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Business News

ATO launches new protections against rising tide of fraud

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ATO Fraud Protection

ATO launches new protections against rising tide of fraud

 

Australian Taxation Office

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has launched a suite of new protections to help secure people’s personal information amid an unprecedented rise in identity-related fraud attempts.

ATO Deputy Commissioner and Chief of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) John Ford said there had been an increase in the pace and scale of criminals using people’s stolen personal information to attempt fraud.

‘Global threats, organised crime, the use of artificial intelligence and increased data breaches in the community all mean the risk of fraud is only growing,’ he said.

‘The ATO has acted decisively to help people protect themselves. Security upgrades launched this week will add extra layers of protection for those taxpayers who log in to ATO online services using the myGovID service.’

Deputy Commissioner Ford said there were simple steps people could take to better protect themselves.

‘The first step is to get a myGovID if you don’t already have one and set it at the strongest level you can obtain.

‘The second step is once you’re in myGov, authenticate your identity using myGovID to link to the ATO. These two simple steps will protect you against many forms of identity fraud.’

‘From that point on, you’ll need to use myGovID to log into ATO online services and the identity strength you have used will become the minimum level needed whenever you log in in the future.

‘For businesses with an ABN, if you appoint a tax agent or change agents, you will now get a message asking you to give permission to that agent to act on your behalf.  Please do not ignore this message, especially if it’s unexpected.’

Everyone has a role in combatting fraud

Mr Ford said responding to the rise in fraud required the ATO to work with the community, tax professionals and many other partners to shut down any potential pathways for fraudsters.

‘Fraud is everyone’s concern,’ he said.

‘Those attempting fraud are sophisticated. They continually assault systems right across the community to build their expertise and find new ways of breaching defences.

‘These criminals do not care if they are targeting the ATO, a tax agent or a small business – anything and anyone is fair game for these heartless thieves.’

Mr Ford said those attempting to commit fraud against the ATO were targeting Australia’s capacity to fund health, education and infrastructure, but everyday Australians were also significantly impacted by the theft of their personal information.

‘Unfortunately, we know victims of identity fraud suffer more than just financial loss and personal anguish.

‘Necessary additional protections put in place for these victims can mean it takes longer to access services or prove their identity. ‘We understand the frustrations additional protections can sometimes cause, but we cannot make changes which risk losing Australia’s revenue or people’s personal information to criminals.’

‘We also want to thank the tax professional community, who continue to work with us to add extra protections into their business practices, such as client-agent linking.  ‘They have recognised the fraud challenge, and are willingly playing their part in making the system harder for fraudsters, even where this has required some changes to their processes.’

ATO Fraud Protection

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has launched a suite of new protections to help secure people’s personal information amid an unprecedented rise in identity-related fraud attempts.

Steps you can take

The ATO is asking the community to:

  • Be aware of where you share your personal information
  • Use myGovID when interacting with the ATO’s online services for Individuals, and set-up to the highest identity strength where possible
  • Take prompt action when you think you may have had your identity compromised, for example arranging cancellation and re-issuing of relevant government identity documents and notifying the ATO so we can add additional protections
  • Do not be tempted to engage in fraud – remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Think twice when you receive an SMS or email from the ATO to consider if it is genuine – Although the ATO does occasionally use SMS or email to ask you to contact us, we will never ask you to return personal information through these channels or ask you to click a link and to sign into our online services.

Case studies in fraud

  • Earlier this year, a Brisbane retiree’s stolen personal information was used to open bank accounts, set up a myGov account in her name and linked that myGov account to the ATO. The criminals then lodged fraudulent Business Activity Statements (BAS) in an attempt to steal money. The woman must now call the ATO whenever she needs to access our services as enhanced protections are in place to prevent her being further victimised.
  • We have also seen criminals targeting tax agents. In one incident, a western Sydney-based tax agent had their identity details compromised which allowed the criminals to pose as the agent and access their clients’ records. The criminals then attempted to submit several fraudulent Business Activity Statements (BAS) in an attempt to gain millions of dollars in GST fraud. This case not only significantly impacted the agent, but also the legitimate businesses who were impacted by the fraudulent BAS statements and the fact the criminals were able to see the history of their financial interactions with the ATO.

