Minister orders check on claims ATO has let down SME owners

An investigation has been launched into claims the Australian Taxation Office has unfairly left small-business owners in the lurch. Fairfax and the ABC’s Four Corners reported on Monday a series of errors and actions by the ATO which led to small businesses and individuals being financially crippled.

A spokesman for Revenue Minister Kelly O’Dwyer told AAP she was deeply concerned about the allegations and had asked for a thorough investigation of all claims made in the report.

“The government will be responding once it has had an opportunity to consider that in detail,” the spokesman said.

Australian Council of Small Business (COSBOA) chief Peter Strong said in 95 per cent of cases the ATO provided an “excellent service” to small business people in difficulty.

“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’,” Strong said.

He said that the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman must be involved before key decisions were made, such as before bankruptcy procedures, before garnishees are issued and prior to any action that can bring “stress and unmanageable demands” onto a small-business person. He also believes the ombudsman should also be involved in the process of removing ABNs from businesses, and that an independent body must determine compensation for business people that have been wronged or suffer monetary and personal losses through unfair processes.

COSBOA will soon hold a forum to discuss a better definition of “contractor”, which is the cause of many problems involving the ATO.

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