Over the next few weeks, the ATO will visit small businesses in and around Frankston — the gateway to the Mornington Peninsula — targeting food businesses like cafés, takeaway establishments and restaurants in addition to professional services businesses like real estate firms, management consultants and accountants.
In Croydon and nearby eastern suburbs, ATO officers will be more likely to visit hairdressers and beauty services, cleaning businesses, management consultants and financial advisers, and takeaway food businesses.
ATO assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said intelligence from other regulators like the Fair Work Ombudsman and tip-offs from locals suggest that the black economy is active in these suburbs.
Tip-offs received have included allegations about businesses in and around Frankston and Croydon demanding cash from customers and paying workers cash in hand.
“In both locations, there are significant numbers of businesses with overdue income tax returns and business activity statements. We’re also aware that some employers in these parts of Melbourne may not be complying with their obligations like withholding tax or paying their superannuation entitlements. These are all black economy warning signs for us,” Mr Holt said.
“We owe it to the honest businesses and workers in these suburbs to investigate and keep things fair. It’s simply not on that some businesses are getting a free kick and an unfair advantage over their honest competitors.
“Trading in cash and paying your workers in cash is legal, but it’s illegal when it’s off the books.”
Mr Holt said the visits will take around 30 minutes and may discuss record keeping and payment facilities, outstanding lodgements, tax debts and managing employee entitlements such as superannuation.
Businesses set for a visit will be notified by phone, SMS, email or letter prior to the visit.
ATO officers will carry identification in the form of a hard plastic card with the coat of arms, the name of the officer and their photograph, and an expiry date.
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Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.