ATO targeting the cash in hand economy

ATO targeting the cash in hand economy


The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is cracking down on the cash in hand economy that generates up to $15 million in turnover each year. Currently, 1.6 million businesses that operate with cash only, including hairdressers, cafes and trade persons.

Assistant Commissioner Tom Wheeler has said that the measure is not targeting any particular business.

“We know that the majority of businesses get it right, so our first aim is to help businesses by checking they are properly registered and provide them with an opportunity to ask questions in person,” Mr Wheeler said.

Most small businesses deal solely with cash is due to the credit card fees that they are charged for purchases under $10. While larger businesses are able to absorb the costs, such fees make a tangible impact on smaller businesses.

MWE Consulting director Mike Ebstein has pointed out the flaws with operating a cash only business.

“Business owners do not understand the risks of handling cash, including robbery, fraud and . . . the fact that until you cash the money at the bank it has no value,” said Mr Ebstein.

In the 2015-2016 financial year, the ATO monitored 127,000 cash economy businesses, and conducted 15,000 audits. The ATO has said that there has been an increase in audits as 10,000 businesses were audited, which recovered $200,000 in undeclared earnings.

The number of employees reporting their employers to the ATO for illegal cash payments has risen from 5,535 to 5,573 in the last year. Although most of the complaints are made anonymously, many believe that the people calling represent a minority of the cash payments made.

Tax Justice Network spokesman Mark Zirnsak believes that the data provided by the ATO is the “tip of the iceberg of shady employers who cheat their employees of the wages they are owed and cheat the community of the taxes that should be paid”.