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Reforming the ATO. An urgent but common sense agenda

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

If you watched ABC Four Corners last night, the evidence of the ATO's abusing its powers against small business people was compelling.

However, it’s one thing to understand the abuse! It’s another thing to find solutions. That’s why we’ve put together, with considerable legal input, a reform agenda for the ATO.

Today we launch, The Power to Audit is the Power to Destroy.

The reforms we are calling for do not reduce tax collection powers. But they apply the principles of good policing to create checks, balances and accountabilities to ensure powers are used responsibly. Without checks and balances the ATO will continue to be abusive. The ATO has promised internal reform in the past but failed.

In summary we are calling for
  • The ATO to be divided into 2 separate authorities, one for tax collection and auditing, the other for objections and appeals.
  • The Commissioner with all powers concept be changed, so that each authority is headed by a CEO answerable to a board. (Similar to ASIC, ACCC, etc.)
  • A Small Business Tax Tribunal be established
  • Transparency be required on actual debt and prosecution management.
  • Disputed debts cannot be collected until disputes are settled.
  • Capping of penalties.
  • Judicial oversight of ‘fraud’ action.
  • Strengthen the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
  • Use of State Supreme Courts for disputes.
Our position and discussion paper, The Power to Audit is the Power to Destroy, gives details and explains the reasons.

But we’re not naïve about the difficulty in having these reforms adopted. Plenty of parliamentary committees and previous government ministers have tried to reform the ATO but all have failed. The ATO is expert at stopping reform. The ATO’s well-placed ‘friends’ are already actively defending the ATO.

But, we’re determined. The ATO abuse will not stop without reform. It took us seven years of hard work to achieve unfair contract laws for small business people. On this tax reform issue we are in for the long campaign!

‘Mongrel Bunch of Bastards’ its viewable here on ABC iview.
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