Yesterday the ABC launched major coverage of a campaign to achieve a Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The coverage included TV, radio and online all day.
It seems to have generated some serious movement.
The article quotes Federal Liberal MP, Jason Falinski saying, “Australians need to be protected against what has become a very powerful tax office”. Jason’s comments are especially important because he chairs the key parliamentary committee that oversees the ATO.
Jason also says that the ATO should have to prove a tax debt against someone. Currently the ATO doesn’t have to prove a debt. The burden of proof is on the taxpayer. Jason says “I think that there are a lot of people in government that want to have a very close look at this”. Wow! That’s big. The government is seriously looking at the ATO’s behaviour and powers.
This is supported by the Inspector-General of Taxation, Karen Payne. We talked about her last week exposing really bad ATO behaviour. In the ABC article Karen suggests that the ATO could face sanctions for breaching taxpayer rights. The article says that Karen’s “…point is that having sanctions would force a cultural shift within the ATO”. We say ‘Yes’ to that!
The need to fix the ATO’s power imbalance is based on strong evidence.
The article features one of the ATO victims who appeared in the 2018 ‘Mongrel Bunch of Bastards’ 4Corners TV exposé. Helen Petaia once had a thriving IT company. But the ATO moved against her on a ‘fabricated tax debt’. The ATO eventually admitted that it was wrong and after six years of fighting Helen was paid compensation by the ATO. But by then her business had collapsed and she was forced to sell the family home. Helen says a Taxpayer Bill of Rights would have saved her from the ATO fight.
The model is based on the US Taxpayer Bill of Rights. It’s legislation. It’s not just simply the tax collector’s policy or ‘code’ that it can ignore at whim.
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights has 10 practical requirements. The right of taxpayers:
- To be informed
- To quality service
- To pay the correct amount of tax
- To challenge the tax collector’s position and be heard
- To appeal a tax decision in an independent forum
- To finality
- To privacy
- To confidentiality
- To retain representation
- To a fair and just tax system
This seems damn sensible to us. Here’s a copy of the US Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
And, yes, this is something we’ve been campaigning on since 2019. See here. We’d be very supportive of such a reform. Ummm! More campaigning then!