We rushed into action late Saturday night when we discovered that a really scary tax Bill was listed for a vote in Parliament this week.
The new law is supposed to stop illegal phoenixing. (That’s when someone sends their business bankrupt then ‘rebirths’ it under another name. They leave victims with huge debts.) But this new law would instead empower the ATO to:
- Do a forward estimate on how much a business owed in GST.
- Demand payment whether the ATO’s estimate was correct or not.
- Deny someone a tax refund (say on overpaid income tax).
- Make company directors personally liable for the estimated GST.
This has nothing to do with stopping phoenixing. It is instead a further cunning power grab by the ATO. This would give the ATO new powers to ramp up its small business bullying campaign.
On Sunday we wrote to the government and all MPs and Senators asking them to stop this bad law. Robert Gottliebsen wrote in The Australian condemning the law. We spent Monday and Tuesday in Parliament talking with MPs and Senators asking for the law to be pulled. We’ll let you know what happens.
But, while this was occurring, the ATO created news coverage by saying that it is introducing new ‘procedural safeguards’ to prevent ATO bullying of small business people. The article stated that the ATO is to “…overhaul its internal culture to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing ‘garnishee’ scandal that damaged its reputation among small-business taxpayers.”
Give us a break!!! The ATO puts out PR spin saying that it is going to stop its bullying culture and behaviour. Yet at the same time it is seeking to sneak through Parliament new laws that will increase its bullying powers. The ATO is engaging in an outrageous community, media and parliamentary con. It’s got to stop.
Quite recently we praised the ATO for a new, independent appeals process. We’ll continue to praise when we see good things from the ATO. But we’re not going to fall for the ATO’s two-faced con.
If the ATO is serious about addressing its bullying—particularly over garnishee issues—then prove it! It should drop its persecution and prosecution of ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle. He exposed the ATO’s garnishee bullying behaviour, the very behaviour the ATO says it now wants to stop. For exposing this the ATO is now trying to send Richard to jail for 161 years. The ATO’s credibility is in tatters. Its behaviour is like that of the worst bank behaviour.