Small business would find it easier and cheaper to settle fights with the Australian Taxation Office through access to an independent appeal organisation to help quickly resolve disputes, under a policy unveiled by the Morrison government.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the latest pitch to assist small and family businesses, as the Coalition government favours the small end of town over the big banks and energy companies who are in the government’s firing line.
In the wake of a small business backlash against the ATO for alleged heavy handed tactics, Mr Morrison said the ATO’s job was to ensure the integrity of the tax system to help fund services for Australians.
But Mr Morrison told business representatives that, “I understand the concerns of small business when it comes to dealing with the ATO”.
The government will establish a Small Business Concierge Service within the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s office to provide support and advice about the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) process.
It will also create a dedicated Small Business Taxation Division within the AAT which will include a supporting case manager, a standard application fee of $500 and fast-tracked decisions to be made within 28 days of a hearing.
The AAT process would be lawyer-free in most cases. Exceptions for the hiring of legal counsel include if the small business elects to have legal representation, the ATO requesting legal counsel to be engaged for both parties and a mutual agreement, or where there is a test case. In such circumstances, the ATO would pay for both parties’ legal representation.
Tax is no doubt highly on small business owners’ minds, and a tax-friendly environment is surely to be welcomed by the small business community nation-wide.