24 Apr 2023

Benefit fraudsters face harsher penalties than white collar: research

From Nine To Noon, 9:35 am on 24 April 2023
business documents accounting with calculator, pen, glasses and magnifying glass. concept for financial

Photo: 123RF

New research finds beneficiaries engaging in financial fraud face significantly stiffer penalties than professionals doing the same.

Victoria University Professor of Taxation, Lisa Marriot's research finds that between 2018 and 2020, 83 per cent of benefit fraud cases were prosecuted under the Crimes Act, compared with just 16 per cent of tax evasion cases.

In those cases, 84 per cent were prosecuted under the Tax Administration Act which provides for much lower sentences than the Crimes Act.

Professor Marriot says this is despite the tax offences typically comprising higher average values of offending.

She says the inconsistency in the way financial crimes are treated could be addressed by the creation of sentencing guidelines for judges.

Such guidelines are already exist for a range of serious offences, including aggravated robbery, sexual violation, grievous bodily harm and various categories of manslaughter.  

Professor Marriot argues sentencing guidelines for financial crimes would limit inconsistency and create a fairer system.