ATO targets black economy in WA

Cleaning sector among industries most likely to be targeted.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is planning to visit around 700 small businesses, including cleaning firms, in Broome, Cable Beach, Derby and Kununurra, Western Australia in August.

The visit is part of the agency’s work to tackle the black economy and protect businesses from those doing the wrong thing. Cleaning businesses are among the industries that are most likely to be visited by the ATO. Other industries include:

  • Residential building construction
  • Building completion and installation services
  • Other construction services
  • Building cleaning, pest control, and gardening services
  • Accommodation
  • Automotive repair and maintenance
  • Cafes, restaurants, and takeaway food services
  • Personal care services

Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said the visits are about ensuring a level playing field and curbing unfair competition.

“We’re particularly concerned about businesses in certain industries gaining an unfair edge over their honest competitors, so some industries are more likely than others to get a visit from us,” Holt said.

The ATO is visiting these towns as a result of some tell-tale signs of black economy behaviour.

“Black economy signs that we look out for are things like not being registered for GST or pay as you go withholding, lifestyle and assets far exceeding reported business income, or a lack of merchant payment facilities like EFTPOS,” Holt said.

“We understand that some businesses may not have merchant payment facilities due to individual circumstances. The issue is when businesses are deliberately ‘cash only’ to avoid reporting all their income. By detecting and addressing this behaviour, we’re helping to keep things fair for honest small businesses.”

“Another reason we’re heading to Broome, Cable Beach, Derby and Kununurra is because we’ve received intelligence from the community that some businesses aren’t playing by the rules, such as paying their workers cash in hand and keeping them off the books,” Holt said.

The Black Economy Taskforce estimates that the black economy is costing the community as much as $50 billion – approximately 3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“This is money that the community is missing out on for vital public services like schools, welfare, roads, healthcare, and infrastructure.”

Holt added that local visits provide the ATO with an opportunity to talk to business owners and help them get things right.

“During the visits, we may discuss record keeping and payment facilities, outstanding lodgments, tax debts, and managing employee entitlements such as superannuation,” he said.

The visits are part of the ATO’s strategy to deal with the black economy. Nearly 9000 businesses were visited in 2018–19 financial year in all states and territories, across a variety of industries.

As part of the visits, ATO officers will be providing information about recent changes, such as Single Touch Payroll and the extension of the Taxable Payments Reporting System to certain industries.

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