I have just come off the phone from yet another frustrating phone call with the Australian Taxation Office. I can get over the fact that I have to wait an excessive amount of time every time I call, but what I can’t get over is the lack of respect and understanding shown to Australian small businesses by the random ATO phone operator I speak to every time about my business.
Like most small businesses times are tough. For me in particular my business has been greatly affected over the last 12 months by a whole range of factors which have restricted my cashflow. Many of our clients are Queensland based, when the floods hit this caused a large dent in some of our regular work from there, not to mention the open invoices they have struggled to pay (and no, I don’t dare hassle them for it either). We have had clients not pay very large invoices resulting in an extremely costly – in time and money – court case which we won. But although the original invoice was covered, only a small percentage of the exhorbitant legal fees were rewarded to us. And to top it all off we had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting face-to-face with an assuming “business” con man who also managed to rip us off in the sum of thousands of dollars. Add to that global economic uncertainty, yo-yo’ing interest rates and a general trend in the corporate world to reduce costs thus affecting local outsourced services, then anyone still in business and keeping their head above water should be rightly proud.
They should also have the support of the Australian Government and in particular the people we all love to hate, the Australian Taxation Office. Regardless of all the woes my business and yours may be suffering, we still manage to employ Australian’s, pay them regularly, keep work in Australia and add our sizeable chunk to the economy. Threats of shutting down a business which has been operating for over ten years are unneccesary and just add to the stress most business owners are under.
GST; we all either love it or hate it but we all face facts and deal with it as a part of our every day business life. In my business I keep a GST account to store the governments money until they come calling every quarter to take it back. Occassionally due to unforeseen circumstances I have to dip into this account to keep staff and debtors happy, I am sure this sounds familiar with many of you. This incurs a shortfall with the ATO and arrangements are then entered into. The golden rule is never stop talking to the ATO, keep them informed of your situation and more importantly pay them regulalry, even if it is just a small amount, keep passing them cash to show you are a good citizen and good business owner. There is no getting away from tax debt but there does need to be leniency from the ATO, especially for small business.
If I had one suggestion for the faceless men and women of the tax department it would be to form a team specialising in small/medium business tax assistance. Let us, after holding for at least an hour, talk to someone who is familiar with each of our own individual business history. Yes I can imagine the logistics of this as being “quite hard” but unlucky, life and business is hard, we deal with it, so can you. Get some compassion ATO and support small business, we are generating wealth for the country too!
Not happy Jan, can you tell?