The ATA, a 50,000+ member grassroots public advocacy group representing the nation’s taxpayers, today condemns gross errors, denial of justice and the vindictive pursuit of small businesses and ordinary taxpayers by the Australian Tax Office, and demands that reforms pushed for years by taxpayer advocacy groups are implemented to hold the ATO accountable.
“Last night’s ABC/Four Corners investigation shows that innocent taxpayers and small businesses are left with fewer rights than murderers, as the ATO is able to garnishee bank accounts and confiscate property without a warrant – all on the basis of a debt that it bears no legal burden of proving first.” Said Satyajeet Marar, Director of Policy at the ATA. “As a result, innocent businesses are eviscerated due to basic errors, and those who are not extorted into paying by the threat of a legal battle they cannot afford, are dragged through the court system for years – only to receive paltry and inadequate compensation when the ATO admits its mistakes. This malicious and irresponsible culture is a miscarriage of justice and must be stopped before more taxpayers’ lives are destroyed.
“We demand that the burden of proof for tax debts is shifted from the accused to the ATO. If the ATO is not prepared to establish its case to a tribunal or court prior to collecting debt as any private creditor must, it should not be going after small business and taxpayers who lack its substantial financial and legal resources. It is appalling that the ATO is acting outside basic principles of natural justice and the notion of innocent until proven guilty. This is not an issue of left or right – it is an issue of right or wrong. The ATA has lobbied for this reform since 2015.
“We further demand that the ATO adopt a conciliatory approach by providing the businesses and taxpayers it pursues with complete information about the claims against them as early as possible. One of our supporters, a retiree, was provided with little to no information until he received an assessment notice informing him that over $100,000 would be taken out of his superannuation account and an interest on the unpaid debt would accrue prior to any objection or appeals process. This is both cruel and unjust.
“We also demand that protections for whistle-blowers who expose malicious and unethical practices by public agencies including the ATO are implemented immediately, and thank the brave whistle-blowers who have lost their jobs in exposing such practices to the media investigation against the ATO for their immense personal sacrifice.
“In 2014, ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan told a Parliamentary Inquiry that the ATO does not actively pursue payment from most individuals and small businesses until after the objection process’s completion. The experiences of ordinary taxpayers and findings of the recent media investigation indicate otherwise. We call on the government to reform the ATO to ensure that justice and accountability are upheld.