Small businesses to get fair hearing on ATO disputes

Dispute resolution

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell has welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister to fund a Small Business Concierge Service in her office to support small businesses with their ATO disputes.

The pronouncement means that small-business owners will be able to contact us for support and advice about the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) process before making an application. A dedicated Small Business Taxation Division within the AAT – independent of the ATO – will case manage appeals to ensure businesses get a fair hearing.

“We feel the proposed $500 fee to lodge an appeal is financially manageable for a small business and the timeframe of 28 days for a decision to be made following a hearing is reasonable,” Mas Carnell said.

There are 3.8 million small business taxpayers, including sole traders, in the tax system according to the ATO’s annual report. The ASBFEO notes that new proposal is critical for small businesses as more often than not, their houses are on the line.

“The financial impacts of a dispute through the courts over a long period of time is devastating and it doesn’t take long for a small business to run out of money,” Ms Carnell said. “Ours and AAT’s specialised support will assist small businesses resolve ATO disputes in a timely and cost-effective manner. It will also compliment the ATO’s Independent Review facility for small businesses with tax problems, which provides informal discussion of issues in a way that avoids formal legal routes.”