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Source: Australian Department of Revenue

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) today revealed that it plans to visit around 800 small businesses in and around the Melbourne suburbs of Frankston and Croydon in the coming weeks as it acts on intelligence about suspected black economy behaviour like not reporting sales.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said the visits are designed to protect honest businesses from unfair competition a result of black economy activity.

In and around Frankston – the gateway to the Mornington Peninsula – the ATO plans to focus on food businesses like cafés, take away establishments, and restaurants in addition to professional services businesses like real estate firms, management consultants, and accountants. The visits will all take place in November.

In Croydon and nearby Eastern suburbs, ATO officers will be more likely to visit hairdressers and beauty services, cleaning businesses, management consultants and financial advisers, and take away food businesses. The visits will start in November and wrap up in early December.

“In both locations, there are significant numbers of businesses with overdue income tax returns and business activity statements. We’re also aware that some employers in these parts of Melbourne may not be complying with their obligations like withholding tax or paying their superannuation entitlements. These are all black economy warning signs for us,” Mr Holt said.

The ATO has also received intelligence from other regulators like the Fair Work Ombudsman and tip offs from locals that suggests the black economy is active in these suburbs.

“We owe it to the honest businesses and workers in these suburbs to investigate and keep things fair. It’s simply not on that some businesses are getting a free kick and an unfair advantage over their honest competitors,” Mr Holt said.

Tip offs received have included allegations about businesses in and around Frankston and Croydon demanding cash from customers and paying workers cash in hand.

“Trading in cash and paying your workers in cash is legal, but it’s illegal when it’s off the books,” Mr Holt said.

Businesses who are not declaring income, not complying with their tax and super obligations or underpaying workers are contributing to the black economy. The Black Economy Taskforce estimates that the black economy is costing the community as much as $50 billion, which is approximately three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is money that the community is missing out on for vital public services like welfare, roads, infrastructure projects, and education.

“Visits should only take about thirty minutes and we may discuss record-keeping and payment facilities, outstanding lodgments, tax debts, and managing employee entitlements such as superannuation,” Mr Holt said.

The visits are part of the ATO’s strategy to deal with the black economy. The ATO plans to visit around 10,000 businesses this financial year in all states and territories, across a variety of industries. As part of the visits, ATO officers will also be providing information about recent changes, such as Single Touch Payroll and the extension of the Taxable Payments Reporting System to certain industries.

“As part of our business visits, we attempt to notify businesses about our visits before we arrive, for example, by phone, SMS, email or letter. This includes an invitation to come to an information session to find out more.”

The ATO will also be running information sessions about Single Touch Payroll in both locations.

Officers will carry identification. This is a hard plastic card with the coat of arms, the name of the officer and their photograph, and an expiry date. There is also an Australian Government watermark on the card itself.

The ATO will also be visiting tax practitioners of small businesses in these areas as part of our early intervention strategy. These visits will enable us to better understand the drivers behind agent behaviour, and provide education and support to encourage willing participation of their clients in our tax and super systems.

To find out more or to register for an information session, visit ato.gov.au/protectinghonestbusiness.

Registration for the information sessions is essential.

Information sessions

Frankston

Tuesday 12 November 2019, Functions by the Bay, Young Street and Plowman Place

Business visits information sessions

9.30am – 10.30am AEDT and 2.00pm – 3.00pm AEDT

Single Touch Payroll information session

11.00am – 12.30pm AEDT

Croydon

Wednesday 13 November 2019, Dorset Gardens Hotel, 335 Dorset Road.

Business visits information sessions

9.30am – 10.30am AEDT and 5.30pm – 6.30pm AEDT

Single Touch Payroll information session

10.45am – 12.15pm AEDT

Note to journalists

Audio of Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt discussing the business visits is available in our media centre.

A high resolution headshot of Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt (JPEG, 8.3MB) is available for download from our media centre.

Last modified: 06 Nov 2019QC 60542

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