$53 billion missing: Tax debt soars amid Covid-19

Anastasia Santoreneos
·2-min read
$53 billion missing: Tax debt soars amid Covid-19. Source: Getty
$53 billion missing: Tax debt soars amid Covid-19. Source: Getty

Australians owe the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) around $53 billion, according to its latest 2019-20 financial report. That’s an increase of nearly $10 billion on the previous financial year.

Small businesses are the worst offenders, owing $21.4 billion to the ATO during this financial year. Aussies owe nearly $4 billion, while privately owned and wealthy groups owe $7 billion.

“Small businesses continue to account for the majority of collectable debt and are a key focus of our payment and debt strategies,” the ATO stated.

“We recognise that small businesses may experience cash flow issues for various reasons at any time, and that they have been particularly impacted over the last year by the severity of natural disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Small businesses were overwhelmingly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, after the restrictions forced them to close their doors.

According to August Australian Bureau of Statistics data, more than a third of Aussie businesses expect to find it difficult or very difficult to meet financial commitments over the next three months.

The data revealed 41 per cent of businesses reported that revenue had fallen over the month of August, and 22 per cent found their operating expenses increased. What’s more, 28 per cent expected a decrease in revenue of the next month.

But small businesses have been offered a lifeline in the 2020 Budget, with the Government affording them significant tax breaks by way of the instant asset write-off extension.

It’s likely the ATO will face scrutiny to recoup the debts owed when it fronts Senate Estimates on Tuesday morning.

Salary of tax commissioner revealed

The report also revealed the salary of top executives at the ATO, with tax commissioner Chris Jordan earning a whopping $929,027 for the financial year.

And it pays to be a senior executive: nine earned above $100,000, with eight earning above $200,000 and four of them earning above $400,000.

That puts the ATO Commissioner in line with some of the highest paid public sector workers.

Currently, NBN Co chief Stephen Rue has the largest taxpayer-funded salary at $3 million, inclusive of bonuses.

Australia Post chief Christine Holgate, who has come under fire recently for executive rewards, is the second-highest paid at $1.6 million, while Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe is third at $1.06 million.

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