October 9, 2023

The TikTok tax scandal: How it happened and what you can learn from it

Social media platforms have revolutionised how people connect and share content. However, like any tool, it can also be used for malicious purposes. In 2022, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) uncovered one of the biggest tax frauds in history, involving the use of social media app TikTok.

The fraud itself involved inventing fake businesses, applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN), and submitting fictitious Business Activity Statements (BAS) to claim Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds. The scheme preyed on unsuspecting victims who were lured in by the promise of easy money and the potential to get rich quickly.


The ATO noticed suspicious activity in late 2021 and formed Operation Protego in April 2022 to disrupt the fraud. By June 2022, the ATO had rejected $1.7 billion in fraudulent claims and executed search warrants and arrests.


The TikTok tax scandal had several layers of impact, including scheme promoters, active participants, and unwitting identity theft victims. Some perpetrators promoted the fraud scheme for personal gain, while others fell victim to the scheme themselves and unwittingly became part of it. The scheme also involved identity theft, as perpetrators used stolen identities to make fraudulent claims.


The maximum penalty for promoting a tax fraud scheme in Australia is ten years in prison. The ATO is working to bring all alleged perpetrators to justice and deal with the fallout from fraud and identity theft.


What can you learn from the TikTok tax scandal? First and foremost, always be wary of get-rich-quick schemes and offers that sound too good to be true. Additionally, verify any business or investment opportunity thoroughly and never provide personal information to strangers online.


The TikTok tax scandal serves as a reminder of the importance of staying vigilant and protecting yourself from fraud and identity theft. By taking proactive measures and staying informed, you can stay one step ahead of scammers and protect your financial well-being. 


If you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax obligations or fraudulent tax activity, please do not hesitate to contact Lead Advisory Group. We are always here to assist you.

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