The black economy

The black economy is a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon operating across Australia’s workplace relations, financial, welfare, procurement and migration systems.

Black economy behaviours include:

  • demanding or paying for work cash-in-hand to avoid obligations;
  • not reporting or under-reporting income;
  • underpayment of wages;
  • identity fraud;
  • visa fraud and bypassing visa restrictions;
  • ABN, GST, and duty fraud;
  • dealing in illegal drugs and tobacco;
  • sham contracting – presenting an employment relationship as a contracting arrangement;
  • illegal phoenixing – liquidating and re-forming a business to avoid obligations (the ATO now has the discretion to retain tax refunds in relation to taxpayers engaging in phoenixing);
  • money laundering; and
  • dealing in counterfeit goods.

The ATO uses a range of education, engagement and enhanced enforcement activities to address the tax and superannuation aspects of the black economy.

The ATO’s data and analytic systems, strategies and targeted approaches help it to:

  • combat black economy behaviours – including under-reporting income and overclaiming expenses;
  • ensure businesses meet their employer obligations when paying employees or contractors;
  • address employers paying cash-in-hand, underpaying wages, failing to withhold tax or not contributing to super;
  • address illegal phoenix activity – businesses liquidating and re-forming to avoid obligations;
  • prevent tax fraud;
  • deal with illicit tobacco, duty and excise evasion;
  • target intermediaries and agents who enable behaviour; and
  • prosecute the worst offenders.

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