The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has received intelligence that about 800 small businesses in two Melbourne suburbs are suspected of engaging in black economy behaviour.
The businesses are in the suburbs of Frankston and Croydon, and the ATO plans to visit them in the coming weeks.
Among the business on the list are real estate agencies.
The visits are designed to protect honest businesses from unfair competition as a result of black economy activity, ATO assistant commissioner Peter Holt said.
“In both locations, there are significant numbers of businesses with overdue income tax returns and business activity statements. We’re also aware that some employers in these parts of Melbourne may not be complying with their obligations like withholding tax or paying their superannuation entitlements. These are all black economy warning signs for us,” Mr Holt said.
There have also been other signals from the Fair Work Ombudsman and locals that the black economy is active in these areas.
“We owe it to the honest businesses and workers in these suburbs to investigate and keep things fair. It’s simply not on that some businesses are getting a free kick and an unfair advantage over their honest competitors,” he said.
The tip-offs include businesses demanding being paid in cash and also paying workers cash in hand.
“Trading in cash and paying your workers in cash is legal, but it’s illegal when it’s off the books,” Mr Holt said.
The visits are only expected to take about 30 minutes and will include discussions about record keeping and payment facilities. The ATO will try and notify businesses before they visit, he said.