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ATO – Mongrel Bunch of Bastards – one year on

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

It is one year to the day since the Four Corners show ‘Mongrel Bunch of Bastards’ was aired. This ABC production exposed the ATO’s mistreatment of small business people. Watch the show here.  It continues to be relevant.

So, what has happened in 12 months?

Still the ATO publicly denied any problems. Then Federal Labor called for reform to the ATO’s internal procedures. This was an important step forward.

However, while still continuing to deny problems the ATO:
  • Made significant changes to key personnel.
  • Effectively implemented the ALP’s call for a new internal review processes through an ‘Independent 2nd Commissioner’.
Most importantly
  • The Morrison Government established a new Small Business Tax Tribunal which is a breakthrough for small business people. And the ATO has cooperated in the fairer structure of this new tribunal.
We’re not really that interested if the ATO wants to maintain its ‘nothing to see here folks’ approach. It can continue whatever media line it chooses. What’s important is whether there are fairer treatment processes in place for small business people. And there are—both through the Small Business Tax Tribunal and through the new ATO internal review process. But both these processes need to be tested to see if the practice matches the conceptual design.

There is more to be done. We can expect that the ATO ‘willow tree’ will bend back into shape if the ‘winds’ of media and public scrutiny stop blowing. We must work hard now to get the Small Business Tax Tribunal and other measures locked into legislation. This will take several years of effort.

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