fraud‑related money laundering
- Identity fraud
- Child support offences
- Counterfeit currency offences
- Other frauds against the Commonwealth including grants fraud and fraud against the National Disability Insurance Scheme
The Revenue and Benefits Fraud (RBF) practice group is responsible for prosecuting fraud against the Australian Government, including general tax fraud, social security fraud, Medicare fraud (patient and provider fraud), National Disability Insurance Scheme fraud, postal, grants, counterfeit currency and identity fraud. RBF also prosecutes fraud‑related money laundering.
Commonwealth revenue and benefit systems rely heavily on the integrity and honesty of all Australians. Briefs typically relate to allegations that people have intentionally engaged in conduct and, as a result, received money they knew they were not entitled to. RBF prosecutions play an essential role in protecting Commonwealth resources and ensuring support is provided where it is needed most in the community.
Trends in 2019–20 prosecutions
In response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, we have been working with our partner agencies as they navigate restrictions impacting upon investigations and their ability to provide support for prosecutions. We have continued to support agencies in assessing briefs and conducting matters before the Courts, often electronically, as well as working with our partners in a pre‑brief capacity.
Services Australia (Centrelink) remains the source of most RBF referrals. We are continuing to see an increase in referrals of more complex cases, including those involving online offending and the use of multiple identities. This has led to greater emphasis on digital and financial forensic analysis, which increases the complexity of briefs of evidence.
Fraud in the family day care context has also been an area of focus for Services Australia (Centrelink). Typically, these offences involve benefit recipients failing to correctly declare their income to Centrelink or claiming benefits for children who are not in their care, in order to obtain benefits to which they are not entitled. The practice group also continued to prosecute frauds involving people falsely claiming single parent benefit payments when they were in a relationship. These prosecutions require evidence to prove the existence of the relationship, including evidence obtained via search warrant and third parties such as employers, real estate agents and hospitals.
RBF also continued to prosecute referrals from Services Australia (Medicare) as they investigate offending against the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Medicare system (patient fraud).
Our Department of Health medifraud (provider fraud) referrals often involve medical practices operating via complex corporate structures and claiming benefits they were not entitled to. We are continuing to work closely with the Department of Health to effectively prosecute in this area.
In 2019–20, RBF worked closely with the National Disability Insurance Agency and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Fraud Taskforce as they investigate fraud against the NDIS.
We have received a number of new referrals following the first successful prosecution under the Taskforce of Mr OMAR. Following a plea of guilty to four offences under the Criminal Code 2010 (Cth) Mr OMAR was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court on 11 July 2019 to four years imprisonment to serve two years and six months before being eligible for parole. This was the first prosecution under the Taskforce which resulted in a significant jail term and was an excellent example of collaboration between our agencies.
In 2019–20, we prosecuted a variety of matters referred by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) involving frauds against the taxation system. These matters may involve intermediaries such as tax agents and accountants who use their clients’ taxation accounts and details to obtain benefits they are not entitled to.
The prosecution of Goods and Services Tax (GST) fraud continues to form a significant part of the group’s practice. Prosecuting these matters is integral to ensuring compliance with the GST system and protecting Australia’s revenue system through effective deterrence.
We maintained our focus on liaison in 2019–20 with regular national and regional liaison meetings to support our partner agencies despite COVID‑19 restrictions. This has included working with partner agencies to facilitate the provision of electronic briefs via our Digital Referrals Gateway and the vast majority of briefs provided are now electronic.
Our liaison includes focusing on capability development in partner agencies and the CDPP. With Services Australia, we have a joint Capability Review Committee to identify training needs and develop resources in relation to our social security fraud work.
Earlier this year we held joint annual conferences with the ATO and Services Australia. These conferences enable us to gain insight into our partner agencies strategic goals and processes, to build capability and identify areas for further development. In August 2019, we held a very helpful Services Australia/CDPP Investigators and Prosecutors Workshop. This focussed on investigators and prosecutors identifying trends and issues in our complex social security fraud cases and included case scenarios and presentations on identity and internal fraud.
RBF liaises closely with the ATO with regular national and regional liaison meetings supported by regular contact at the regional and national level. The practice group has continued to support the work of ATO in‑house prosecutors who prosecute less complex summary matters under the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth).
To further enhance the timeliness and quality of our service, the practice group continued to focus on engaging early with partner agencies. This assistance is appreciated and supports our partners in the development of their enforcement strategies and their investigation of particular crime types.
Law Reform and stakeholder engagement
RBF supports agencies in relation to new policy proposals by providing advice on the practical application of laws in the prosecution context.
RBF continues to work with partner agencies in Taskforce settings. The CDPP is represented by RBF as an advisory member of Taskforce Integrity, the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce, the Black Economy Taskforce and the NDIS Fraud Taskforce. While operational decisions are a matter for investigative agencies, our membership of these multiagency taskforces provides the CDPP with the opportunity to contribute practical advice in relation to prosecuting criminal offences. It also allows us to prepare a coordinated and consistent prosecution response that is linked to the overall goals and objectives of the taskforces.
The CDPP is also a member of the Family Day Care Fraud Interdepartmental Committee. Fraud and non‑compliance in the family day care sector impacts on several partner agencies including Services Australia, the ATO and the Department of Education and Training. RBF has been working closely with Services Australia and the CDPP’s International Assistance and Specialist Agencies practice group to address this significant risk to Australia’s revenue and benefit system.