Business Tax Debt Loans

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Paying your ATO tax debt with a loan

Businesses and sole traders in Australia are required to pay tax at the end of each financial year.

If you don't have funds available to pay, the ATO offers payment plans for tax debt up to $100,000. Where the amount owed is greater, or a payment plan is unsuitable, businesses can use various types of short-term business finance to repay the debt.

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What is a tax debt loan?

Tax debt loans are used by businesses to repay overdue tax to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) when a payment plan is either unavailable or unsuitable.

If you own a business or operate as a sole trader, you are required to submit an end-of-year tax return, and not paying your tax can damage your credit score.

Tax debt loans at a glance

  • Borrow from $5,000 to $1million
  • Terms from one month to five years
  • Simple application and approval
  • Fixed or variable interest rates
  • Loan can be secured or unsecured
  • The interest rate will be tailored to you
  • Lenders will consider the reason for the tax debt
Minimum requirements for a business loan

Who is eligible for a tax debt loan?

  • Own a business and have an ABN
  • Business is GST-registered
  • Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Minimum business-operating time of six months
  • Can provide business bank statements to demonstrate capacity to repay the loan (based on revenue)
  • The tax debt is not due a fundamental issue with your business

Types of tax debt that can be financed with a loan

Lenders assess loan applications based on the risk level of the borrower. There are various reasons you may find yourself with significant tax debt to repay, and the cause for your debt may affect how lenders assess your application. For example:

  • If your tax debt is the result of an accounting error, lenders may look on your situation favourably if the error is a random, one-off occurrence and not reflective of your reliability as a business owner.
  • If your tax debt is due to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) lenders are more likely to approve a tax-debt loan as the situation is often a one-off occurrence caused by higher than expected growth and generally not reflective of your risk as a borrower.
  • If your tax debt is the result of not lodging your return lenders may consider you a high-risk borrower due to concerns of reliability in repaying the loan amount.

Of course, there may be alternatives available for accessing short-term business finance to repay the tax debt, including invoice finance, or tapping into a business line of credit or business overdraft.

How to choose a business loan for tax debt?

There are different kind of loans that can be used to pay off tax debt. Each has its own features, advantages and disadvantages, and the one that will be best suited will depend on the business applying for the finance and its level of tax debt.

Here's an overview of the main options:

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Short-term secured loan

Short-term secured business loans are often used by businesses to cover sudden expenses - such as a tax debt. However, you can also use this form of business finance for various purposes, such as paying employees, securing stock, settling unpaid bills and covering day-to-day operating expenses

Repayment terms are often flexible to suit the borrower and, If you are applying for less than $150,000, non-bank lenders may offer same-day approval when applying online.

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Invoice finance

Invoice finance could be used to repay your ATO debt if you operate a business that invoices its customers. As invoice finance is not a loan but an advance of cash on your business invoices, you won’t be paying high rates of interest as you would on an unsecured business loan. However, fees will apply.

Invoice finance offers unique benefits over standard loans, such as:

  • Fast approval - often the same day
  • Does not require security
  • No repayments as the finance is not a loan
  • No interest to repay
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Unsecured business loans

Unsecured business loans can be used to repay your ATO debt without risking your personal or business assets. Interest rates will typically be higher than secured business finance and the loan term is usually shorter.

Lenders will assess your ability to repay the loan based on your business cash flow and as well as the following eligibility factors:

  • Operating time of the business
  • Current business turnover
  • Trends in turnover
  • Personal and business credit history

If you are self-employed, you may be asked to provide a personal guarantee on an unsecured business loan.

Who offers tax debt loans for businesses?

It may be possible to get finance for a tax debt from a bank, credit union, online or specialist lender.

Most lenders will provide finance to eligible business for any legitimate business purpose, including providing funds to pay creditors.

However, given the nature why the business is applying for finance, some mainstream lenders (e.g. major banks) may be reluctant to approve tax debt loans. For this reason many businesses seek finance from specialist lenders.

Just bear in mind that these lenders generally charge higher interest rates (compared to a loan to finance an asset, for example).

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Lodging your tax return and BAS with the ATO

Businesses in Australia are required to lodge an end-of-year tax return. However, it is more likely that a Business Activity Statement (BAS) will be the reason small businesses seek loans to repay tax debt.

Businesses are required to lodge their BAS with the ATO at various frequencies, depending on their GST turnover:

  • Quarterly - If GST turnover is below $20 million
  • Monthly - If GST turnover is $20 million or higher
  • Annually - If you are voluntarily registered for GST, and your GST turnover is less than $75,000

The majority of businesses will lodge their BAS quarterly. The ATO provides specific due dates for lodging your BAS, and failing to lodge your BAS may incur a penalty.

Quarterly dates for lodging BAS

Business financial quarterDue date for lodging BAS

July, August, September

28 October

October, November, December

28 February

January February, March

28 April

April, May, June

28 July

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What to do if you can’t pay your business tax

If your business has a large tax debt that you can't pay, you should first call the ATO to see if you can arrange a payment plan.

You cannot ignore your tax debt with the ATO, and a pragmatic approach to the situation is often the best way to avoid ongoing debt and maintain a healthy credit score.

Business owners who contact the ATO to manage their tax debts will be looked upon favourably, and setting up a payment plan ensures tax debt information is not reported to credit bureaus.

Interest-free tax repayment options

The ATO offers an interest-free repayment solution to small businesses in certain situations. The small business must be able to clear its tax debt within 12 months, and eligibility is dependent on specific conditions:

  • Annual turnover of less than $2 million
  • Recent business activity statement (BAS) debt of $50,000 or less
  • Overdue BAS debt does not exceed 12 months
  • Maximum of one payment plan default in the previous 12 months
  • Clean history of lodging BAS with the ATO
  • Does not qualify for business finance to cover the debt
  • Business turnover indicates continued revenue and capability in repaying the debt

To apply for an interest-free payment plan, you will need to contact the ATO directly.

What happens if you don’t pay your business tax?

Not paying your business tax can negatively impact your business credit score. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) may disclose a business's tax debt information to credit bureaus, which can affect a business's credit rating and make it harder to gain approval on finance in the future. Even if you can access credit in future, a poor credit score could mean

The ATO is likely to refer business tax debts to creditors in the following situations:

  • The tax debt is greater than $100,000 and has remained unpaid for over 90 days
  • The business is not in the process of disputing the tax debt
  • The business has not arranged a payment plan with the ATO

If a business does not meet the above reporting criteria, the ATO will often contact the business and provide a notice period of 28 days before reporting its tax debt.

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If your business is registered for GST, or you are personally registered for GST and operating as a sole trader, then you will need to lodge a BAS with the ATO. The frequency you are required to lodge your BAS will depend on the GST turnover of your business.

GST turnover is defined as your total business income. This is calculated as your total gross income, minus any GST included in sales to customers and sales made outside of Australia.

If your business generates an annual GST turnover of less than $20 million, you will be required to lodge a BAS with the ATO each quarter. Your yearly tax return will need to be lodged by 31 October following the end of the previous financial year (1 July - 30 June).

If you cannot pay your tax debt, you need to contact the ATO. Avoiding your tax or BAS obligations will only incur penalties, and possibly cause the ATO to refer your debt to a credit agency. If you contact the ATO as soon as possible, they will work with you to establish a payment plan, which in some cases may be interest-free.

Yes, if you don't repay your tax debt, the ATO may disclose this to credit reporting bureaus. This would have a negative impact on your credit score and could impact your business' ability to access credit in future.

Written by

Shaun McGowan founder

Loans Expert

Shaun McGowan

Reviewed by

Sean Callery Editor


Sean Callery


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