The ATO has stated that it understands that the pressure of meeting tax and super obligations can contribute to mental health issues for small-business owners and offers a range of support to businesses who are struggling.
Deputy Commissioner Deborah Jenkins attended the Small Business Mental Health roundtable chaired by Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education at Parliament House last week. Jenkins said that the ATO is committed to working with government and community organisations to address the issue.
“More and more small businesses are telling us that they are under stress. We understand that long hours, cash flow pressures, endless paperwork, staff issues and the blurring boundaries between work and family life can take a toll on mental health,” Ms Jenkins said.
“That’s why we are working together with organisations such as Beyond Blue, ASBFEO, small businesses and their associations as well as tax practitioners to develop initiatives to better support small-business owners with their tax and super obligations when they are experiencing mental health issues.”
The ATO has rolled out training for all its frontline staff in better understanding mental health issues and to show empathy for taxpayers who are struggling. Nearly 6000 staff have already undertaken the training. This is in addition to a range of services the office is offering to help businesses stay on track.
The ATO has also made it easier for small businesses to negotiate and enter into payment plans if they need them and help manage their debt. The office noted that in 2017–18, it negotiated 790,000 payment plans with small businesses.
“Payment plans allow small businesses to manage their tax debts and take the pressure off when other bills are due. But our primary focus in 2019 will be on early engagement and support before debts are due,” Ms Jenkins said.