As we move into 2024, the ATO has highlighted three areas of focus for businesses: taking steps to address cyber security and increased protection of personal data, addressing the growth in the collectable debt book – particularly for small businesses – and improving overall tax performance.
With increased cyber-crimes, scams and hacks occurring in Australia in recent times, like any other large organisation the ATO has taken additional steps to address cyber security and increase protection of personal data to deal with an unprecedented rise in identity-related fraud attempts. For all businesses, the ATO has introduced “client-to-agent linking”, which requires all entities with ABNs (excluding sole traders) to digitally nominate their agent through ATO’s secure online services before the agent can access any data. This will cover approximately 4.7 million businesses.
For all individuals interacting with the tax system, the ATO encourages the use of myGovID. This coincides with the government announcing a tightening of the way in which individuals access their myGov account. Individuals who use their myGovID to access the ATO’s services will need to use that myGovID for future logins from now on. In other words, it will not be possible to access an ATO account without it.
In 2024, the ATO will also be seeking to address the growth in the collectable debt book. Currently, the collectable component of debt sits at about $50 billion and consists of mostly self-assessed debt, with small businesses owing 67% of this. According to the ATO, its more lenient approach during the height of the pandemic, under which it chased fewer lodgments and recovered less debt, has now led to a concerning behavioural pattern from some businesses where they deprioritise paying tax and super and increasingly rely on unpaid tax and super to prop up cashflow.
One of the ways the ATO is seeking to level the playing field on uncooperative businesses is the reporting of debt information to credit reporting bureaus. Since 1 July 2023, it has disclosed the debts of more than 10,500 businesses that have significantly overdue undisputed tax debts of at least $100,000.
The takeaway message for businesses, especially small businesses, for this year is to be proactive and engaged with the ATO in terms of any unpaid tax or super debts and keeping data secure.