ATO says it is committed to mental health support for small business
The ATO understands that the pressure of meeting tax and super obligations can contribute to mental health issues for small business owners and offers a range of support to businesses who are struggling.
The ATO is committed to working with the government and community organisation to address mental health hardships for small business owners, deputy commissioner Deborah Jenkins said on the sidelines of the Small Business Mental Health roundtable held at Parliament House.
"More and more small businesses are telling us that they are under stress. We understand that long hours, cash flow pressures, endless paperwork, staff issues and the blurring boundaries between work and family life can take a toll on mental health," Ms Jenkins said.
She acknowledged that the ATO is working together with organisations such as Beyond Blue, ASBFEO, small businesses and their associations as well as tax practitioners to develop initiatives to better support small business owners with their tax and super obligations when they are experiencing mental health issues.
"We have rolled out training for all of our frontline staff to assist them to better understand mental health issues and show empathy for taxpayers who are struggling. Nearly 6,000 staff have already undertaken the training.
"We also offer a range of services aimed at helping businesses stay on track," Ms Jenkins said.
She noted that the ATO understands that managing debt can be a big contributor of stress for small businesses, and has been making it easier for small businesses to negotiate and enter into payment plans if they need them.
"In 2017-18, we negotiated 790,000 payment plans with small businesses," Ms Jenkins said.
"Payment plans allow small businesses to manage their tax debts and take the pressure off when other bills are due. But our primary focus in 2019 will be on early engagement and support before debts are due."
The ATO has a small business live chat service and an after-hours call back service available from Monday to Thursday.