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11 April 2018

Ombudsman welcomes opportunity to input into ATO inquiry

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, welcomed the opportunity to provide input into the investigation of the Australian Taxation Office announced by Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer today, following allegations of unfair treatment.

“The asymmetry in power between this large and powerful organisation and the small business sector has left these particular small businesses, and individuals, in a devastating financial position,” Ms Carnell said.

“The ATO’s new small business area is doing a good job in terms of working with small businesses to make sure they are able to meet their obligations, and its culture towards the small business sector has improved markedly.

“However, when the ATO does make a mistake or is behaving particularly heavy handed, it can take a long time to fix and the financial impacts are huge. It doesn’t take long for a small business to go broke.

“The reference to the ATO as judge and executioner rings true when you understand there is no independent review available to small businesses; only big business.

“Then there’s the added distress of the ATO being able to take money straight out of your business bank account, without your agreement.

“We believe the powers and capacity of the Inspector General of Taxation should be examined, so it has a greater ability to assist vulnerable taxpayers.

“There should also be an ability for small businesses in trouble to access an independent body, to hear and act on their case, and if they have been wronged or suffered financial loss, determine the right amount of compensation.

“We already work closely with the ATO and will continue to do so in light of the allegations. The ATO has said it is committed to helping viable small businesses thrive, and through this inquiry, we hope to help them do just that.”