Late in 2022, amendments to the tax law passed Parliament that, among other things, included a measure to allow the ATO to issue a “tax-records education direction” where the Commissioner of Taxation reasonably believes that an entity has failed to comply with one or more specified record-keeping obligations. As an alternative to imposing a financial penalty, such an education direction will require the entity to complete an approved record-keeping course. Successful completion of the course will mean the relevant entity will no longer be liable for a penalty.
According to the ATO, the purpose of the tax-records education direction is to help educate businesses about their tax-related record-keeping obligations. This type of direction will only be issued to entities that are carrying on a business, and will be best suited to small business entities. A direction will most likely be issued where the ATO believes an entity has made a reasonable and genuine attempt to comply with, or had mistakenly believed they were complying with, their tax record-keeping obligations.
Entities that have been or are disengaged from the tax system or deliberately avoiding obligations to keep records will not be eligible for this alternative to penalties. Factors that point to disengagement or deliberate avoidance include poor compliance history, poor engagement with the ATO regarding information requests, deliberate loss or destruction of documents, or fabrication of documents.
To comply with the education direction, a relevant individual to the entity (a director, public officer, partner, etc), must be able to show evidence that they have completed the ATO-approved online record-keeping course by the end of the specified period. Successful completion of the course by the due date means the entity will no longer be liable to a penalty. If the course is not completed by the due date, the entity will be liable to a penalty of up to 20 penalty units (currently $5,500).