ATO resumes collecting aged debts (June 2022 Client Alerts)

| Wealth

Taxpayers with aged debts that the ATO had paused collecting or put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic should be aware that offsetting aged debts against tax refunds or credits has now resumed. The aged debts can be offset either from ATO accounts or credits from other government agencies, although a debt will not be offset if the only available credit relates to a Family Tax Benefit amount.

“Aged debts” is a collective term the ATO uses for uneconomical non-pursued tax debts that it’s placed on hold and has not undertaken any recent action to collect. These debts don’t typically show up on taxpayers’ online accounts as an outstanding balance.

Usually when a debt is put on hold, the ATO notifies the taxpayer via a letter that the debt collection has been paused, although any credits the taxpayer is entitled to will be offset against the debt. The ATO reserves the right to re-raise the debt in the future, depending on the circumstances of the taxpayer. Letters were sent out in May 2022 to remind taxpayers that they have aged debts and June 2022 will see the recommencement of debt collection.

While most taxpayers (or their tax agents) should have received their aged debts letter by now, some may not have received anything, due to a change of address or patchiness in the postal service. The first clue for them that they may have an aged debt could be when they notice that their refund is less than expected or a credit on one account is less than it should be.

To avoid surprises, if you’re unsure whether you have an aged debt you can check ATO Online Services for a transaction with the description “non-pursuit” on your statement of account. If you have multiple accounts (for example, a business and an individual account), remember to check them all.

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