Rising taxes has left the ATO chasing nearly $18bn in unrecovered debt – more than 60% of which is owed by small businesses.
According to the Tax Office’s annual report, tax debt jumped 6.5% in the last financial year, reaching $17.7bn.
The government has placed 900 ATO jobs on the chopping block as part of sweeping cuts to the public service sector, citing the abolition of mining and carbon taxes as one reason for the cuts.
The ATO acknowledges that because most of the debt is owed by small-business taxpayers, “capacity and willingness to pay continue to make managing tax and superannuation debt challenging”.
Net tax collection increased 3.6% in the last financial year, to a total of $311.7bn.
The ATO said in the year to June 30 it determined debts worth $4.6 billion to be “either irrecoverable at law or uneconomical to pursue”.
Debts irrecoverable at law – as a result of bankruptcy or company wind-up – were $1.8 billion. The proportion of total collectable debt from two years or more rose to 17.8 per cent last June 30, from 16.1 per cent a year earlier.