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The government has released its approach to improve transparency of tax debts, in a bid to give a better picture of the credit worthiness of a business to credit providers and other potential commercial partners.
The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, has released exposure draft legislation for public consultation that will allow the ATO to disclose business tax debts to credit reporting bureaus where the businesses have not effectively engaged with the ATO to manage their debt.
The criteria for reporting tax debt information will depend if the entity has an ABN, a tax debt of which at least $10,000 is overdue by more than 90 days, and has not effectively engaged with the ATO to manage its tax debt.
The draft legislation requires the ATO to consult with the Inspector General of Taxation before tax debt amounts are reported to credit reporting bureaus.
According to Treasury, disclosing tax debt information to credit reporting bureaus will allow businesses and credit providers to make a more complete assessment of the credit worthiness of a business.
“Currently, the first time creditors may learn that a business has an overdue tax debt is after another creditor or the ATO commences legal action to recover the debt,” said Treasury.
“Tax debt information from the ATO would provide a new and significant piece of information which will improve a business’s ability to make informed decisions about the risk of extending credit or terms of trade to a business with unpaid debts.”
Ms O’Dwyer said the draft legislation would incentivise a taxpayer to prioritise their tax debt and pay them in a timely manner.
"Improving transparency by making overdue tax debts more visible will provide businesses and credit providers with a more complete assessment of the creditworthiness of a business," Ms O'Dwyer said.
"This will reduce the unfair advantage obtained by businesses that do not pay overdue tax debts, and encourage businesses to engage with the ATO to manage their tax debt."
The exposure draft legislation and explanatory materials are available on the Treasury website, and interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide their views by Friday, 9 February 2018.