Coalition government would split Tax Office and pay small business on time

A Coalition government will split the Australian Tax Office in two and commit federal government agencies to paying small business suppliers on time or face paying interest on outstanding bills, opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says.

In his post-budget speech to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Hockey threatened to split the ATO to separate its policing duties from tax collection to counter its “overly-aggressive” approach towards taxpayers such as small business.

He said if a bill isn’t paid within 30 days, interest will be applied at the same rate the Australian Taxation Office expects people to pay for late tax payments, currently 9.95%.

“Under the Coalition, all small businesses that provide services to the Commonwealth will get the benefit of a ‘pay on time or pay interest’ approach – formal contracts or not,” Hockey said.

“Small businesses work hard for their money and should not be bankrolling government.”

Hockey also used the opportunity to attack the Labor government’s budget handed down last week, which revealed a $19.4 billion deficit, claiming it lacked integrity.

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business Australia, attended the speech and told SmartCompany Hockey appeared confident and comfortable.

“You could see a bit of Peter Costello in him,” Strong says.

“He has a big understanding of the business community and the importance of small business, and now we have to see what happens.”

For Strong the key Coalition policy is to put the small business minister in Treasury.

“I think having small business in the Treasury portfolio is an enormous win and he is really looking hard at the Tax Office as well.”

COSBOA also supports the Coalition’s pledge for the ATO to have an after-hours number for small businesspeople and to pay small business on time.

Shadow minister for small business, Bruce Billson, said in a statement the Coalition would lead by example and treat small business people with the respect they deserve.

“Cashflow is king for small business, which is why it’s important they are paid on time or at worst compensated for any late payment,” he said.

Billson said the latest announcement was part of the Coalition’s Real Solutions Plan to double the rate of small business growth.

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