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  • ATO protecting sunny Far North Queensland businesses from the shady black economy

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is planning to visit around 400 small businesses in Cooktown and Port Douglas, Far North Queensland during August and September as part of the agency’s work to tackle the black economy and protect honest businesses from unfair competition.

    Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said the visits are all about ensuring a level playing field for honest businesses and curbing unfair competition as a result of black economy activities.

    “We’ve received numerous community referrals from people in Cooktown and Port Douglas about some businesses getting an unfair advantage over their honest competitors. Our intelligence suggests that some businesses are not declaring all of their income to the ATO or paying staff in cash which means employees may be missing out on their entitlements like super.”

    “We understand that some businesses may be operating in cash and not have merchant payment facilities due to individual circumstances. The issue is when businesses are deliberately ‘cash only’ to avoid reporting all their income. By detecting and addressing this behaviour, we’re helping to keep things fair for honest small businesses in FNQ.”

    During the visits, the ATO will also be running some information sessions tailored to support small businesses.

    “Our information sessions are designed to help business owners understand the newly introduced Single Touch Payroll system and the benefits of good record-keeping. We hope these visits and information sessions will be of great help to businesses in the Cooktown and Port Douglas area”, Mr Holt said.

    “It’s all about protecting honest businesses by ensuring all businesses operate on a level playing field. The black economy can have an adverse impact on the community. By working directly with small businesses we will be able to work through any issues and help them get things right”, Mr Holt said.

    Port Douglas and Cooktown businesses who are not declaring income, not complying with their tax and super obligations or underpaying workers are contributing to the black economy.

    “The Black Economy Taskforce estimates that the black economy is costing the community as much as $50 billion, which is approximately three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” Mr Holt said.

    “This is money that the community is missing out on for vital public services like roads, schools, welfare, healthcare, and infrastructure.”

    “These local visits give us an opportunity to talk to business owners and help them get things right. During the visits, we may discuss record-keeping and payment facilities, outstanding lodgments, tax debts, and managing employee entitlements such as superannuation,” Mr Holt said.

    The visits are part of the ATO’s strategy to deal with the black economy. The ATO plans to visit almost 10,000 businesses this financial year in all states and territories, across a variety of industries. As part of the visits, ATO officers will be providing information about recent changes, such as Single Touch Payroll and the extension of the Taxable Payments Reporting System to certain industries.

    As part of the visits, the ATO will also be visiting tax practitioners of small businesses in these areas as part of our early intervention strategy. These visits will enable us to better understand the drivers behind agent behaviour and provide education and support to encourage willing participation of their clients in our tax and super systems.

    To find out more or to register for an information session, visit

    Industries more likely to be visited by the ATO

    • Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services
    • Pharmaceutical and other store-based retailing
    • Personal care services
    • Accommodation
    • Building cleaning, pest control and gardening services
    • Building completion services
    • Building installation services
    • Other construction services

    Note to journalists: Audio of Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt discussing the business visits is available in our media centre.

    Information sessions


    Monday 26 August, Cooktown PCYC, 3 May Street

    5.30pm – 6.30pm AEST

    Introduction to business records session: Wednesday 4 September, 5.00pm – 6.00pm

    Single Touch Payroll introduction session: Wednesday 4 September, 6.15pm – 7.45pm

    Port Douglas

    Tuesday 27 August, Oaks Resort Port Douglas, 87-109 Port Douglas Road

    5.00pm – 6.00pm AEST

    Introduction to business records session: Thursday 5 September, 5.00pm – 6.00pm

    Single Touch Payroll Introduction session: Thursday 5 September, 6.15pm – 7.45pm

    Last modified: 16 Aug 2019QC 59915