On the road: ATO black economy crackdown starts in NT and is heading east and south

The ATO is expected to visit around 10,000 small businesses in the 2019-20 financial year in a wide-ranging crackdown on black economy activities.

Already ATO officers are on the road and heading to the Northern Territory over June as part of a nationwide crackdown on the black economy. Up to 200 small businesses in Katherine, Batchelor, Bees Creek, Adelaide River and Pine Creek can expect a visit from the ATO.

Queensland and Victoria are also pencilled in to be visited by the ATO’s “mobile strike team” officers. Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said that the ATO is visiting businesses in these areas because they have identified indicators of risk. “We’re particularly concerned about businesses in these locations who are not registered for pay as you go (PAYG) withholding or GST. Local visits provide us an opportunity to talk to business owners and help them get things right.”

“Businesses who pay cash in hand, or fail to lodge income tax returns or business activity statements, get an unfair advantage and make it harder for other businesses who are doing the right thing,” he says. “By detecting and addressing this behaviour, we’re helping to ensure a level playing field for honest small businesses in the NT.”

In the Sunshine Coast region, the focus will be on particular industries. Around Maroochydore, for example, the focus is to be on:

  • cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services
  • building, pest control, agricultural and gardening services
  • personal care services
  • legal and accounting services

The ATO has previously visited businesses in Cairns, Broadbeach, Caloundra and Sunnybank and will expand the program in 2019-20 financial year.

The ATO will visit up to 700 small businesses in Dandenong and up to 500 businesses in Richmond from late May to early June.

Industries in focus in Dandenong include:

  • building, pest control and gardening services
  • transport support services
  • automotive repair and maintenance
  • postal and courier pick-up and delivery services.

Industries in focus in Richmond include:

  • cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services
  • computer system design and related services
  • other personal services
  • architectural, engineering and technical services.

As part of the visits, the ATO will also be visiting tax practitioners of small businesses in these areas as part of its early intervention strategy. It says these visits will help it better understand the drivers behind tax agent behaviour and provide education and support to encourage willing participation of their clients in the tax and super systems.

Prior to the visits, local businesses and tax professionals are invited to attend a one-hour information session that will explain the purpose of the visits, what to expect if visited, and how to avoid common mistakes. For times and locations of upcoming information sessions, see this ATO web page.

The ATO also has a hotline to allow small business operators to report others that may be doing the wrong thing. Reports can be made anonymously. The hotline number is 1800 060 062. Reports can also be made online at ato.gov.au/reportaconcern

Tax & Super Australia’s podcast Tax Wrap spoke with the ATO’s Assistant Commissioner, Black Economy Program, Peter Holt, about actions being taken to tackle the black economy, the noticeable trends being uncovered by these actions, and what the future holds. Listen to our podcast below.

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