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ATO flags small business tax debt, SG as key focus areas for FY23–24

26 October 2023
ato flags small business tax debt sg as key focus areas for fy 23 24

Addressing collectable debt and improving small business tax performance continue to be critical focus areas, the ATO warns in its annual report.

The Tax Office has outlined that addressing collectable debt, improving small business tax performance and strengthening superannuation guarantee (SG) will be important focus areas in the ATO’s strategy for the remainder of the 2023–24 financial year.

In its annual report for 2022–23, the Tax Office noted that small business collectable debt reached $50.2 billion at 30 June 2023, an 89 per cent increase from 30 June 2019.

“It’s our responsibility to ensure a level playing field as we support businesses who are doing the right thing and paying on time,” Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan stated in the report.


Mr Jordan said the ATO has already taken strong and deliberate action against those unwilling to work with the Tax Office as it increases its activities across debt collection.

While small business currently has the largest proportion of the collectable debt book, Mr Jordan said the ATO remains focused on non or late payment in every payment group in the tax system.

“We want to encourage a culture of paying tax on time and in full,” he said.

In its annual report, the ATO said it informed clients of their obligations and the actions the regulator may take if they chose not to engage with the Tax Office.

“Clients who chose to not engage with us were subject to firmer and stronger action, to help mitigate the growth in collectable debt,” the report said.

The awareness campaigns and firmer action warning notices were followed by 17,901 director penalty notices, 867 disclosures of business tax debts made to credit reporting agencies, 2,934 garnishees and legal recovery action.

“We intentionally prioritised the recovery of super guarantee debts, high-risk debts and other high-value debt cases, and fraud-related debts such as those raised through Operation Protego,” the Tax Office said.

The ATO also sought to increase system participation by small businesses during the 2022–23 year by encouraging them to opt in to services with an integrated digital ecosystem to meet their tax, superannuation and registry obligations as seamlessly as possible.

“We piloted this model in collaboration with small businesses, tax professionals and digital service providers,” it said.

“The aim was to drive improved tax performance, support better cashflow management and reduce the likelihood of getting into tax debt.”

The ATO also expanded the use of Single Touch Payroll data in order to try and simplify employer reporting obligations and proactively address super guarantee non-compliance.

The ATO said it is building on its use of STP by matching data from superannuation funds with the amounts reported by employers through STP for each employee-employer relationship.

“While we already use these data sets in existing compliance activities,” it said.

The ATO said this new approach will:

- Improve its ability to identify a range of behaviours that drive non-compliance.

- Support it to tailor its interventions for the different behaviours we see, including late payment, underpayment, and non-payment of super guarantee.

“This work will continue in 2023–24, to enable earlier intervention by the ATO with employers that are not meeting their obligations,” the regulator said.

“Our focus on expanding the use of data to improve super guarantee integrity in general will also continue in 2023–24.”

About the author

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Miranda Brownlee is the news editor of Accounting Times, an online publication delivering analysis and insight to Australian accounting professionals. She was previously the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser and has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily. You can email Miranda on: [email protected]


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