ATO's Unapologetic Stance on Small Business Debt Collection: A Final Warning

ATO Unapologetic Stance On Small Business Debt Collection A Final Warning Azure Group

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is sending a clear message to the small business sector — there's no room for leniency when it comes to overdue payments.

Commissioner Chris Jordan, in a recent speech to the Institute of Public Accountants, emphasised the ATO's shift from pandemic-era leniency to a proactive debt collection strategy.

Transition from Leniency to Action

Over the past 18 months, the ATO's approach to overdue payments has undergone a significant transformation. What was once a period of understanding during the pandemic has evolved into an active pursuit of outstanding debts. This shift is evident in the issuance of 31,000 Director Penalty Notices (DPN), a stern warning to enterprises intentionally holding onto overdue payments.

The $50 Billion Debt Burden

Commissioner Jordan highlighted the urgency behind the ATO's debt collection strategy, stating that a staggering $50 billion of collectable debt, primarily from small businesses, needs to be recouped. While acknowledging the good intentions of many small businesses, he stressed the necessity of a concerted response from the ATO to address this substantial debt burden.

No Apologies – The ATO is Not a Bank

Jordan made it clear that the ATO is not a lenient financial institution.

"The ATO is not a bank offering cheap loans and a cashflow buffer. Paying tax isn't optional," — Chris Jordan 

Despite recognising the challenges faced by small businesses, the commissioner expressed little mercy for those intentionally gaming the system.

Cracking Down on Non-Compliance

The ATO's renewed focus extends beyond late payments to encompass non-payment across all business segments, including small businesses. Jordan expressed his unapologetic stance on this matter, emphasizing the need for a tougher approach in addressing collectable debt, especially considering the softer approach necessitated by the pandemic.

Shadow Economy and Deliberate Non-Compliance

Jordan spared no mercy for businesses operating in the 'shadow economy,' engaging in 'cash in hand' jobs or intentionally avoiding tax obligations. He highlighted the ATO's Shadow Economy Program, which successfully raised $1.4 billion in 2022-2023 by uncovering hidden tax obligations. The majority of businesses doing the right thing should not bear the consequences of the minority deliberately avoiding their obligations.

Prevention is the best cure for a DPN Take Action Now

For small businesses struggling with overdue payments, Commissioner Jordan urged them to take advantage of the Failure to Lodge penalty amnesty, expiring on December 31. However, for those unwilling to cooperate, he warned of strong and deliberate action by the ATO.

We strongly suggest you keep to any ATO tax payment arrangements and proactively communicate with the ATO if unable to make payments before the due dates. Make sure that, even if they can’t be paid, BAS Statements, and Superannuation Guarantee Charge Statements are lodged on time. Otherwise this causes a default on any existing tax payment arrangements.

Feel free to give us a call via 📞 (02) 9238 1188  or 📩 if you need any help with lodging your overdue statements. 

Have you noticed our #FridayExpertTips... here's one that relates to Taxation

“Superannuation: Make sure any contributions you make are within the contribution caps, so you don’t pay a penalty tax."

Related: How to pay an overdue ATO Debt & Avoid a Director Penalty Notice 


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Azure Group
Azure Group

Azure Group is the leading Chartered Accounting, Business Advisory and Strategic Advisory firm supporting the growth & success of fast growing entrepreneurial businesses.

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