We’ve come to the conclusion that the truth about the Australian Taxation Office’s bullying of self-employed people will only come out in a full Royal Commission inquiry.
We’ve been strongly prompted to this conclusion by an article in The Australian yesterday by the doyen of business columnists, Robert Gottliebsen. Robert is correct in his article ‘The ATO is repeating the hideous mistakes of bank boards’.
The ATO controllers are in denial about the ATO’s bad behaviour, just like the banks were with unfair contracts, including abusive customer treatment (and the churches also were on sex abuse!) Robert said:
“…bank boards were in total denial and did not recognise that they had created contracts that almost encouraged staff to treat small business customers badly.”
Robert points out that change is possible but legislation is required and he recognises our efforts to achieve change. He said:
“And the (bank) directors allowed it (abuse) to continue despite years of commentary from myself in The Australian and the efforts of many others, including Self-Employed Australia’s Ken Phillips to get legislation through Parliament to make directors do the right thing and construct contracts that were fair to both parties.”
Major reform of the structures and administration of tax by the ATO is essential. The ATO has operated as is since 1936. Reform involves breaking up the ATO into separate independent authorities and an independent small business tax tribunal. We’ve detailed this in our ATO reform agenda here.
Reform should proceed without delay, however. As Robert says:
“… like the banks before fair contracts, ATO officials have the power to do what they like. And, again like the banks, they will not be caught out until there is an ATO royal commission.”
We spent seven years campaigning for fair contracts. Our campaign commitment to ATO reform is also long-term. And we are proudly obsessive in our efforts!
Our next step is submissions to the Senate Inquiry into whether the Commonwealth (eg, the ATO) complies with its Model Litigant obligations. At the public hearing on 14 June we’ll be saying that the ATO ignores its obligations. We’ll keep you informed!