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Sticking it to the man!

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently caught my eye about a man suing the ATO for ruining his life.

Bold move, I thought – assuming he probably contributed to the issue by not regularly lodging a return. But as I read on, I grew to really feel for the guy.

In 2006 the ATO incorrectly issued Gary Kurzer a bill for $200,000 (the bill was later corrected to $8,554).

It took 5 years of legal battles before the ATO finally acknowledged their mistake.  In that time, he lost everything: his business, houses, marriage. The emotional toll has meant he can no longer work.

Gary’s ordeal reminds me of Michael Douglas’ character in ‘Falling Down’.

Gary finally has his day in court in September. He’s asking for $5.8m. And the bit I love best – he’s representing himself. I, like many other Average Joe taxpayers, wish him every success.

Just like in The Castle, this story of a little guy standing up for his rights is not only inspiring – it’s a great reminder to question everything. It’s easy to just accept whatever a Government department levels at you, but of course they’re fallible. As I regularly say, ‘Convenience costs you’. Blindly going along with whatever comes your way, rather than taking the time to stop and question things, can mean a great deal to your hip pocket.

But it doesn’t just apply to battling bureaucracies. The principle of ‘Convenience costs you’ is perhaps best demonstrated at, ironically, convenience stores. The price difference between buying soft drink at a convenience store compared to a supermarket can be massive – it’s easier, but the difference really adds up over time.

Gary’s case also highlights the importance of taking out Tax Audit Insurance. If you get caught in a disagreement with the ATO or another Government agency, the cost to prepare the relevant information to defend yourself can be extensive. Any reputable Accountant will offer this service – with the ATO targeting more and more specific areas, and their data matching programs expanding all the time, the peace of mind is well worth the investment.