More insights surface on ATO driver charges meeting

By: Rob McKay

ARTIO says industry raised issues around state of tax office consultation effort and impact on EBAs

More insights surface on ATO driver charges meeting
Peter Anderson says the impact on EBAs was reiterated


More detailed Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) takes have emerged through affiliate associations on the Australian Taxation Office meeting with the trucking industry over driver travel claims changes.

In points consistent with a Queensland Transport Association (QTA) statement, ARTIO secretary and treasurer Peter Anderson, who is also Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO, says industry delegates reiterated the lack of any consultation or warning about the ATO’s determination TD 2017/19, which reduces the amount of "reasonable meal expenses" drivers can claim without substantiation by 43 per cent.

"Delegates also indicated that there didn’t appear to be any logical explanation behind the reduction, and that it appeared the ATO had used the behaviour of extreme outliers to regulate the industry by cutting existing arrangements by almost 50 per cent," Anderson says, while noting the industry reiterated that enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) were indeed in the mix. This had earlier been discounted by both the ATO and the FAir Work Commission (FWC).

"The industry also made the point that there are EBAs, contracts and over-award payments made by employers to employed truck drivers around meal allowance payments – $90 was confirmed as common – and that employed ‘long distance’ drivers are legally required to keep a work diary detailing in 15 minute increments of where, when and whether they are working or on a break."

The industry argued that there appeared to be "no logic, nor rational explanation" behind the reduction, other than a view within the ATO "based on several audits", that there appeared to be a ‘misunderstanding’ in the transport industry on how the system worked.

It was noted that, since 1985, truck drivers have been treated as part of a wider group whereby "reasonable meal expenses" can be claimed, provided the money has been expended by the taxpayer, up to a specified level without the need to keep receipts.

"With the recent ATO determination, truck drivers have now been singled out and treated differently to every other occupation," Anderson says.

As also reported by the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), ARTIO confirms industry delegates sought the cancellation of Tax Determination 2017/19 and a return to the 2016/17 Determination, increased by a small component for CPI.

They argued that this would then allow the industry to participate in a proper and detailed consultative process to determine what would be a fair amount for truck drivers to be able to claim, without receipts, into the future.

The Queensland Transport Association (QTA) expanded on that theme, saying there were "several errors in the ATO’s paper prepared as a basis of consultation which clearly showed a lack of knowledge of long distance transport operations".

The QTA adds that the ATO officials present were not authorised to make a decision, but advised that they would consult with the decision-makers – at deputy commissioner level – internally over the next few days and advise the industry early next week.
The industry also put to the ATO that its communication and language needed to be clear and concise to ensure compliance around these types of issues.

"We appreciate the ATO taking time to hear our position and await their response, which they have undertaken to provide within the next week," Anderson says.

"We hope that common sense will prevail and the recent Determination cancelled, so that truck drivers who are already under financial pressure can be relieved of this additional unfair tax burden."

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