A report on the ATO’s use of garnishee notices, following serious accusations of “cash grabs” and improper staff incentives, has released its findings.
A current and former ATO officer alleged last year that the ATO gave directions to staff to issue garnishee notices in every case as a “cash grab” towards the end of the 2017 financial year.
It was also alleged that the ATO set targets for staff, and assessed their performance, on the basis of the level of debt collected.
The acting Inspector General of Taxation (IGOT) and Taxation Ombudsman Andrew McLoughlin found “localised” issues at the ATO’s Adelaide office.
“Those problems were anticipated and addressed by management once they became aware,” Mr McLoughlin said.
“The allegations that there was an ATO direction for a ‘cash grab’ on small business, or that debt staff personal performance were set on amounts collected, are not sustained,” he said.
In the 2016–17 financial year, the ATO issued about 40 per cent less garnishee notices than its projected 40,289. ATO staff issued enduring garnishee notices in 8 per cent of cases.
However, the report is clear that ATO staff were not appropriately exercising power in all occasions.
“There were certainly small business people who were disaffected as a result of the garnishee notices being inappropriately used,” Mr McLouglin said.
“While it is a relatively small group as compared to the number of garnishee notices issued, it is very important that the system demonstrates care for disaffected taxpayers.”
Details of the probe were unveiled in May last year by the then inspector general, Ali Noroozi.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.