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ATA carpets ATO over driver travel expenses

As ATA weighs in, Australian Taxation Office admits no responses came to emails industry says weren’t received – update


The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) position on industry consultation over driver travel expenses changes is at risk.

As the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) enters the fray in support of its state members, the ATO has admitted to ATN that it failed to garner any response from the bodies it says it emailed seeking feedback.

And the ATA also notes that no draught of the determination was created.

ATA chair Geoff Crouch has demanded the ATO reverse its decision to cut the amount it allows employee truck drivers to claim as travel expenses.

ATA to fight

He has pledged that the ATA and its members will fight the determination, “because it made Australia’s truck drivers second class citizens”.

“The ATA unequivocally supports all our member organisations in condemning this determination,” Crouch says.

“There is absolutely no excuse for this unjustifiable attack by the ATO on Australian truck drivers.

“In the determination, the tax office increased the reasonable food and drink allowance for comparable employees in other industries from $106.90 per day to $109.35 per day.

“But the tax office decreased the allowance for truck drivers from $97.40 to $55.30, seemingly in the belief that today’s truck drivers fill up on soda and junk food.

“They couldn’t be more wrong.

“The industry is united behind the need to make sure our drivers can eat healthily and well.

“The meal allowance for truck drivers should be the same as the meal allowance for any other employee,” he said.

Crouch categorically dismissed the ATO’s claim that it had consulted with industry bodies about the cut.

“This is simply not the case.

“If the ATO had consulted with industry, it would have known that this decision is an unfair assault on the hip pockets of hard-working Australians.

“Page 13 of the ATO’s own tax determination confirms that it was not issued as a draught before the tax commissioner signed it off on 3 July 2017.”

Tax office contradition

The ATO insists to ATN that it has a robust consultation process.

“A key element of our approach when developing and managing public advice and guidance is an emphasis on early and frequent consultation with key stakeholders,” a spokesperson says.

“We publish details of the matters we are consulting on – including the purpose, who we are consulting with, the current status and the expected completion date.

“Through our Advice under development program, we also publish details of matters on which we are considering preparing public advice or guidance.

“As previously mentioned in our last response, the most recent consultation with industry in this case was via a consultation paper titled ‘Substantiation exception for reasonable travel allowance expenses’ published on our website on 30 September 2016. 

“We can confirm of the organisations listed in our previous response, none directly responded to our consultation paper (Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation, Australian Trucking Association, Owner Drivers Australia, National Road Transport Association, Queensland Trucking Association, Road Freight NSW, South Australian Road Transport Association and the Tasmanian Transport Association).”

NatRoad to meet ATO

Meanwhile, the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) says it will meet with the ATO on the issue after “an influx of complaints from members”.

“The move to reduce travel expenses for employee truck drivers to $55.30 per day is not doing the industry any favours,” NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said.

“At a time where the Federal Government and industry are working together to reduce the compliance burden on road freight businesses and their employees, this change negatively impacts small businesses and their employees.”

After “reaching out” to ATO deputy commissioner Erin Holland, Clark and NatRoad in-house legal adviser Richard Calver are to meet with senior ATO staff to find a solution.

“It is important to get further clarity from the ATO on this difficult issue and have further consultation,” Clark says.

“NatRoad considers that the reduction will cause undue hardship to the industry. In meeting with the ATO, we hope to find a more practical solution for the industry.” 

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