THE AUSTRALIAN Taxation Office Commissioner, Chris Jordan, has responded to the Inspector General of Taxation’s Review into the ATO’s use of garnishee notices.
In an official statement, Mr Jordan said: "Today I welcome the Inspector-General of Taxation’s release of their review into our use of garnishee notices in recovering debt. After this detailed review, spanning several months and resulting in a report of almost 200 pages, I am pleased to see that the independent external scrutineer of the ATO has made it crystal clear that there were no revenue targets for our debt staff at any time, and no ‘cash grab’.
"All of us in the ATO will continue to work with Australian businesspeople and their tax advisors to help them meet their obligations and support viable businesses to thrive. That is our focus and it always will be.
"It is pleasing to see that the Inspector-General found absolutely no evidence of a culture of antagonism against small businesses or any other type of taxpayer. In their review they found professional, hard-working people following our processes and attempting to do their often difficult job as well as possible.
"These findings are in stark contrast to the picture painted by ABC’s Four Corners program in April 2018 which would have its viewers believe that our staff were rushing to issue garnishee notices without proper thought or process, to meet a target.
"The ATO has always had strict guidelines and processes in place for the use of garnishee notices in the management of debt matters. We are legally required to collect money owed to the Commonwealth and we discharge this duty with care.
"As the Inspector-General noted, our staff use garnishee powers appropriately and infrequently – only when other debt collection activities have been unsuccessful, and the taxpayer has not engaged with us to find a resolution.
"I acknowledge that the Inspector-General’s report identifies some training requirements and experience shortfalls in one of our offices that may have led to some confusion over a brief period. The report also notes this was identified and rectified by our internal review systems, long before any external airing of concerns, with further training and support provided where it was needed.
"I welcome and accept all of the Inspector-General’s recommendations in relation to our internal communication, training procedures and contingency planning."