Quite recently (14 June) we were invited to give evidence before a Senate hearing on the behaviour of the ATO towards small business. This was done within the context of proposals to require government departments to comply with ‘model litigant’ obligations. That is, to behave fairly and ethically!
We made a detailed submission supporting the proposal and explained how the ATO regularly abuses self-employed, small business people.
Our evidence was supposed to go for 30 minutes but went for over 50 minutes under detailed Senate questioning. In part we stated:
- Our observation is that if you are upright, honest and completely forthright with the ATO, you run quite a high risk of getting abused through the system
- …the behaviour of the ATO I liken to what happens with the churches over the sexual abuse cases and with the banks over their behaviour. At all times, it’s ‘deny, deny, deny’.
- The tax commissioner has the power of a dictator. If you have dictatorial powers, those powers will be abused.
- …on the issue of fraud, the taxation office in our view concocts allegations of fraud and any such allegation becomes at law a fact and not merely an allegation, which the taxpayer then has to ‘unprove’.
Our assessment of the behaviour of the ATO was taken with great seriousness by the Senate Committee. The full transcript of our evidence is here (see pages 1 to 8).
Channel 10 News covered our evidence that night. See the news segment here.
And other media outlets also showed great interest:
- ATO hits back at ‘costly’ calls to police its disputes, litigation process
- Senate hears ‘dictatorial ATO’ should be split in two
- ATO accused of being a “dictator” and “cooking” SMEs as government considers rules to enforce fair conduct
- Give power back to citizens to fight government agencies, inquiry urged