Unveiled by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a plan to help small and medium businesses resolve tax disputes with the ATO, the government will establish a Small Business Concierge Service within the ASBFEO’s office to provide support and advice about the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) process before an application is made.
It will also create a dedicated Small Business Taxation Division within the AAT, which will include: a case manager to support the business throughout the entire process, a standard application fee of $500 and fast-tracked decisions to be made within 28 days of a hearing.
Further, if the ATO appeals the AAT decision to the Federal Court, it will pay the small business “reasonable costs”.
ASBFEO Kate Carnell welcomed the announcement, highlighting the financial impacts of tax disputes on small businesses.
“Small business owners will be able to contact us for support and advice about the AAT process before making an application,” Ms Carnell said.
“We feel the proposed $500 fee to lodge an appeal is financially manageable for a small business and the timeframe of 28 days for a decision to be made following a hearing is reasonable.
“There are 3.8 million small business taxpayers, including sole traders, in the tax system according to the ATO’s annual report. This new proposal is critical for small businesses as more often than not, their houses are on the line.”
Labor had earlier pledged to establish a new position of second commissioner within the Tax Office, reporting to the Commissioner of Taxation, to head up a new appeals group in response to concerns about small business tax disputes.
“Genuine concerns have been raised about engagement with small businesses about tax disputes, including the lack of a perceived and real structural separation within the tax office of officials who make tax assessments from those who handle disputes and appeals,” shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said.
“A separate appeals area in the Tax Office ensures small business disputes are given the care and attention they deserve.”