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10 May 2021

New rules to ensure small businesses in dispute with ATO get a fairer go

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson says small businesses in dispute with the ATO will get a fairer go, under new rules proposed by the Australian Government.

Mr Billson welcomed the pre-Budget announcement, giving the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) greater powers to pause or change debt recovery actions applying to a small business in dispute with the ATO.

“Small businesses disputing an ATO debt in the AAT will get a fairer go by stopping the ATO from relentlessly pushing on with debt recovery actions against a small business, while the case is being heard,” Mr Billson says.

“I commend the government which has acted quickly to implement a key recommendation in our recently released report: A tax system that works for small business which will allow small businesses to pause ATO debt recovery actions until their case is resolved by the AAT.

“Currently, small businesses are only able to pause or modify ATO debt recovery actions through the court system. This can be prohibitively expensive and time consuming for a small business.

“Under the proposed changes, small businesses can save thousands of dollars in legal fees, not to mention up to two months waiting for a ruling.

“In line with the recommendations in our report, the AAT will be able to pause or modify any ATO debt recovery actions, such as garnishee notices, interest charges and other penalties until the dispute is resolved by the AAT.

“It means that rather than spending time and money fighting in court, small business owners can get on with what they do best – running and growing their business.

“These proposed changes follow the ATO’s decision to turn its small business independent review service into a permanent offering.

“ASBFEO’s tax concierge service and ongoing advocacy work has led to substantial tax administration improvements for SMEs, with leadership from ATO Deputy Commissioner Small Business Deborah Jenkins and government support.

“Collectively, these changes align with ASBFEO’s vision of a tax system that works for the small business sector, so businesses can achieve greater productivity, return to profitability and grow employment.”

The new powers for the AAT will be available following Royal Assent of the legislation.

Small businesses engaged in a tax dispute are encouraged to contact ASBFEO for assistance on 1300 650 460 or email info@asbfeo.gov.au .