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ATO audit division goes for JobKeeper jugular again! Trashing the ATO’s reputation

Monday, July 06, 2020

Last week, we reported the release by the ATO of threats to treat people who’ve accessed JobKeeper (and other programs) of being tax fraudsters. The problem, we say, is the ability of the ATO’s auditors to apply their ‘view’ as to fraud, which then becomes ‘fact’ at law, subject to prosecution. And the only effective appeal is to the ATO itself!!

At the same time we reported that the ATO had removed one business’s JobKeeper entitlements on the basis of an ATO assessment that clearly breached the law. We can now report that the illegal assessment has been reversed as we understand it. But it took 10 days and bad publicity for the ATO to fix this!

More ATO JobKeeper audits
But the ATO audit division is at it again. They have issued 8,000 automatically generated JobKeeper ‘queries’. Fair enough! Asking for more information is what the ATO should do. Good! But the auto letter raises the prospect of withdrawal of JobKeeper (we’ve sighted the letter). This has sent stacks of small businesses and individuals into (understandable) panic! And when people contacted the ATO hotline as instructed in the letter, ATO staff knew nothing about the demand.

How dumb of the ATO’s audit division. In our view it’s a reflection of a faction inside the ATO who thinks every taxpayer is either a tax cheat or potential tax cheat. And their communication reflects this. It trashes the reputation of the ATO and the great work that most in the ATO are doing. It makes the ATO look dysfunctional.

Here’s some of the media coverage: The Age. The ABC. SmartCompany. The Guardian.

We said last week that this has got to be fixed. The audit division’s trashing of the ATO’s reputation in such a manner cannot be allowed to continue.

Richard Boyle
You’ll remember ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle, who faces 161 YEARS in jail for exposing ATO behaviour. Well, according to media reports (3 July), 42 of the 66 charges against him have been dropped. The charges have been withdrawn after a Senate Inquiry found that the ATO had conducted a ‘superficial’ investigation into Richard’s Public Interest Disclosure (PID) statement.

Our understanding is that a PID is a process whereby a public servant can report (alleged) bad behaviour inside a government department. Such reports are supposed to be treated seriously by the government department. The Senate said that the investigation of Richard’s report was ‘superficial’. Richard only went public on Four Corners after his report was treated ‘superficially’ by the ATO.

PS: Don’t forget that Self Employed Australia provides ‘Tax Investigation Support’ to any of our ‘Protected Members’. Info here.
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