AROUND 80 Bathurst businesses are at risk of falling foul of the taxman following a high-profile swoop of the region last month.
Australian Taxation Office staff visited around 350 Bathurst businesses in a campaign labelled "heavy-handed" by the local business community.
Bathurst was selected for the visits following tip-offs regarding businesses suspected of not meeting their tax obligations, not paying full entitlements to staff and paying staff in cash, and also an ATO assessment of business owners whose lifestyles did not match their tax returns.
While in town the ATO also ran two tax seminars for Bathurst business and tax agents which attracted an "exceptional turnout", according to Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt.
Mr Holt said the number of potential breaches identified during the ATO visits had justified the focus on Bathurst.
"We had identified Bathurst based on some of our own risk indicators and also tip-offs from the area which suggested which particular businesses we could visit," he said.
"Since July we've received 47 tip-offs about businesses in the Bathurst postcode which may not sound like a lot out of 20,000 tip-offs across the country, but when you look at the population of Bathurst it's enough for us to go and have a look."
Mr Holt said high-risk industries targeted during the Bathurst visits included cafes, restaurants and takeaways; hair, beauty and personal services; building and construction; and retail.
"From the visits over 20 per cent of the businesses have been recommended for further profiling action," Mr Holt said.
"That means our staff have identified that there's something more that needs to be followed up which may result in further assistance for the business or result in an audit where we would work with the business' tax agent or nominated person."
One of the cases uncovered in Bathurst involved a restaurant owner who was not reconciling his takings daily.
The restaurant owner showed ATO staff his till tapes and they could see the cash amounts were blank even though he had an amount of cash attached to the tapes.
"We explained he had to reconcile the cash he took to his daily takings," Mr Holt said.
"We provided him with a copy of a simplified reconciliation sheet and explained to him how to complete it.
"After the meeting, we sent him an electronic copy of this reconciliation sheet by email. We also showed him the ATO App and My Deductions."
Mr Holt said the Bathurst visits also uncovered further tip-offs about businesses - both here and further afield - suspected of doing the wrong thing.
ALSO MAKING NEWS:
He said honest business owners were keen to inform the ATO about competitors they believed were getting an unfair - and illegal - advantage.
"On at least three occasions we were provided with tip-offs to other businesses who were involved in black economy behaviour," he said.
"There was the tip-off about a convenience store based in inner-western Sydney that was selling illegal tobacco, a restaurant who provided information about an immigration issue for employees and a barber/hairdresser who identified other businesses who they felt needed to be investigated further."
The ATO has also done recent targeted swoops on businesses in Hobart and Darwin, and are about to go to Croydon and Frankston (Victoria) and Bega on the NSW south coast.
No personal tax return since 1996
A BATHURST business owner who worked alone and never recorded his takings was just one of the alarming cases uncovered by Australian Taxation Office staff during a swoop on the city last month.
And at another business, ATO staff found a Bathurst manager who had not lodged a personal tax return since 1996.
These were among the cases that Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt believes justified the high-profile swoop on Bathurst that was labelled "heavy-handed" by the local business community.
Mr Holt said one Bathurst business owner told ATO staff that he worked alone and was not aware he was required to keep track of the money coming into the business.
"He felt because he was a small business and he was the only employee he was not required to do so," Mr Holt said.
"We provided information on the records he was required to keep, offered to send him by email a simplified reconciliation sheet and directed him to the education session being held at the Bathurst RSL Club later in the month.
"[And] during a visit to a retail shop, the owner was not in attendance, so we spoke to the business manager.
"The manager provided his full name and upon return to the office, our records showed that the manager was not reported as an employee of the business and in fact had not lodged a personal tax return since 1996.
"Employee obligations were not being met and superannuation was also never paid."
However, Mr Holt stressed that most Bathurst business owners were doing the right thing and said that many welcomed the visits from the ATO officers.
"The businesses who are doing the right are happy to see us because they are trying to compete on a level playing field," he said.
Breakdown by industry type for the ATO's visits in Bathurst:
- Cafes, restaurants and takeaway: 20 per cent.
- Hair and beauty, personal services: 20 per cent.
- Clothing and footwear: 8.5 per cent.
- Pharmaceutical and all other retail: 34 per cent.
- Construction services: 7.5 per cent.
- Other: 10 per cent.