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ATO and the card trick called ‘reform’. Fraud is what it’s about

Friday, May 18, 2018

We read yesterday in the Australian Financial Review that the Australian Taxation office is implementing a new process on fraud and evasion ‘opinions’. Remember that the ATO has two years to query your tax return. After that, your return is locked in.

But, if the ATO ‘forms an opinion’ that you committed fraud or evasion, it can go back in time as long as it likes. The ATO doesn’t have to prove fraud or evasion, just ‘form an opinion’. This power has been massively abused by the ATO, mainly against self-employed people!

We discovered this in the Rod Douglass case where the ATO said that Rod had committed fraud because he didn’t use an accountant. What nonsense! He had declared all of his income. The ATO went back ten years and sent him a bill for $440,000. After a two-year battle, the ATO backed off in court saying ‘oops, we made a mistake!’ Mistake? Blatant ATO bullying in our experience!

If you saw the Four Corners show, ‘Mongrel Bunch of Bastards',  at least three of the people profiled had been accused of fraud by the ATO. Again, after years of battle, the ATO said ‘oops, we made a mistake!’

Frankly, we think the ATO has been hugely embarrassed by the revelations and so it should be! The calls for reform are building. We’re determined. We want real reform imposed on the ATO by Parliament. Here’s our reform agenda!

Now, once again, we’re seeing the ATO reform card trick. For decades the ATO has tried to push off genuine reform by saying, ‘don’t worry, we’re doing internal reform!’ It is doing this again, this time round, saying fraud ‘opinions’ will have to be reviewed by an internal, senior review panel. It hopes this will deflect the pressure for reform.

But faith in the honesty of the ATO has collapsed, mainly because of the evidence of its bullying of small business people. This ATO reform card trick just won’t work.

Real reform on the fraud issue is needed. The ATO can ‘form opinions’ all it likes. But it must not be allowed to act on its opinions until it has put a case to a judge and received judicial approval. That’s common sense. That’s justice.

If the ATO were genuine about reform, it would support this move.

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