Assistance and advocacy

For: 

Australia is a nation of small businesses and family enterprises. One of the fastest growing in the economy, the sector presents many opportunities and challenges for those who dedicate themselves to pursing a small business venture. The Australian Government has put in place a range of initiatives to level the playing field to support small business to get a fair go.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO)

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) provides assistance to small businesses in dispute with other businesses or Australian Government agencies and advocates on behalf of small businesses and family enterprises. ASBFEO is independent and has the legislative power needed to effectively influence lawmakers, ensuring legislation and regulations are put in place to help small businesses grow, as well as to help support the freedom to innovate, employ and thrive.

The office of ASBFEO also helps small businesses resolve disputes that fall under the Franchising, Horticulture and Oil Codes of Conduct, and provides procedural assistance to small businesses in dispute with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). ASBFEO may also provide small business applicants seeking a ‘no adverse costs’ order with advice and assistance on obtaining such an order, which ensures that small businesses are not liable for the other party’s legal costs regardless of the outcome.

For more information visit the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman website. 

Better tax dispute resolution

The Government has introduced an easier, cheaper and quicker process for small businesses to resolve tax disputes with the ATO. Together, these initiatives will help ensure a level playing field for those small businesses that dispute an ATO decision.

Small Business Taxation Division

The Small Business Taxation Division within the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) provides a fast-tracked appeals process for small businesses, with decisions handed down within 28 days of a hearing. The application fee has been reduced to a rate of $500 and if the ATO appeals the AAT decision to the Federal Court it will pay the small business’ reasonable legal costs.

For more information visit the Administrative Appeals Tribunal website. 

Small Business Concierge Service

The Government has also established a new Small Business Concierge Service within the ASBFEO office to provide support and advice on the AAT process.

  • Before applying to the AAT, unrepresented small businesses can receive one hour of legal advice on co-payment of $100. After applying to the AAT, the small business may receive an additional hour of free legal advice, administered by ASBFEO.
  • The ATO uses its own officers to run these matters except in exceptional circumstances. Where the ATO does engage legal counsel in the AAT and the small business does not have legal representation, the ATO will cover the cost of providing the small business with equivalent legal representation.

National Tax Clinic program

The National Tax Clinic program is a government-funded initiative to help people who may not be able to afford professional advice and representation with their tax affairs.

The program is available to eligible individuals, small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and charities.

Ten universities across Australia have been funded to run the program which means there are tax clinics in every state and territory.

For more information visit the Australian Taxation Office website.

Franchising Code of Conduct

The Franchising Code of Conduct describes the behaviours expected of franchisees and franchisors and includes a process for managing disputes.

The ASBFEO office can provide free support on the Franchising Code of Conduct, options to resolve a dispute and access to mediation services.

For more information visit the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman website.  

Franchising Mediation Adviser

The Franchising Mediation Adviser assists parties covered by the Franchising Code of Conduct by appointing a mediator when disputing parties cannot agree on an appropriate mediator. The Franchising Mediation Adviser is a senior officer of the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. The Mediation Adviser is supported by the ASBFEO office.

For more information visit the Franchising Mediation Adviser page of this website.

Additional information and assistance

Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman helps employers understand and meet their workplace relations responsibilities by providing information and resources they can rely on.

For information about pay, leave, conditions, termination of employment, resources and information to help manage staff visit the below website.

For more information visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website. 

Small Business Helpline

Not sure of your employment obligations? The Fair Work Ombudsman’s small business helpline is there to provide small business people with a priority service to help with quick, easy and targeted employment advice.

For more information phone: 13 13 94

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

For information and support on competition and consumer issues

For more information visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website. 

Phone: 1300 302 021

Australian Financial Complaints Authority

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) provides consumers and small businesses with fair, free and independent dispute resolution for financial complaints. AFCA considers complaints about:

  • Credit, finance and loans
  • Insurance
  • Banking deposits and payments
  • Investments and financial advice
  • Superannuation

AFCA is an external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme and a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee that is authorised by the responsible minister to operate the AFCA dispute resolution scheme in accordance with the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).  

AFCA’s Ombudsman service is offered as an alternative to tribunals and courts to resolve complaints consumers and small businesses have with their financial firms.

For more information visit the Australian Financial Complaints Authority website.