The Australian Taxpayers Alliance, the nation’s largest grassroots advocacy group representing taxpayers, today asked policymakers to reassess the ATO’s garnishee powers in light of yet another mistake. Many taxpayers were issued letters, due to an IT error, asking them to pay interest on outstanding debts within two weeks.
“Australian taxpayers should not have to fear the ATO will garnish their wages or charge them nearly 9 per cent interest, every time the ATO unilaterally decides they owe money,” said ATA Policy Director, Emilie Dye. “We need better systems for protecting taxpayers because as it turns out, the ATO is often wrong.”
“The media shouldn’t focus merely on the fact that the ATO was wrong, that happens so often it is hardly a remarkable story, but on the fact that these letters only gave taxpayers two weeks to pay debts some of which were upwards of $1000. While some may be able to hand over $1000 at the drop of a hat, many Australians would be left selling their furniture, their dog, and anything else not nailed down.
“Two weeks barely gives Aussies enough time to meet with their accountant, let alone to build a case to dispute the debt. The ATO has instituted the ideal system for raising revenue, much like a guy holding a molotov cocktail and selling fire insurance.
“When the ATO makes a mistake, they don’t have to pay interest on their debt or fines to the people they cheated. The ATO needs to start treating taxpayers as innocent until proven guilty of tax fraud.
“In Australia, you run the risk of the ATO garnishing your wages because an elderly computer charged you interest on a debt you didn’t owe. Not only is this unethical, but it is bad for business and it is bad for the economy.”