 How it works: Bolstering security when accessing ATO online services 

  • Your Digital ID, such as myGovID, is the most secure way to access ATO online services.
  • A new minimum online access strength will be based on the sign in method you’ve used to access ATO online services through myGov.
  • You can use your online access strength to better protect your identity and increase your security when accessing ATO online services including accessing via the ATO app.
  • The sign in method you’ve used with the highest identity strength becomes your minimum online access strength and you’ll need to use this for all future access.
  • For example, if you have a myGovID with a Standard identity strength and use it as your sign in method, your online access strength will be Standard. Whenever you sign in to myGov to access ATO online services, you’ll need to use your Standard myGovID at a minimum.
  • Where possible, we encourage people to use myGovID and set-up a Strong identity strength which includes a facial verification check. Visit Create a myGov account and link it to the ATO for more information.

 How it works: Ensuring tax professionals can only access the data of businesses they represent

  • This protection requires entities to ‘nominate’ their agent in ATO Online services before the agent can access their ATO data or act on their behalf with the ATO.
  • This client-to-agent linking process is being progressively rolled out and now applies to all types of entities with an ABN, except for sole traders, covering approximately 4.7 million businesses.

Only businesses that are looking to engage a new agent, change their existing agent, or want to provide additional authorisation to their existing agent need to complete an agent nomination.

 

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Business News

NHVR launches operation to boost heavy vehicle safety in the construction industry

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NHVR is set to launch an on-road targeted operation, focused on mechanical safety and compliance with mass, dimension and loading requirements of heavy vehicles operating in support of the construction sector.

NHVR launches operation to boost heavy vehicle safety in the construction industry

 

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is set to launch an on-road targeted operation, focused on mechanical safety and compliance with mass, dimension and loading requirements of heavy vehicles operating in support of the construction sector.  

NHVR Chief Operations Officer Paul Salvati said the operation will commence this month and run for four weeks across NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, ACT, and TAS.

“Throughout the operation, we will prioritise education in the first instance to ensure operators and drivers have a clear understanding of the risks associated with non-compliance during heavy vehicle transport activities in the construction industry, and know how to manage them,” Mr Salvati said.

“Drivers and operators should always be practicing safe behaviours, such as implementing a daily check list to ensure the mechanical safety of vehicles, or utilising measuring devices, such as tape measures or height sticks, to confirm the vehicle and its load are within allowable dimensions.

“Managing safety risks can help prevent injuries and fatalities, avoid financial loss for the business, evade legal sanctions, enhance business reputation, and create a culture where informed safety decisions are made.”

Reflecting on last year’s construction focused national operation, Mr Salvati provided insights into the compliance outcomes.

NHVR is set to launch an on-road targeted operation, focused on mechanical safety and compliance with mass, dimension and loading requirements of heavy vehicles operating in support of the construction sector.

NHVR is set to launch an on-road targeted operation, focused on mechanical safety and compliance with mass, dimension and loading requirements of heavy vehicles operating in support of the construction sector.

“In the last operation, from 1 March to 15 April 2023, the NHVR’s on-road officers inspected more than 1,200 vehicles, and we saw encouraging signs of compliance,” Mr Salvati said.

“Overall, 56.4 per cent of heavy construction vehicles were compliant across all HVNL categories, with especially high compliance across mass and loading.

“The results however, in the mechanical compliance category were indicative of the work we still have to do.

“Of the defective components identified, the most serious were in brakes, body and chassis, while others were found in lights and reflectors.”

Mr Salvati said the regulator is urging all operators and drivers working in the construction industry to keep safety front of mind.

“Heavy vehicle hazards in the construction industry traditionally include loads not being properly restrained, vehicles exceeding mass or dimension limits and of course, the mechanical safety of vehicles, especially heavy rigid truck, and trailer combinations.

“These may seem like standard risks, but they are amplified – especially on a construction site – by time pressures, constant loading and unloading, and the frequency of travel alongside other motorists on major roads and thoroughfares.”

Regulatory Advice for managing the risks of heavy vehicle transport activities in the construction industry can be found on the NHVR website.

 

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Quinn Family Rescues Sara Lee from Administration

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Sara Lee

Quinn Family Rescues Sara Lee from Administration

 

By Jeff Gibbs

The Gold Coast family, renowned for their successful rescue of the Darrell Lea chocolate brand from receivership over a decade ago, has once again emerged as saviours, this time for the embattled dessert-food brand Sara Lee.

