How to negotiate your Tax Debt with the ATO?


Small businesses need to manage a lot of ‘balls in the air’ and one of them is tax. Between their own income tax as an individual, company tax, GST and tax withheld for employees there is a lot of money that needs to be accounted for. In fact small businesses account for more than 60% of the total debt owning to the ATO. So if you have a tax debt here is what you need to know. #news #ATO #taxdebt

 1. They can take money from your account

You can’t afford to ignore a tax debt. The ATO has significant powers for recovering money. The ATO actually has the power to raise what is called a garnishee. This is a tool that can direct your bank to withdraw funds from your bank account and pay it directly to the ATO. So that bank account you were saving for a holiday or new TV could be wiped out in an instant. But it doesn’t stop there, they can also direct one of your debtors to pay them directly rather than you. This might be rather embarrassing and not great for business if the ATO is tapping a client on the shoulder for money.

 2. Personal liability for company debt

Don’t hide behind the company debt, the ATO can hold you personally responsible as a director of a company. While you are not normally responsible for company debt, where a BAS return hasn’t been made for more than 3 months past the due date the director becomes immediately personally liable. #accountingnews  #sydneyaccountants

3. The ATO can make you bankrupt

The ATO has a long track record of pursuing debts to the point where individuals have had to declare bankruptcy and companies have been forced into liquidation. Historically, the ATO has been responsible for the most number of forced insolvencies in Australia!

4. Be proactive

It isn’t all bad. Issues with the ATO generally arise because there has been no communication with the ATO. If you have a tax liability and you know you can’t pay it by the deadline you need to contact the ATO immediately. Ignoring it will only make it worse. If you contact them they will be able to work through a series of options with you. #news #accountantingcompanysydney

5. Payment Plans

The ATO are very open to setting up a payment plan with you, providing that the tax debt isn’t overdue yet. Your previous history will also be taken into consideration when agreeing to a payment plan.

The key is to ensure that even if you can’t pay on time that you still lodge your BAS or tax returns on time. This demonstrates to the ATO that you are aware of your obligations and doing your best to meet them.

Alternatively your tax specialist can request a payment plan on your behalf, so if in doubt about what you are required to do we recommend speaking to one of our tax specialists.

Received a Director's Penalty Notice? Don't panic. You still have options.

In our experience, there are many reasons Company Directors fail to pay their tax liabilities and it's never because they don’t care.

However, when the ATO first look at your case, their number-one priority is clawing back the debt the company owes. And because of the nature of that debt, they start with a Director Penalty Notice.

The ATO is right to take failures to pay your liabilities very seriously. And it’s natural that they’ll present your penalty as non-negotiable. But under the right circumstances, if your company has good reasons for failing to pay, and every intention of paying, there’s almost always something the ATO can do to help. One of the first things you have to do is talk to the right person with knowledge on how to best handle the Director Penalty Notice you have received.

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About Author

Tanya Moran
Tanya Moran

Tanya Moran is a Senior Partner and the Lead Taxation Partner of Azure Group. She has more than 20 years' experience working with a large array of businesses from small accounting firms to large international corporations.

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