An unregistered tax accountant exposed her clients to fines and unexpected tax bills after unlawfully lodging hundreds of returns filled with dodgy deductions.
Perth-based Jessa Van Stroe, who is also known as Jessa Layola, was not registered with the Tax Practitioners Board when she prepared 531 returns between July 2020 and August 2021 for a fee.
The Federal Court ordered Ms Van Stroe to pay a $230,000 fine for knowingly breaching the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and granted a permanent injunction restraining her from providing further tax agent services.
Justice Katrina Frances Banks-Smith found Ms Van Stroe had “invested significant time in what was in effect a business of providing quick, unsubstantiated tax returns”.
“This was not a case of casual advice given from time to time, or of helping out a few people,” she wrote in her judgment handed down last week.
“It was a steady, deliberate and repetitive course of conduct.”
Ms Van Stroe, who did not take part in the court proceedings, charged about $180 for preparing and lodging each return and earned almost $100,000 from her business.
The Australian Taxation Office determined that many of the tax returns Ms Van Stroe had lodged contained “excessive, false and unsubstantiated deductions” resulting in some clients being audited and fined after underpaying their taxes.
The Tax Practitioners Board said Ms Van Stroe had exploited taxpayers after they sought and paid for legitimate tax advice.
It urged anyone who has used the services of an unregistered tax return preparer to review their tax returns.
“Unregistered preparers do not have the necessary skills or expertise to provide tax advice and by using their services taxpayers have no protection against penalties which could be applied for mistakes,” a spokesman said.
(Australian Associated Press)