In a deal announced by the company’s administrators, a private company owned by Klark and Brooke Quinn has stepped in to acquire Sara Lee’s Australian and New Zealand business, offering a lifeline to the 200 jobs that were hanging in the balance since the company faced financial turmoil late last year. While the financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed, the agreement is seen as a beacon of hope for the struggling brand.

The administration of Sara Lee, led by Vaughan Strawbridge, Joseph Hansell, and Kathryn Evans of FTI Consulting, has been navigating the company through a challenging period marked by debts exceeding $50 million. Despite the financial strain, Sara Lee has remained an iconic brand and a category leader in the frozen desserts market. The commitment and dedication of both staff and consumers have played a pivotal role in sustaining the business during these turbulent times.

Reflecting on the journey, Strawbridge acknowledged the resilience of the Sara Lee team and expressed gratitude for their unwavering support throughout the administration process. He emphasised the importance of the brand’s legacy and its significance to both employees and customers alike.

Sara Lee

Sara Lee Apple Pie

The Quinn family, synonymous with success in the Australian business landscape, has a proven track record of turning around struggling brands. Having previously founded VIP Petfoods, Klark Quinn spearheaded the rescue of Darrell Lea in 2012, orchestrating a comprehensive restructuring that revitalised the confectionery business. Under his leadership, Darrell Lea experienced remarkable growth, with earnings nearly doubling to $23 million and annual sales exceeding $110 million by the time of its sale six years later.

With their acquisition of Sara Lee, the Quinns aim to continue their legacy of revitalising iconic Australian brands. Klark and Brooke Quinn expressed their pride in restoring the Aussie-made-and-owned stamp to the Sara Lee brand, reflecting on their fond memories of enjoying Sara Lee apple pie and vanilla ice-cream with their family. While their immediate plans for Sara Lee remain undisclosed, their successful offer underscores their commitment to preserving and enhancing the brand’s heritage.

Given the Quinns’ history of successful exits, it is plausible that they may pursue a private equity exit for Sara Lee in the future once the business is back on track. Over the past nine years, the family has orchestrated exit deals totalling $610 million with Quadrant Private Equity through the sale of VIP Petfoods and Darrell Lea. The acquisition of Sara Lee marks yet another chapter in their entrepreneurial journey, reaffirming their status as key players in the Australian business landscape.

It’s worth noting that the Australian-based Sara Lee manufacturing business operates under license from the global trademark owner, enabling it to operate in Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asia, and the Middle East. As the Quinns embark on this new venture, they are poised to leverage their expertise and resources to steer Sara Lee towards a brighter future, ensuring its continued success for years to come.

 

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December Retail Sales Dented by Black Friday and Cost-of-Living Pressures

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Black Friday

December Retail Sales Dented by Black Friday and Cost-of-Living Pressures

 

By Jeff Gibbs

The shift towards Black Friday sales and ongoing cost-of-living pressures contributed to a 2.7 per cent decline in Australian retail spending to $35.2 billion in December 2023, as per seasonally adjusted data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). However, in trend and year-on-year terms, there was a marginal increase.

According to ABS head of retail statistics Ben Dorber, the decline in December stemmed from reduced discretionary spending, as consumers moved their usual December expenditures to November to capitalise on Black Friday sales. This trend underscores the growing popularity of Black Friday events and the impact of financial pressures on consumer behaviour.

Despite the significant seasonally adjusted decline in December, retail turnover saw a slight 0.1 per cent increase in trend terms, indicating subdued underlying retail spending amidst volatile movements leading up to Christmas.

Black Friday

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) highlights a modest 0.8 per cent increase compared to December 2022, with department stores notably recording a 3.7 per cent growth. Other sectors, including other retailing, cafes, restaurants, and takeaway, as well as food, also experienced modest growth. However, clothing, footwear, accessories, and household goods saw slight declines.

While most states and territories saw year-on-year growth, New South Wales experienced a 0.6 per cent spending decline.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra attributes December’s results to the projected cautious Christmas spending due to budget constraints. He notes the impact of Black Friday on December trading, with many consumers opting for early gift purchases during the November sales event.

Despite challenges, department stores performed well in December, leveraging Boxing Day sales and promotional events leading up to Christmas.

Looking ahead, ANZ Research economists anticipate continued weak growth in the first half of 2024, with potential for improvement in the second half. Factors such as easing inflation, fiscal support, tax cuts, and a November rate cut are expected to support household incomes and boost spending later in the year.

 

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