Garnishee Notice

If you have received a garnishee notice from the Australian Tax Office you may be feeling confused, anxious and unsure about what to do next. It’s important that you know your rights, and the options available to you, and that you act fast. At Pherrus, we’re here to support and navigate you through the next steps.

WHAT is it?

A garnishee notice is issued from the ATO as a way of collecting your text debt. It can be sent to anyone who holds funds for you or owes you money, instructing them to pay the money directly to the ATO, without asking your permission. The garnishee notice you have received will be a copy of the notice that has been issued to this third party.
The notice may have been issued to:

  • Your bank (access to your accounts)
  • Your employer (access to a percentage of your wages)
  • Your clients (access to money owed to you for work/services)
  • A company in which you are a shareholder (access to your dividends)
  • A third party who is buying a property from you (access to your equity)
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A garnishee notice is issued because the ATO believes that you have an outstanding tax debt. If this is case, you should have already received some warning notices. If, however, it has come as a complete surprise, it is worth checking the facts as soon as possible to make sure that the claim is valid.

WHY have I received it?

WHAT happens now?


  • Don’t delay! The sooner you act, the sooner you can get back to business as usual.
  • Check that the ATO’s claim is valid. Our tax lawyers can help you to clarify this.
  • Establish whether it is a “point in time” garnishee notice, requiring a one-off payment from the third party, or a standard (ongoing) notice.
  • You may be able to reduce your debt by negotiating the added penalties and interest.
  • If you can work out a payment plan with the ATO for clearing your tax debt within an agreed timescale, they should take no further action.

HOW can I make sure that I get the best result?

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This can be a complex and intimidating process, especially if you have no experience of tax law and procedures, but getting it wrong could send your business into meltdown. At Pherrus, we want to help you navigate this path, protect your rights, and secure the best outcome for you and your business. Our team is made up of some of the most experienced business tax accountants, agents, lawyers and consultants in Sydney, with a wealth of specialist knowledge in all areas of business tax and tax law. Get in touch today and let’s work together to formulate the best plan of action for you, so that you can get back to business with peace of mind.

A garnishee notice is an order the Australian Taxation Office issues to a third party of a tax debtor that may hold funds on their behalf. What a garnishee notice is, in simple terms, is the ATO seeking money from someone that has your money for you to pay off tax debts if you fail to do so yourself. Garnishee notices essentially allow the ATO to take money from a range of different sources on a one-off or ongoing notice.

The tax debts that apply in these circumstances include personal, and business debts and are generally the next step in debt recovery if you fail to pay what is owed. Garnishee notices may be issued to employers, your bank, insurers, people who owe you money for real estate sales, or companies in which you hold dividend returning shares. For businesses, notices may also apply to clients, suppliers, or trade debtors.

Simply put, yes. When a garnishee notice is ordered against your bank account, your bank will be legally required to pay what is in your account to cover the cost of tax debts. This requirement has been the case since the introduction of section 260-5 of schedule 1 of the Taxation Administration Act 1953. Because the ATO has this power, you must act before a garnishee notice is sent to your bank, at which point money can be removed from you.

Before this final action, you will receive a red warning letter from the ATO as the last warning. If you ignore this letter, the ATO will continue to an ATO garnishee bank account notice. However, if you decide to resolve the problem, you can avoid money being removed from your account altogether. For advice on preventing garnishee notices, speak to our tax professionals today.

The ATO will not take funds from your account without any form of notice. You will receive multiple correspondences from the ATO before you reach the stage of garnishee notice, so it's crucial that you open any post from the ATO promptly and don't leave 'red warning' letters until the last minute. You will receive a garnishee notice yourself alongside the third party. It's also important to note that the ATO won't take money without consideration of the following:

  • The implications on the tax debtor's ability to provide for their family or their future business viability
  • The circumstances and financial position of the tax debtor in relation to how they have tried to pay the debt as quickly as possible
  • Whether other creditors will not be paid due to the funds being at risk of removal by the ATO
  • Any and all other debts owed by the tax debtor

When you receive a written garnishee notice from the Australian Tax Office, this will have been issued at the same time as the notice provided to the third parties involved in the recovery of funds. Third parties are required to pay the amount specified within the garnishee notice. The tax debt is cleared if the total amount of funds is taken. If the full amount is not available, an ongoing notice may be used to claim the money over time.

As a tax debtor, you can contact the ATO directly to defend the notice technically, or you may choose to negotiate a payment plan. Most ATO payment plans last between 3 months and 2 years, and some upfront payment may be required. If you decide to challenge the notice, you may wish to seek help from a legal professional or tax specialist to defend your choice not to pay a tax debt.

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