The service is available for eligible small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $10 million in relation to disputes about income tax, GST, excise, luxury car tax, wine equalisation tax and fuel tax credits.
However, disputes about employer obligations like superannuation and fringe benefits tax are not eligible for the independent review service.
The ATO’s small business independent review service is available to eligible small businesses in addition to other dispute options, for example, lodging an objection, in-house facilitation, or by taking the matter up with the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman or the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.
Since the pilot program started in 2018, more than 1,200 small businesses have been offered the service and more than 180 small businesses have taken up the ATO’s offer.
ATO deputy commissioner Jeremy Geale said the service is all about ensuring small businesses are given the opportunity to achieve an independent, fast, free and fair resolution when they disagree with the ATO’s audit position.
He also clarified that taxpayers can request in-house facilitation at any stage of a dispute with the ATO and that the independent review occurs prior to the ATO issuing an amended assessment and any resulting debt being raised.
“Independence is critical when handling a dispute, so we ensure each and every independent review is done by an officer from a different part of the ATO who was not involved in the original audit,” Mr Geale said.
“Small businesses who participated in our pilot told us they found the process to be fair and independent, irrespective of the independent review outcome, so this is a great result, and is a big part of why we are locking this service in permanently.”
The ATO’s decision to transition the pilot to a permanent offering follows recent recommendations made by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.
Small business ombudsman Bruce Billson welcomed the launch, saying it’s a substantial step in the right direction in ensuring small businesses are given a fair go.
“This ATO service marks an important contribution to a supportive environment which is needed now more than ever as small businesses recover from an incredibly tough 12 months,” Mr Billson said.
“The ATO’s small business independent review service is a crucial part of ASBFEO’s vision of a tax system that works for the small business sector so businesses can achieve greater productivity, return to profitability and grow employment.”
Businesses can learn more about the ATO’s independent review service by clicking here.