Since the Four Corners show ‘Mongrel Bunch of Bastards’, which exposed the abuse by the ATO of small business people, the ATO has been in denial mode. The ATO’s press release is essentially a ‘nothing to see here folks’ statement.
The Australian Services Union, representing ATO staff, has demanded that we at Self-Employed Australia apologise for ‘scurrilous’ accusations. It is outraged by our statements in our submission opposing the ATO credit agency report Bill. It’s pleasing to report that this Bill has now been put ‘on hold’ by the Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer.
But now something has happened that cuts through the ATO’s (and its union supporters’) hand-wringing!
Recently retired Federal Court Judge Richard Edmonds has spoken out. Edmonds is highly respected as one of Australia’s most knowledgeable tax jurists with 50 years’ experience in tax law. In a letter to the Australian Financial Review the retired judge said:
- “I have never known … the ATO to apologise to a taxpayer where a court finds that the ATO wrongly assessed … in the collection process.”
- “… the ATO has even taken the position, pending appeal, that it is not bound by decisions of a single judge adverse to the commissioner…”
The judge refers to:
- “… the existence of a mentality, maintained by too many ATO officers for too long, that taxpayers on the whole are cheats and liars and anything the ATO does to bring them to account can be justified…”
That such an eminent ex-judge would speak out in this way is quite extraordinary. His comments add significant weight to the observation that there is a major problem inside the ATO, even to the extent that the ATO will ignore a judge’s ruling.
The retired judge made further comments to Robert Gottliebsen in The Australian reinforcing his AFR comments.
This is an ‘Australia: Wake up call’. The government and Parliament must surely take serious notice of such an eminent jurist. We say that the ATO needs urgent reform and not just more talk and investigations. Our ATO reform program is here.