Tax Offences – Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995


Being charged with a Commonwealth fraud offence can be a confronting and stressful experience that may result in onerous penalties.

But you can breathe easier knowing that the expert team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers® is working hard to protect your innocence.

Fraud refers to situations where you acted dishonestly to gain some benefit for yourself or for another person.

There is no single ‘fraud’ offence under the Commonwealth legislation; rather, there are a series of different offences.

The most common fraud offences are obtaining a financial advantage by deception and conspiracy to defraud.

Obtaining a financial benefit by deception – s 134.2 Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995

The charge of ‘obtaining a financial advantage by deception’ refers to situations where you acted dishonestly to obtain some financial benefit from a Commonwealth entity, such as the Australian Tax Office or Centrelink.

Obtaining a financial advantage by deception is a serious offence which may result in harsh penalties; however, with the assistance of our expert lawyers, you can ensure that you get the best possible result.

Your Options

Pleading Not Guilty

Before you can be found guilty of obtaining a financial benefit by deception, the prosecution must prove three factors beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you acted dishonestly or deceptively;
  • You gained a financial benefit or advantage as a result of your dishonest or deceptive actions;
  • The benefit or advantage was obtained from a Commonwealth entity (such as the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink or some other government body)

If you do not feel that the prosecution will be able to prove each and every one of these factors beyond a reasonable doubt, you may want to discuss the option of pleading ‘not guilty’ with your lawyer.

If you plead ‘not guilty,’ you will be able to have your case heard – meaning that you will be able to tell the court your side of the story to affirm your innocence. For example, you may be able to argue that you had no intention to act dishonestly, or that you didn’t actually obtain any financial benefit.

In some cases, you may have a good reason to justify or explain your actions. Pleading ‘not guilty’ will give you the opportunity to raise any possible defences to the charges. These may include:

Pleading Guilty

If you accept the allegations against you, you may wish to plead guilty to the charge of obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

In some cases, pleading guilty to the charges as soon as possible may help you get a more lenient penalty, because the court will take your remorse and honesty in accepting the charges into account when determining your sentence.

However, you should always speak to an experienced criminal lawyer before entering a plea, as you may be able to defend the charges and escape conviction altogether.

If you’re thinking about pleading guilty, you may want to know what kind of penalties you could face for obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years’ imprisonment, however you will not necessarily be sent to prison for 10 years – the maximum penalty is only imposed in the most serious cases. Rather, the court will determine the appropriate penalty based on the facts and circumstances of your case.

The courts have a number of alternative penalty options at their disposal, for example:

Conspiracy to defraud – s 135.4 Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995

Conspiracy to defraud is very similar to the offence of ‘obtaining a financial advantage by deception’, discussed above, however it has a further element of conspiracy – that is, the prosecution must also prove that you had an agreement with another person (or several other persons) to defraud a Commonwealth entity, such as Centrelink or the Australian Tax Office.

Your Options

Pleading Not Guilty

To be found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, the prosecution must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you conspired with another person
  • To obtain a financial advantage for yourself or another party
  • The financial advantage was obtained from a Commonwealth entity (such as the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink or some other government body)

If you do not believe that the prosecution will be able to prove these three elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you may want to consider pleading not guilty to the charges.

Pleading not guilty will allow you the opportunity to present your case to the court to prove your innocence.

In other cases, you may have had a good reason for your conduct. In these situations, you may be able to raise a defence to explain your actions. If your defence is accepted, you will be found not guilty.

The defences that may be open to you may include:

Pleading Guilty

If you don’t wish to fight the charges, you may consider pleading guilty as soon as possible.

By entering a plea of guilty at the first available opportunity, you may be able to get a more lenient penalty – this is because the court will recognise your remorse for your actions in entering an early guilty plea.

However, before you enter a plea of guilty, it’s important to speak to an experienced criminal lawyer because you may be able to fight the charges and be found ‘not guilty’ of the offence.

If you’re considering pleading guilty, you might want to know what kind of penalties you could face.

Under the law, the maximum penalty for conspiracy to defraud is 10 years imprisonment.

But this does not necessarily mean that you will go to prison for 10 years if you plead guilty to the charges – the maximum penalty only applies in the most serious fraud cases. The type of penalty that you will receive will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.

The court has the power to impose a number of different penalties, for example:

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with.

Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases. Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial. Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.

    We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia. Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities. We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running. The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004. We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.

    Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.

  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers. We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

    We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court. This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.

  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases. And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists. All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005. An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field. Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.

  9. Results-Focused Law Firm

    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet. The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’. Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.

    The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.

  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

    Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide. Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes. A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.

  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

    Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state. Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.

  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    • the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
    • Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
    • Parramatta, near the justice precinct.

    We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.

    For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.

    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at

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