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The ATO needs to go to the next level of governance and fairness

COSBOA today expressed concern over the information and case studies highlighted in the Fairfax - ABC 4 Corners investigation into the ATO shown on Monday night.

Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA, stated today “the ATO is a world class organisation that has improved its interaction to small business over many years. That will be small solace to those people who are victims of poor management practices that escaped normal scrutiny and quality control or were part of unacceptable ‘normal practices”.

Mr Strong continued “no individual should suffer from poor performance and processes applied hurriedly and without due understanding of the limited capacity of a business person. An example of this is when a small business person is told that the ATO will take some type of legal action and they can fight the case in court. The reality is for a small business person to take on a large organisation in court then that small business person will either have to take out a substantial personal loan or close their business.”

COSBOA believes that there must be independent reviews of key decisions that are applied when managing a small business person’s ATO account. This includes the following:

1. The Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) must be involved before key decisions are made. This includes:

  • before bankruptcy procedures,

  • before garnishees are issued; and

  • prior to any key action that can bring stress and unmanageable demands onto a small business person.

2. The ASBFEO must also be included in the process of removing ABNs from businesses deemed to be no longer operating or not to be a bone fide business.

3. The ASBFEO must be involved in an advisory role when calls are made providing significant financial demands on individual business people.

4. An independent body must determine compensation for business people that have been wronged or suffer monetary and personal losses through unfair processes.

5. ATO officers dealing with small business debt and processes that place stress on individuals must be trained in recognising and managing mental health needs of those they regulate.

6. There must be access to independent reviews of ATO decisions available to business people.

Mr Strong further added “we do not doubt that the ATO will continue to improve. It must be highlighted that in 95% of cases the ATO provides an excellent service to small business people in some kind of difficulty. Small business people should continue to work with the ATO without fear. If there is any concern or problems than the ASBFEO or the various state small business commissioners would be contacted.

On the issue of removal of ABNs we believe better quality control must be applied and a better definition of what is a contractor be developed. COSBOA will be holding a round table soon with other industry groups and regulators to better define what is and what isn’t a contractor. What happened to those contractors who had their income removed with no good and proper reason must not happen again.


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