The small business concierge service within the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has been launched, giving taxpayers support and advice before deciding to contest an ATO decision with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
The concierge service will provide access to a one-hour consultation with an experienced small business tax lawyer for unrepresented small business taxpayers, to review the facts and provide advice on the viability of the appeal.
A co-payment of $100 is required from the small business taxpayer at the time of the consultation and the balance of the cost will be paid by the ASBFEO, who will also supply a case manager to help the small business compile relevant documents to maximise the one-hour consult.
After lodging the application for review with the AAT, the small business taxpayer can claim a second hour of advice from an experienced small business tax lawyer, fully paid for by the ASBFEO.
Once the application is lodged, the case will be picked up by the new dedicated small business taxation division within the AAT, which will see a case manager appointed 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.
Speaking to Accountants Daily, the Institute of Public Accountants general manager of technical policy, Tony Greco said the new measures were a step in the right direction for the small business space.
“It sounds more supportive for small business and for them to decide if they should take it to the next step and if they do, then the AAT have a special division for small business,” said Mr Greco.
“You can go to [ASBFEO] Kate Carnell's group first and get some advice and that's a good filtering system to see whether they should proceed to the next step and go to the AAT small business division.
“You've got all these other initiatives being put forward to address perceptions or concerns regarding fairness of treatment towards small business or those without the means to fight an agency like the ATO,” he added.
“Whether it works or not remains to be seen because these are very new initiatives and targeted towards unrepresented taxpayers.”
Labor has promised to go one step further to address the perception of unfairness at the ATO, by introducing a new independent Second Commissioner of Appeals to review tax disputes.
The measure has been backed by both the former Inspector-General of Taxation, Ali Noroozi, and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue.