Call for transparency on small-business taxpayers’ rights

Book with words TAX REFORM on wooden table, closeup

The Inspector-General of Taxation for the Australian Taxation Office Karen Payne has called for more consistency and transparency in the tax system with regards to informing taxpayers of their right to review, complain and appeal decisions.

The call came as a result of the investigation made by her office as part of the ongoing efforts to deliver a better and fairer tax system.

Payne’s report, in particular, called for the Tax Office to update the Taxpayers’ Charter to include an express right to be informed of rights to review, complain, and appeal decisions and to be told about all relevant channels to do so.

The report also found that over the past three years, fewer than one per cent of the ATO staff had attended a training course to teach them how to tell taxpayers about their rights to complain, review or appeal a decision. A previous survey found that 60 per cent of taxpayers were unaware of or had not used the Tax Office’s complaints function.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, welcomed the report, saying, “Tax issues are among the top concerns for small businesses, and it is critical for the Tax Office to step up as a modern revenue agency to help people as part of their Charter.

“I am pleased the Tax Office has embraced this report from the Inspector-General and has committed to working through these important recommendations,” Billson added. “I look forward to seeing the Tax Office implement these changes to improve the way it deals with taxpayers.”

The ASBFEO has previously released several reports outlining measures to improve the tax system for small business, especially around the vital need to tell taxpayers about their opportunities to complain about a decision or to have it reviewed. The office also reported that since March 2019, more than 650 small businesses have sought the help of the ASBFEO’s Small Business Tax Concierge Service, which responds to requests for assistance from small businesses who receive a negative decision from the Tax Office.