As the ATO redoubles its efforts to collect tax debts, small business owners must maintain their tax compliance vigilance. And the end of the current financial year and start of the new one provides the perfect opportunity.

The ATO is hellbent on collecting what it’s owed and is doubling down on compliance. In addition to increasing the number of Director Penalty Notices (DPNs) being issued, the ATO is also taking to the courts. In May, winding-up applications spiked, primarily driven by the ATO.

And it’s not just the ATO initiating wind-ups; other creditors including the big four banks are also becoming increasingly active. Last month there were record high insolvencies, tracking more than 50% above pre-pandemic levels. That’s why EOFY is ideal to assess the state of your tax situation, collect outstanding customer payments, and give your business a ‘health check’ to determine how it’s going.

Insolvency Australia member and Taylor Insolvency managing director, Josh Taylor says,

“The ATO is being far more aggressive in its debt collection. It’s now issuing even more DPNs, both before and after liquidations. That’s why it’s important for accountants to always follow up clients to ensure Business Activity Statements are lodged on time or within three months of their due date.”

Fellow IA member and Jirsch Sutherland partner, Chris Baskerville recommends, “reporting your sins – even if you can’t pay for them”.

“That means lodge your tax returns on time – otherwise, statutory bodies will give you no leeway if they have no oversight of the state of your business. One of the first things the ATO will ask when a business gets into trouble is whether they have paid employee benefits such as superannuation, so it’s wise to ensure these payments are up to date.”

One of the best things people can do to prepare for the new financial year is to create a 12-month cash flow forecast to determine what their business will look like for the next year, according to Baskerville.  

“Businesses naturally have ebbs and flows of income and expenses, so the trick is to save when the money is flowing in, so you have the funds available for slower months when there is less income and more expenses.”

A key trend is the extraordinary rise of Small Business Restructuring (SBR) plans. “There has been a 400% increase in SBRs in the last year alone. SBRs can save businesses $700,000 to $800,000 in debts.”

Top EOFY tips:

  • Prepare and deal with statutory and tax obligations
  • Get your books and records in order
  • Review your current and forecast cash flow
  • Collect outstanding debts
  • Give your business a ‘health check’
  • Prepay expenses (e.g., rent, leases, bills) to claim a tax deduction
  • Identify where you can cut costs for the new financial year
  • If in financial distress, speak with a specialist insolvency/business turnaround practitioner

Gareth Gammon is director of Insolvency Australia.