We are here to support and work with you to meet your tax obligations. We understand your circumstances may be difficult and we will consider another payment plan offer. You can:
• Increase your offer
• Make a significant upfront payment and offer the balance by instalments.
One wonders if the ATO even read the information provided as if they had it would have been clear that Mary was simply unable to offer more at this stage.
Being very disappointed with this response I contacted the ATO to discuss the matter. I was told that unless Mary could increase her payments or pay a lump sum towards the debt they would obtain judgment and move to bankruptcy. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and spent the next twenty minutes pointing out that Mary had little in the way of assets and wanted to honour the debt however this seemed to make no difference.
It would appear the sentence in their letter that stated “We are here to support and work with you to meet your tax obligations” is merely rhetoric. It would seem the ATO would prefer to bankrupt a member of the community rather than help. How can this possibility be in anyone’s interests including their own? This attitude defies commence sense.
I note that when Mr Joe Hockey was appointed Treasurer he commented how he was going to look at the ATO and make sure they adopted a more human approach to people in financial hardship. While I acknowledge change comes slowly with government bodies it would appear there has been little progress in this area.
I’m confident Mary’s story is far from an isolated event and this belligerent attitude has been displayed by the ATO many times before. Such an unwillingness to help people like Mary who are suffering genuine financial hardship is a misguidance of power, uncommercial and quite frankly unnecessary.
The ATO needs to understand that are people at the end of these decisions and moving to bankruptcy when there are better options available has the potential to ruin lives, destroy families and place even more burden on an already strained social welfare system.
This story is not designed as a “beat up” on the ATO but does go to highlight what appears to be a systemic issue that needs to be addressed.