Last month, the ATO released statistics showing small business is responsible for 12.5% ($11.1 billion) of the total estimated ‘tax gap’.

The tax gap estimates the difference between the tax collected and the amount that would have been collected if everyone was fully compliant with the law.

The ATO Deputy Commissioner Deborah Jenkins says that some small businesses are making mistakes with their tax, but acknowledges these are often unintentional errors which are easily fixed.

To combat these errors, the ATO have ramped up their ‘visits’ to small businesses to monitor compliance, and educate business operators on compliance expectations with the goal of reducing the black economy (estimated to be 64% of the total small business tax gap). The ATO plans to visit almost 10,000 businesses this financial year.

If the ATO turn up at your business, they will be checking things like:

  • How you are recording your sales, and checking the records for the past day or so
  • Payroll records – to ensure that staff are ‘on the books’ and superannuation entitlements are being met.

If something does not look right in an initial assessment, it’s likely the ATO will expand their enquiries to other elements of the business.

The ATO states that the three main drivers of the small business income tax gap are:

  • Not declaring all income
  • Failing to account for the private use of business assets or funds, and
  • Not sufficiently understanding tax obligations.

The small business tax gap estimate is based on a sample of 1,398 randomly selected businesses for the 2015-16 income year (around 0.03% of the small business population). The ATO are looking to expand that sample to 2,000 businesses. However, one of the criticisms of the tax gap analysis has been the size of the sample group, particularly given that ATO resources are allocated on a return on investment basis.

Tips to make your business ATO proof:

·   Tax reporting is up to date

·   Systems are in place to manage your business, those systems are set up correctly, and you can explain how those system work

·   Payroll records are up to date and accurate

·   You can explain and provide evidence that your invoicing or receipts system works correctly and is well maintained.

If you have any concerns regarding this increased activity by the ATO please don’t hesitate to contact us.