What is the ATO doing to assist small business?


Small business has found itself smack bang on the national agenda this year, with the federal small business portfolio upgraded to cabinet status at the last election.

Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson now sits in Treasury, and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has released a new campaign encouraging the business community to look closely at the impact of tax compliance on the national economy.

Deputy Commissioner Steve Vesperman told Dynamic Business that the ATO recognises the role that small business plays in relation to the overall health of the economy.

Vesperman pointed to a number of resources that have been created to assist small business:

  • The Small Business Assist tool allows users to type in a question and the ATO then collates a response using material that’s available on the website.
  • The new ATO app – released in January – a new version with a specific business section.
  • After-hours callback service – a service that provides assistance and support after-hours.
  • Business viability assessment tool – this is a tool that provides insight into a business’s ability to survive through an understanding of their financial performance. It helps with an understanding of profit margins, and an appreciation of the overall viability of the business.
  • YouTube videos which include advice on how to stay on top of your tax obligations, including what you need to know when you’re starting a new business, how to manage your cash flow habits, and what to do if you’re finding yourself unable to meet a tax payment. Webinars are also available on the website.

“We’re also putting in place a panel of people with small business experience, and they can register their interest to be part of this panel, which we will use as part of our ongoing participation with the small business sector,” Vesperman said.

Critically, for small businesses which find themselves struggling to meet their tax obligations, the ATO encourages people to call and discuss their situation as early as possible.

“All of these tools and our ongoing approach is for people to call us as early as possible and talk through what the problems are, and we can tailor our response accordingly,” Vesperman said.

“We recognise that every situation is different, so we like to get an understanding of what the issue is, and then look at what an appropriate response would be. Whether it’s coming to a payment arrangement or otherwise, by calling us and discussing it, they’re the sorts of things we can do. But the key is to get in touch as early as possible. The longer people leave it, the harder it is to resolve.”