Tax refunds running into millions obtained by fraud – leading to 5-year jail sentence

Thanks to its meticulous work, the Tax Fraud Investigation Unit has successfully concluded its investigation into a major case of fraud; a self-appointed 'tax expert' submitted false employee tax assessments for nearly 1 000 individuals, thereby pocketing tax refunds running into millions. He has now been sentenced to 60 months in prison by the Vienna Regional Criminal Court for tax evasion, tax fraud, breach of trust, serious fraud and money laundering.

"The perpetrator acted extremely professionally and, displaying a high degree of criminal intent, defrauded the state of just under EUR 5.6 million using forged medical bills. The custodial sentence and fine now handed down clearly show that tax fraud does not pay and that we will take tough action against it," says Finance Minister Gernot Blümel.

The perpetrator was identified through enhanced IT-supported risk analyses of employee tax assessments. A number of invoices for dental treatment attracted attention containing the same unusual wording and spelling errors as well as identical marks in each case indicating a defective document scanner. Referral to the dentists revealed that the taxpayers in question had never been treated by them.

Based on these facts, tax investigators were instructed to investigate further. Through logfile and IP address analysis from FinanzOnline, during which numerous instances of access from Spanish IP addresses were also noted, by checking against the passenger list of an Austrian airline a Viennese citizen, now aged 54, was identified whose stays in Majorca matched with the internet access identified from the Spanish IP addresses.

During the course of subsequent property searches, the perpetrator's highly professionalised modus operandi became clear. Hidden in the pedestal of an office cupboard and behind a suspended dropped ceiling were the FinanzOnline access data of over 800 taxpayers, as well as various stamps of dentists, dental clinics and ophthalmology clinics, which had been used to forge the invoices; these were all seized.

Clearly, via a network of mediators that he had built up over many years, the self-appointed tax expert had found gullible victims who themselves had never filed an employee tax assessment and who, hoping to make some quick cash, had willingly provided their FinanzOnline access details. He agreed high amounts of commission with the taxpayers and subsequently submitted the false employee tax assessments. In subsequent years, without the knowledge of the taxpayers in question, he continued to submit false employee tax assessments and pocketed the full tax refund. In doing so, he also made use of the dark web in order to conceal his IP address. Since this strategy was also uncovered, the Public Prosecutor's Office subsequently remanded him in custody pending trial. The total amount of tax evaded, including personal income tax and VAT on the part of the perpetrator, totalled around EUR 5.6 million

The principal Austrian perpetrator received a custodial sentence totalling 60 months, as well as a fine of over EUR 1 million for tax evasion, while his three accomplices – two Austrians and a Turkish national – were fined between EUR 70 000 and 180 000 and given suspended custodial sentences of 12 months. The judgments against the accomplices are already final.