The ATO has called on small businesses to get in touch as soon as possible if they have any troubles with their tax, as the SME sector prepares to file and pay their taxes at the end of February.
Deputy Commissioner Steve Vesperman says one of the main ways the ATO sees small business struggling is in making tax payments on time.
“That’s why we call [on SMEs] to get in touch with us as soon as possible when they see they can’t meet their obligations, whether in reporting or payment.
“That’s key for us. We see that if taxpayers do not make contact with us, the problem gets bigger and harder to resolve.
“So even if you can’t pay by the due date, make sure you lodge your BAS and we will take it from there. If you call us early to let us know we can work out a solution together.”
The ATO must be “as approachable as possible,” Vesperman says.
The tax agency has recently released a number of tools intended to help small businesses better meet their tax obligations. These include the recently released ATO mobile app, and the Small Business Assist tool.
The ATO also provides an after-hours service, where businesses can book to be contacted after 5pm. “We recognise that small businesses often do their record-keeping outside business hours,” Vesperman says.
The ATO is also looking to boost its engagement with the sector through things like the Small Business Liaison Group Forum, where SME representatives meet on a regular basis to provide feedback to the ATO.
“Things like that allow us to look for opportunities to connect,” Vesperman says.
The ATO has recently completed its Business Perceptions survey, which looks at the attitudes of businesses making up to $2 million in turnover towards the agency and taxation in general.
The survey found almost all small businesses agree it’s important they pay their fair share of tax.
Two thirds said they would report tax evasion to the ATO if they saw it.
Only 14% agreed that occasional cash in hand payments do no harm to anyone, and only 7% thought tweaking the numbers on their BAS could help their business financially.
The ATO has recently announced a number of vigorous programs to pursue tax evaders. But Vesperman says working constructively with businesses trying to do the right thing is the other side of the coin.
“We’ve always known that we have the support of the community in terms of people meeting their fair share of tax obligations. That’s the strength of our tax system and our economy.”
This article first appeared on SmartCompany.