The tax office has expressed a commitment to addressing the impact that tax and super obligations can have on the mental health of business operators, and noted the number of payment plans already agreed with SMEs.
Following the Small Business Mental Health roundtable, chaired by Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Michaelia Cash, deputy ATO commissioner Deborah Jenkins said that the agency will work with both government and community organisations to address the issue.
“More and more small businesses are telling us that they are under stress,” she said in a statement.
“We understand that long hours, cash flow pressures, endless paperwork, staff issues and the blurring boundaries between work and family life can take a toll on mental health.
“That’s why we are working together with organisations such as beyondblue, ASBFEO, small businesses and their associations as well as tax practitioners to develop initiatives to better support small business owners with their tax and super obligations when they are experiencing mental health issues.”
According to Ms Jenkins, these initiatives include:
- Training for almost 6,000 frontline staff to identify and empathise with taxpayers who may be struggling.
- A range of services to assist businesses “stay on track”.
- Improving the ability for businesses to negotiate and establish payment plans for tax liabilities.
On the latter point, the ATO said that 790,000 payment plans were negotiated with small businesses in the 2017–18 financial year alone.
“Payment plans allow small businesses to manage their tax debts and take the pressure off when other bills are due,” Ms Jenkins said.
“But our primary focus in 2019 will be on early engagement and support before debts are due.”
The ATO has a small business live chat service and an after-hours callback service available from Monday to Thursday, as well as a dedicated information portal for business operators experiencing mental health issues.
If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, or you’re worried about someone else and feel that urgent professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or one of the 24/7 crisis agencies below:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
beyondblue: 1300 22 4636
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.