In Australia, equality before the law, fair treatment by government and the presumption of innocence, are principles we regard as the ordinary entitlement of a citizen. Some of the powers of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) — as highlighted in recent days by the ABC — seem to undermine these very principles.
Here’s a quick summary of what the ATO can do to you, your business and any member of your family — legally, according to the ato.gov.au:
- Onerous penalties can continue to be applied by the ATO against you, even if the assessment is under appeal.
- If the ATO has issued the penalty, then they’re the same ones who assess the appeal. There is no independent review.
- If the ATO believes you — perhaps as a small business owner — are not paying enough tax, then you can be hit with a financial penalty equal to the amount owed. This effectively doubles any debt the ATO believes you owe to them.
- If the ATO accepts your right to appeal, you still need to pay HALF the penalty before they will proceed. During this process, they can continue to unilaterally seize your assets even before the appeal process is exhausted.
- The ATO can enter and search your property at any time without a warrant.
- They can direct funds from your bank accounts into their own, without the requirement of informing you first. They can do this even though your case could be under review. This heavy-handed tactic is meant to be an act of last resort. But as the ABC has recently reported, the tactic has been repeatedly and callously applied without regard for personal financial circumstances.
- If the Inspector of Taxation — an independent watchdog with the task of overseeing the ATO — issues a judgment against the Tax Office, then that judgment can be ignored by the ATO.
The frightening reality
The ATO has been given the powers generally available only to government lackeys in a despotic state. A state where the ordinary expectations of a citizen to be treated fairly having access to an impartial process have been totally discarded.
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Places like North Korea and Syria.
Powers such as these have been ‘under review’ by various governments for several decades. But it should come as no surprise that nothing has happened.
That’s because the ATO is the local home of our very own ‘Deep State’. An agency of the government determined to keep its operations secret. Its officers unaccountable and beyond the reach of ordinary justice.
In recent days, the ATO has been involved in a frenzy looking to discredit critics and threaten whistle blowers.
The frightening thing is that it’s all legal.