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Government bureaucracies a ‘law unto themselves’

Law, scales of justice, blind

A number of SME owners have lashed out at the ATO and other government agencies for bending the rules to suit themselves, and a system that lacks the oversight to stop them from doing so.

Following testimony by Ken Phillips, executive director of Self-Employed Australia and himself a business owner, to a Senate committee — in which he called the tax office “dictatorial” and not “behaving according to the normal principles of justice” — a number of My Business readers lashed out at the ATO, and highlighted other government agencies which they claimed act in a similar manner.

“The ATO has had absolute power and absolute power will corrupt absolutely. As for the cost of justice, many SME's do not challenge rulings due to the very high costs involved. SME's need protection from the ATO in its current form,” said one.


“Mr Phillip[s] is right on the money with regards to what is currently wrong with the powers given to the ATO. Where is the justice in this? A re-balance is absolutely necessary for taxpayers' sake,” wrote another.

A third reader claimed they had a similar experience of “judge, jury, hangman” at the hands of Workers Compensation:

“My company was audited for compliance with Workers compensation insurance and after a lengthy audit, and considerable time and expense to my company I was found to have actually overpaid the Workers compensation over the past few years. However because my estimate was outside their yearly guidelines they were intending to fine me...even though I had overpaid the insurance,” said the reader.

“These bureaucracies become a law unto themselves.”

And yet another reader suggested that a similar move to introduce better oversight and a breakup of Centrelink would deliver better outcomes for taxpayers.

Not everyone agreed, however, with one reader defending the ATO and its actions:



“As a representative of an association working intensely with the ATO on the administration of the system and as required the resolution of issues that arise, I do not agree with the sentiment expressed about the attitude and behaviour of the ATO. Do they make mistakes? Yes. [But] in our experience the ATO is responsive.”

What has been your experience dealing with the ATO and other government bodies? Have you been forced through the appeals process because of a questionable decision? Share your thoughts below or email us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016. 

The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Email Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Government bureaucracies a ‘law unto themselves’
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