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The Tax Office annually releases its compliance program to let taxpayers know which areas will be their focus for the year. To provide some perspective, they expect to data match over 640 million transactions to tax returns this year.

Below are nine common ways to ensure you are not subjected to an ATO audit:

1. Have financial performance that is in line with industry standards

As a matter of course the tax office will statistically analyse your tax return. If your statistics are inconsistent with averages for your industry, if may be an indicator of tax issues such as unreported income, transfer pricing and other issues.

2. Pay the correct amount of superannuation for your employees

If your employees complain to the ATO that their employer has not paid them the right amount of superannuation (or not paid it on time), you are more than likely to get a review from the ATO.

3. Minimise variances between tax returns and BAS

Large variances between the information reported in a tax return compared to Business Activity Statements are likely to trigger an ATO review.

4. Lodge your tax returns on time

A good compliance history will improve the ATO’s perception of your business. This includes lodging income tax returns, BAS, PAYG Summaries (Group Certificates), fringe benefits tax returns plus the on-time payment of any tax liabilities.

5. Don’t consistently show operating losses

Losses in 3 years out of the last five are likely to trigger indicative of problems. There may be genuine reasons, but the ATO is likely to want to investigate these.

6. Ensure all transactions are included

The ATO receive data from the Banks, Stamp Duties Office, Land Titles Office, Centrelink, Share Registries and the RTA, and matches this with your tax return. If an enquiry is triggered because of missing data, the audit will generally cover include income tax, Capital Gains Tax, GST and FBT.

7. Profitability fluctuations are a possible indicator.

The ATO will compare your tax returns year-on-year. Big fluctuations in financial position or particular line items in the tax return can trigger an inquiry from the ATO.

8. International transactions

International transactions with tax havens and related parties are a key area of focus for the ATO.

9. Avoid Publicity

Not all publicity is good publicity when it comes to tax audits!! A major transaction or dispute that is reported in the media will undoubtedly be seen by the ATO. Many business owners are selected for an ATO review after the sale of a high value asset is reported in the paper.

Should you require assistance in dealing with a tax audit or review, or would like further information about audit triggers, please contact Peter Morrow or Kris Graham at Thomas Noble & Russell on (02) 6621 8544.