It can be revealed that, small and medium businesses across Australia owe a total of $21 billion to the ATO (Australian Tax Office). The figures were published according to new data compiled by the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO). Despite this record figure, the large majority of small business owners have said that they are doing the right thing.
In fact, according to the Australia Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, over half of this collectable debt is held by just 6.4 per cent of SMEs.
“This report shows that while collectable debt owed by small businesses to the ATO has reached an all-time high, in reality the breakdown sees the majority of debt owed by very few SMEs while the remainder is very small amounts of debt spread over a small percentage of Australia’s more than 2 million SMEs. In fact, less that one per cent of small businesses owe $2.5 billion to the ATO, according to the IGTO’s report” said Bruce Bilson.
However, the major reason for concern is the reported decline in small business payment plan arrangements over the past three years.
“For those small businesses that are struggling to meet their tax obligations, now is not the time to put your head in the sand,” Mr Billson said.
Bruce Billson encourages businesses to lodge now and reach out to the ATO for a tailored payment plan if having difficulties meeting payment obligations. Furthermore, although the ATO is signalling plans to return to collective action, its predominant strategy will remain supporting and assisting small businesses wherever possible.
The ATO has also said that it is planning to introduce a system for payment plans in arrears to give small and family businesses a chance to get back on track rather than falling into default and having to start again.
The ATO has acted on the key recommendations published in ASBFEO’s report: a tax system that works for small business to turn its small business independent review service into a permanent offering.
This being done in addition to the Australian government giving the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) greater powers to pause or change debt recovery action applied to small businesses in dispute with the ATO.
Overpayments of JobKeeper Has Exceeded $284 Million
The ATO has also commenced clawing back overpayments. So far the ATO has identified $284 million in JobKeeper overpayments and clawed back about $138 million, with some of the money recouped relating to people deliberately acting to defraud the system.
The spokesperson for the ATO said the agency was still chasing another $82 million and not pursing $64 million because it considered they had been “claimed in good faith and passed onto employees”.
Some companies that have made public declarations that they have paid or are paying back JobKeeper funds include Toyota, Domino’s and Super Retail Group, but there are many others.
The ATO spokesman said to date, 47 businesses are seeking to make JobKeeper repayments.
“Of these, 33 companies have repaid $159 million, there are another 14 the ATO are in discussions with for another $66 million, and [there is] a total $225 million to be potentially paid back,” said the ATO spokesperson.
Four Criminal Investigations on Super Early Release Scheme
On early release of super, the ATO spokesman said there were four criminal investigations, down from six.
Close to 4.55 million applications worth $38 billion had already been approved by the ATO for more than 3 million people.
The spokesperson revealed that 2,800 applications, worth less than $18 million, were made by people suspected of attempting to defraud the system by trying to steal the identity of someone else most of this amount was prevented from being released or was recovered from fraudsters.
After the initial application process, compliance activity was undertaken and less than 700 individuals were found to be ineligible for the Covid-19 early release of super scheme.
Of this group, 84 percent had submitted ineligible applications in two financial years and 16 per cent had at least one application found to be ineligible. These individuals received funds from their super accounts.
This had resulted in $12 million of released super being included as assessable.
Small Business Cashflow Boost Denied To Hundreds of Businesses
Some businesses had invented wages to get the cash flow boost subsidy.
The ATO spokesperson said the agency had paused cash flow boost credits for about 29,500 entities while verifying their eligibility, resulting in adjustments to payments made to about 5,500 entities.
It is currently investigating one matter for a suspected criminal offence.
The spokesperson revealed that the agency had supported 817,000 small businesses with $35.5 billion in payments.
ATO systems prevented about 243,000 ineligible entities from receiving Cash Flow Boost credits when they lodged their activity statements.
The ATO has denied 110 entities the payment due to evidence of tax schemes and denied 1,000 entities due to their aggregated turnover exceeding $50 million.
The team at C&D Restructure and Taxation Advisory are here to help. As part of the Vault Group we can offer the full suite of financial products and advice to help you navigate the business landscape. Schedule a meeting here via Calendly or give us a call on 07 36086800.
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