The ATO has launched successful legal action against a business owner who didn’t meet her compliance obligations.

A partner in a road freight business has received a 12-month suspended sentence for repeatedly failing to lodge business activity statements and income tax returns.

The ATO said that Judith Ahearn, aged 65, of Geraldton, Western Australia, was sentenced in the Geraldton Magistrates Court after being found guilty of 91 charges of failing to comply with a court order.

“Mrs Ahearn’s failure to lodge her BAS dates back to October 2008, with her unlodged income tax returns falling in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 financial years,” the ATO said in a statement.

“Today’s sentencing follows years of warnings and notices from the Australian Taxation Office, as well as two previous court-imposed fines of $30,000 and $20,000 for non-lodgment.”

ATO assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said the court’s decision shows the seriousness of refusing to engage with the tax office.

“When business owners continually refuse to meet their tax obligations, they are gaining an unfair advantage over the majority of businesses who are honest and pay their fair share,” he said.

“Despite our repeated attempts to engage with Mrs Ahearn to resolve her outstanding tax returns, she has shown a complete disregard for her basic obligations as a member of the Australian community.

“While we’re disappointed that we have not been able to resolve this matter outside of the court system, we hope that the sentence handed down today sends a message to the community that lodging your tax returns is not optional.”

The ATO said that it wants to make it easy for small businesses to meet their tax obligations and to help small businesses thrive.

It also said that small business owners who are struggling to meet their tax obligations should contact the ATO as early as possible about any concerns they may be experiencing.