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ATO 2024 focus on small and medium business

Tax office shines SMB spotlight on 5 key areas

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has unveiled the five primary areas of concern currently dominating its priority list, signalling a shift from the leniency extended to late payers during the COVID-19 lockdowns.


The tax office is now redirecting its attention to pre-pandemic compliance activities.

Here are the focal points:


1. Unpaid Super Guarantee Charge

The ATO is intensifying efforts to pursue outstanding Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) payments, with small businesses constituting a significant portion of the billions owed in this category.


Employing practices such as garnishee notices, directions to pay, Director Penalty Notices and prosecution actions, the ATO is committed to ensuring the resolution of unpaid SGC amounts. The tax office is unwavering in holding employers accountable and actively identifying those exploiting non-payment of employee entitlements.


2. New Self-Assessed Debts Raised by Employers

Close scrutiny is being applied to new self-assessed debts raised by employers. The ATO Deputy Commissioner has expressed concerns that some taxpayers might be deferring payment until prompted by official communication from the tax office. This underscores the importance of proactively resolving debts and complying without waiting for directives from the ATO.


3. Refund Fraud

Refund fraud remains a significant challenge for the ATO, with fraudulent activities siphoning off billions of dollars through fake GST refunds. The tax office is ramping up efforts to combat refund fraud, employing advanced detection mechanisms and stringent measures to identify and penalise those engaged in fraudulent activities.


4. Major Ageing Debts

The ATO is closely monitoring major, ageing debts – those exceeding $100,000 and surpassing two years in age. Such substantial liabilities are now under heightened scrutiny, reflecting the tax office's commitment to addressing long-standing financial obligations that have yet to be settled.


5. Debts Resulting from Audit Actions

Debts arising from audit actions initiated by the ATO constitute another top priority. While some adjustments stem from genuine errors, others result from carelessness, recklessness or deliberate attempts to evade tax payments. Taxpayers falling into this category will receive no concessions, as the ATO maintains elevated expectations for the timely settlement of raised liabilities.


The renewed focus emphasises the importance of adopting a standard payment culture in the post-COVID era. As the ATO transitions away from the leniency offered during the pandemic, businesses are strongly urged to prioritise punctual tax payments and compliance.


If you have any concerns about the impact of the ATO’s activities or have concerns about your levels of business debt, please contact Collins Hume in Ballina on Byron Bay on 02 6686 3000.

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