The ATO & Small Business Situation

A damning report has been released revealing the ATO is unfairly targeting small business. We explore what this means and its fallout for vulnerable or effected business owners.

Without a doubt, The Australian Tax Office is the most powerful force in the country – when you’re working with a $AUD3.5 billion yearly budget, considerable clout comes with the territory.

On Monday night, the ABC’s Four Corners and Fairfax Media unconventionally came together for the report of ‘A Mongrel Bunch Of Bastards’. Adele Ferguson, Lesley Robinson and Lucy Carter worked with two ATO whistleblowers to reveal the ATO is deliberately targeting vulnerable small businesses and individuals to meet revenue goals – rather than the affluent or big business with deep pockets to take matters to court. A sensational read, the incriminating articles acknowledge what we have been suspecting for quite a while – the “errors and actions by the ATO which led to small businesses and individuals being financially crippled.”

The fallout has been incredible, with announcements the government is launching an investigation though the ATO seems to be keeping their heads in the sand. However, the true impact comes to the real life stories of people facing ATO created financial difficulties. Such stories include

  • Single mother of three, Annette Pike, owner of Adelaide transcription business Outscribe, who the ATO decided should have been treating her contractors as employees, then targeted every single person on the Outscribe books
  • Kathyrn Little, the nomadic transcribing freelancer/ contractor who’s ABN was cancelled by the ATO without notice, leaving her without the means of generating an income
  • 60 year old oil-field diver Michael Shord who has spent thousands on legal costs battling the ATO for six years over a $300,000 tax bill he doesn't believe he owes 
  • NSW south coast business owner Mark Freeman of Blackwater Treatment Systems, sewage recycling technology for reusable water; hit by a tax bill of $250,000 following ATO’s decision Blackwater was no longer eligible for the grants and tax offsets it had received from the University of NSW and third-party support from Standards Australia - with a court battle recouping legal fees 
  • Brisbane technology Safe Family Cards business owner Helen Petaia, who was audited by the ATO with the conclusion hundreds of thousands of dollars were owing. Finally admitting the conclusion was a grave mistake, $20,000 was offered for the errors and mistakes associated with her audit – a fight in the courts has been following ever since

While there’s no saying how far down the rabbit hole this scandal will go, what remains are the thousands of small businesses left to cope with the financial fallout of the ATO’s mistakes.

This is where we step in: from Winding Up Applications potentially leading to Liquidation, or turning around monies owed to the ATO with a plan for Tax Debt Management, we can help any business - big or small - get out of debt and back on track. 

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