Industry welcomes ATO’s ‘common sense’ approach

ARTIO, ATA, NatRoad to work with ATO to simplify the claiming system as TWU calls for federal intervention

Industry welcomes ATO’s ‘common sense’ approach
Anderson says today's decision is a welcome move for thousands of truck drivers.


The trucking industry has welcomed the Australian Taxation Office (ATO’s) decision to reverse its take on drivers’ meal expenses.

While the industry is appreciative of ATO’s new decision, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) is calling on the federal government to intervene in the matter so as to ensure the "unacceptable tax changes will not be reintroduced" in the future.

Australian Road Transport Industry Association (ARTIO) secretary and treasurer Peter Anderson says today’s decision follows concerted efforts by ARTIO, representing state representative bodies including Victorian Transport Association (VTA) and Queensland Trucking Association (QTA), the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and TWU to have the previous determination overturned.

The industry had joined forces to fight the ATO on the earlier ruling, which, it states, was made without stakeholder consultation, and would have left drivers "significantly out-of-pocket in relation to legitimate work expenses".

Both Anderson, and the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) CEO Warren Clark have commended the ATO’s "common sense" approach to the issue, following today’s announcement.

"We welcome and appreciate the ATO’s willingness to engage with the industry on this important matter, and look forward to future and ongoing consultation to simplify record keeping requirements for drivers," Anderson says.

"The ATO’s revision means drivers will have more to spend on healthy meal options, which are typically much more expensive than fast-food alternatives.

"It also will reduce the financial pressure on drivers and their families, who are dealing with rising living costs at a time when wage growth is generally flat."

ATA chair Geoff Crouch says the revised determination will benefit 38,000 truck drivers, giving them the allowance they deserve.

"The new determination mean that truck drivers can claim, without detailed receipts, the same amount for meals as other comparable employees in what are called tier 2 and other country centres," Crouch says.

"One of the ATA’s highest priorities is to make sure that government agencies never treat truck drivers as second class citizens.

"We took this argument into our initial discussions with the tax office. The decision reflects our approach."

Clark says the new ruling is "good news for employed truckies across the country".

"We thank the ATO for consulting with NatRoad and hearing the realities faced by the trucking industry," Clark says.

"Today, everyone from the industry can celebrate an important win.

"This significant reversal will ease the mounting pressure already weighing on the shoulders of hard-working truck drivers.

"Importantly, I’d like to emphasise that employee drivers must continue to keep receipts for all meals and only claim for amounts actually spent, as opposed to the entire reasonable amounts specified."

What next?

The ATO has advised that consultation will continue on an agreed approach for the 2018/19 year and future years, with an aim of establishing a daily rate and to further simplify recordkeeping requirements for drivers.

The ATO will also implement compliance approaches that ensure that those drivers who followed the daily amount approach of $55.30 outlined in the July ruling are not disadvantaged.

ARTIO is currently working with the ATO to produce further guidance material for employers.

Crouch insists the ATA will direct its focus on discussions around the meal allowance amounts for 2018-19 and beyond.

"We want to work with the tax office to simplify the claiming system further," Crouch says.

"There were also a number of issues raised by our member associations and individual drivers in our consultations that we could not resolve in the urgent timeframe for getting this decision fixed."

Call for federal intervention

Meanwhile, the union wants the federal government to take steps to protect employee drivers following an "embarrassing climb down by the ATO over unfair tax changes".

TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says the government must ensure the previous tax changes are never reinstated.

"They caused widespread confusion and anger among drivers, who are already under enough pressure," Sheldon says.

"The ATO is refusing to reverse the decision and has only given drivers a reprieve for this tax year.

"Truck drivers need certainty on what they can claim and how.

"This is a disgraceful way to run a tax department and the Federal Government must take responsibility for it."

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