Well, kind of, alledgedly, maybe, or just getting a bit of a checkup.
Look, in a lot of ways the ATO is the misunderstood bully of a school. They first became tough in the name to protect their littler buddies. But then, with great power comes...yeah you know! Especially when you have a team of players acting on your behalf who might not be versed well enough on their roles and responsibilities.
Jotham Lian from Momentum Media reported in Accountants Daily in May that "IGT Ali Noroozi said he would be undertaking a review of the ATO’s debt recovery actions, following allegations made during an ABC Four Corners program. "
The main situation is: "The terms of reference for the investigation will include a focus on the ATO’s strategies to manage tax debts by way of garnishee notices; policies and procedures for issuing garnishee notices, including how the ATO considers circumstances of taxpayers such as vulnerable small businesses and individuals; and mechanisms to ensure staff adherence to its garnishee notice policies and procedures. "
What's a garnishee notice? If you don't know - good job! You are financially stable and on top of your ATO communications!
In short, this is when you don't pay a tax (Income or BAS etc etc) and the ATO sends a letter or two saying last chance. No response, they can legally stick their hands into your bank account and take out funds determined to be an acceptable % of what you have vs what you know and your personal circumstances.
We know someone who recently had this happen to them because they thought they'd set up a payment plan and their mail was going to an old accountants address and not being forwarded. $32,000 later, their attention was caught. And those funds are gone (yes towards a debt they had, but paid all in one go instead of how they had budgeted) - very very hard to get those kind of funds back. Sigh.
So - stay on top of communicating with the ATO!! You can setup weekly, fortnight, monthly payment plans! Just call them, and communicate. Then get a reference number for that communication. If you see the ATO as the big bad wolf, let us know - we can call on your behalf - no worries. Have a look at these screenshots - these are from our Director and Registered BAS Agent's phone. We are very familiar with talking to the ATO on behalf of clients, and get it - no one wants to make this call on behalf of their own company, especially if they don't know if they are walking into a call that will be seconds or an hour. Who has time for that? Someone who doesn't want to have their wallet emptied suddenly and swiftly I suppose....
Mr Noroozi from the IGT phrased it just right: “The ATO has the vital task of collecting government revenue and recovery of tax debt is an important part of that task, however, it must be done equitably, taking into account the particular circumstances of each taxpayer whilst ensuring a level playing field is maintained."