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Small business ombudsman makes moves with tax disputes

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has opened avenues for small businesses to air out their tax disputes.

Small business ombudsman makes moves with tax disputes
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Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the new survey is focused on understanding the nature and incidence of small business disputes in Australia, and the reasons why a dispute is, or isn’t, pursued.

In addition, it will identify actions taken by small businesses to resolve disputes and patterns, trends and awareness of services available.

Ms Carnell said she wanted to know what steps small business owners took to resolve unfair contract terms or late invoice payments.

Further, she said she was also keen to hear from business owners who might have been involved in these types of disputes but didn’t pursue any avenues to try to resolve them.

“Even if your dispute occurred as long ago as five years, we still want to hear from you and learn from your experience,” Ms Carnell said.

“Chasing disputes is expensive and time consuming, so anything we can do to improve access to justice for small businesses is extremely important.”

Last week, the Australian Taxation Office extended its independent review facility for large businesses to small businesses, which was also backed by Ms Carnell.

“We will watch to see whether it provides for informal discussion of issues in a way that avoids formal legal routes,” she said.

“We encourage the ATO as part of the project to let small businesses know that there are a range of other people who can help with their tax issues, such as the Inspector General of Taxation and our office. This is critical when things don’t go well.

“You need to remember that when small business does its tax, it is highly reliant on trusted advisers, mostly accountants. Getting a call from the ATO saying that there’s a problem is a big shock and extremely stressful.”

The ASBFEO dispute survey is open until 30 June 2018. Once complete, Ms Carnell noted a discussion paper will be released to summarise the research and propose policy options.

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