Ombudsman to review historical cases of small business disputes with ATO

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell will look into historical cases where a small business is disputing an assessment by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the ATO has commenced early action to recover the debt.

At the request of the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Michaelia Cash, the Ombudsman will provide advice on the scale and extent of the problem for small businesses and the potential impact on them.

“Overzealous early debt recovery by the ATO can be a small business killer,” Ms Carnell said. “Our research last year into unfair treatment by the ATO found serious system-wide issues impacting the small business sector, including early debt recovery.

“We heard from a number of small businesses devastated financially from this practice, which is made all the worse if the ATO gets it wrong. Our focus for this research will be on historical cases and won’t include cases currently before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.”

The work behind this task will support the operations of ASBFEO’s newly established Small Business Concierge Service, which began on 1 March. The Concierge Service provides assistance and support to small-business owners appealing an ATO tax decision through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and legal advice for unrepresented small businesses.

“Ensuring small businesses have access to justice, particularly where there is an imbalance of power, affords the opportunity to compete on a level playing field,” Ms Carnell said.

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