Monday, 25 May 2015

EXCLUSIVE: ATO wind-up notice extracts payment from Imperial Peking owners

THE ATO's current wind-up blitz isn't restricted to the anonymous rump of small to medium enterprises identified as either late or non-payers of tax - millionaire Sydney restaurateurs Adelina and Alfred Lai have also received the dreaded notice of intent to liquidate.

A day after it was reported that Alfred Lai was helping bankroll a $30 million upgrade of the historic Campbell Stores building which houses his Imperial Peking restaurant, the taxman applied to have the restaurant's holding company, Memule Pty Ltd, wound-up over $100,000 in unpaid debts.

The notice, obtained by Sydney Insolvency News (SiN), shows that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) made application to wind-up Memule on April 30. 

Memule is the holding company for the businesses trading as Imperial Peking Harbourside and Imperial Peking Harbourside Restaurant

On April 29 the Australian Financial Review reported that "Sydney restaurateurs and events identities including the Dockside Group's Drivas Brothers and Imperial Peking Harbourside owner Alfred Lai are funding a $30 million upgrade of the waterfront precinct next to Sydney's Park Hyatt known as Campbell Stores into a premium dining location intended to be one of the best in the country."

Alfred Lai told SiN today that the wind-up notice was the result of a misunderstanding that began earlier this year.

"We got a letter sometime in January and we asked for some time to make the payment and we weren't successful," Lai said.

"So what we did was, I've organised finance and we've paid them already. It was a misunderstanding, that's all," he said.

Lai insisted he was still committed to the Campbell Stores project.

"Of course yes, it's a separate thing altogether, so it's no problem. There was a misunderstanding, we were arguing but it's been paid today," he said. 

Calls to the Drivas Brothers were not returned by time of publication. The Campbell Stores upgrade is reportedly being undertaken through the Tallawoladah Consortium, with the Drivas Brothers' Dockside Group, which operates the Waterfront and Wolfies restaurants, also set to benefit.

For more on the ATO's debt recovery crusade see:

Exclusive: ATO in debt assault on SMEs

Email SiN

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

EXCLUSIVE: ATO in debt assault on SMEs

The Federal budget may be redolent with overtures to small business but figures obtained by Sydney Insolvency News (SiN) show that the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has embarked on a debt recovery jihad against SMEs.

In the past six weeks, wind-up applications issued by the ATO have soared, from around 50 per month in March to more than 100 in April. A wind-up application is the first step in placing a company into liquidation. And the trend suggests wind-ups issued this month will total many hundreds.

On May 15 the ATO issued almost 50 notices to wind-up businesses. Yesterday, a further 32 were added to the snowballing tally. Today another 21.

Figures compiled by specialist business advisory Jamieson Louttit & Associates indicate that this month the ATO is likely to initiate more wind-up actions against non-paying corporate entities than in any other month since July 2014, when it threatened to liquidate non-payers on approximately 225 occasions. 

Insolvency Notices data courtesy of Jamieson Louttit & Associates

Jamieson Louttit told SiN the sudden spike was an acknowledgement that SME's with outstanding tax debts were a legitimate target for a cash-strapped government.

"They've got to collect money. That's where I think it's stemming from," Louttit said today, adding that the winding up notices would galvanise a proportion of the non-payers into compliance.

"A lot of those companies who've been issued wind-ups won't go into liquidation because getting the notice will persuade them to pay.

"There's also the issue of Director Penalty Notices (DPNs) and Garnishee Notices. You don't get to see those because they are not publicly available but insolvency practitioners and lawyers will tell you that there has been a significant increase in those as well," he said.

ATO deputy commissioner Cheryl-Lea Field confirmed the ATO was ratcheting up recovery action, warning that approximately 50 per cent of companies issued with a wind-up notice will be forced into liquidation.

"We took a supportive approach during the GFC and said we weren't going to take small businesses to the wall but I think it's time now for us to recalibrate and address that small number of people that are getting an unfair financial advantage," she said.

"Our first focus is on the majority of people who pay on time. Our second focus is on helping people who get into financial difficulty. Our third focus is to ensure that those people who are getting that unfair financial advantage are getting addressed in a more timely way".

More timely action was a theme flagged recently by ATO commissioner Chris Jordan.