12 December 2005

Labor Seven Months Behind on ATO Small Business Debt Report

Labor's Revenue Spokesman must have been asleep when the Inspector-General of Taxation released his report into the ATO's Small Business Debt Collection Practices, Federal Assistant Treasurer Mal Brough said today.

Responding to a Labor media release calling for a review of the ATO's handling of small business debt, Mr Brough said the Inspector-General had completed such a report in April - and it was publicly released in May. It was well covered in the media at the time.

The Inspector-General found, contrary to media reports, there was no evidence of the ATO systematically being unnecessarily harsh with, or too quick to take legal action against, small business tax debtors.

Moreover, the Inspector-General noted there was a broadly held view that the ATO was lenient in its approach to collecting debt from the small business sector and it gave viable small business debtors adequate opportunity to continue to trade out of their tax debts.

Mr Brough's media release - dated 24 May 2005 - can be found on the Treasury Ministers website.

"Far from being unfair on small business compared to other taxpayers, the IG's report suggested the ATO should be more rigorous in pursuing small business debt," Mr Brough said

"Normally I let silly comments like this go through to the keeper, but not even seasonal goodwill can extend to such a clear oversight by the Shadow spokesman.

"The release by Joel Fitzgibbon today was nothing more than cheap political opportunism, however it has backfired because it has shown, yet again, that the Shadow spokesman is not on top of key issues in his portfolio."