4 ways to stop the ATO bullying you

4 ways to stop the ATO bullying you

Do you feel you are being bullied by the ATO?  Did you know that you can bully them back?

Want to know how? Read on.

When you get an audit letter or scary phone call from the ATO the first instinct of most people is to tell them:

  • how you know what you are doing
  • the audit is a waste of time and they should be auditing google
  • you don’t want them to bankrupt you or shut down your business
  • it’s hard enough dealing with your day to day business needs, let alone this unwelcome audit
  • you hired an accountant or a book keeper who did all of this for you, so you’ve done what you were supposed to do
If you’ve used any of these reasons, or even thought of using them, then you are on the way to a very unpleasant audit.

Once you’re picked, you’re stuck in audit territory.  Sorry, but it is just the way it is.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

1.Take advantage of the fact that you know more about your business than they do

The ATO will do some research on your business.  They will have data from your EFTPOS machine or from your bank statements or from some other source.  But they don’t have all the data.  You, however, do.

2.Be responsive

The ATO will keep a log of every time they contact you and what you say.  If you are responsive, even if to tell them what you are doing and how long it will take you to do it, it goes a long way to gaining control of the situation.  Lack of responsiveness is used as a reason to escalate their collections, issue notices and take severe positions.  Don’t let this happen to you.

3.The ATO can’t just issue notices to you demanding anything and everything

Did you know that the ATO can’t just issue you notices demanding that you do things?  The ATO will usually request information first, and you can ask them why they want it and try to negotiate what you provide.

One little known fact is you can ask them for a statement of reasons on why they have issued you a formal notice of any kind.  Just ask for it.  They have to provide one within 28 days if it is a decision that is reviewable under the ADJR Act.  If you are so inclined, you can even have the decision reviewed.  People often think the ATO is not subjected to scrutiny – it is – but not from the people you think.  It is not their complaints department, it is not the Government, and it is not from the Inspector General.  Remember, these are still all part of the Government.  It is from the good old judiciary (the Courts).

Yes, you can take them to Court and challenge why they issued you a formal notice demanding all this stuff that seems irrelevant.  When they know you know this, and that you may actually do this, you will notice that they are a lot more careful in how they will treat you.

4.Know where you stand

The people who get into the most problems are the ones who make decisions based on the wrong analysis of their strategic strengths and weaknesses.  If you know where you stand, and have a firm position, this will go a long way to keeping the situation under control.  Most of the ATO’s tactics that people consider bullying are designed to rattle you to test to see if there is something there to investigate.  When you know where you stand, it’s harder to rattle you with unexpected questions, or having 3 people turn up instead of the 1 or 2 you were expecting, or being lulled into a false sense of security where you end up accidentally confessing to things you can’t take back.

We offer a free 15 minute consultation to anyone who wants to talk about this issue.  After dealing with the ATO for so many years, and after earning a track record of success, we would be happy to share our experience.

Adam Ahmed is an Australian international tax lawyer. Adam has over a decade of experience working at 3 of the big 4 accounting firms and one of the top tax law firms in Australia. He is currently the managing director of Adam Ahmed & Co. 

4 ways to stop the ATO bullying you.