Business tax bungle ends in $66k fines
BUSINESSMAN Desmond Wust was a silent partner in the Moore Park Beach Kiosk which got hit with a $36,000 fine last year after failing to complete 10 years of tax returns.
Then after being given two months to comply and lodge the outstanding tax and GST documents but failing to do so, Wust was fined an additional $30,000 and convicted of offences under the Taxation Administration Act.
Wust, 62, went before Bundaberg Magistrates Court this week and through his lawyer Michael Waters made a successful application for a new hearing to allow his plea and to hear submissions for a lesser penalty.
The $30,000 fine was nearly halved.
Mr Waters said Wust was found guilty of the taxation offences and paid the penalty, but had not complied with an order to submit his required tax returns and GST documents.
Magistrate Belinda Merrin granted the application and with the matter reopened, the court heard Wust originally had ATO and GST debt of around $52,000.
He had been fined $36,000 - $30,000 for failing to remit the GST and $6000 for failing to lodge income tax.
The prosecutor for the ATO said of the original 48 charges there were now 39.
Wust had since paid monies to the ATO and his current debt was $4947.
Mr Waters said Wust was a low income earner and argued the $36,000 penalty had been extraordinarily high, as was the $30,000 fine this year.
Mr Waters said Wust had been a silent partner in the Moore Park Beach Kiosk enterprise and was of the understanding his two partners were dealing with GST and tax and he had not been aware until the ATO contacted him.
Wust then sought various accountancy firms in Bundaberg to complete his taxation.
Then the one firm that agreed to take on the work later got back to him "saying 10 years of work was too much".
Mr Waters said it proved impossible to lodge the documents in the time given.
"The first penalty imposed on him is exactly the same circumstances and same set of tax returns. On that basis he feels the penalty has been paid promptly," Mr Waters said.
He said the two penalties totalling $66,000 would exceed the tax payable.
Mr Waters said the small business had taken "a significant knock" since the GFC and the Bundaberg floods.
Wust had also depleted his superannuation to pay the ATO.
Instead of the second $30,000 penalty Mr Waters sought a fine of no more than $100 on each of the 39 offences - $3900.
Ms Merrin said Wust's culpability was in not complying with the court order.
Ms Merrin said she would reduce the penalty and fined Wust $15,600 - $400 for each of the 39 offences.