This is the text of an email I send to the moderator of the Australian Tax Office Small Business Forum (the ‘ATO’ is our equivalent of the IRS, for American readers), about five months ago:
Moderator, why can’t I post this short essay? Not being able to post is a MAJOR reasons you are not getting the participation you hoped for.
I deleted all the characters your site will not accept (and why will it not accept M-dashes and other standard punctuation characters, may I ask? Punctuation is used to add meaning and nuance.). This is the post:
My post here may be in the wrong place; if so, would the moderator please move.
Innovation assistance is always welcome; I must check here in Canberra to see what’s available for a device I designed and prototyped last year. But to the main point: I received a note from the ATO Forum moderators here this morning; the key sentence was:
‘Unfortunately, participation levels in the Forum have not been as high as we originally hoped for.’
For myself and my partner, we can be precise as to why we have not participated here more: as the two directors of a small company, we work pretty much seven days a week (as so many small business owners do); and a very significant fraction of our time is spent in compliance activities that have zero benefit to the income of the business.
These include collation and submission of the Business Activity Statement (BAS); calculation of the Good and Services Tax (‘GST’; as a small business, we are tax collectors for the government), annual insurances of a bewildering variety, annual tax returns (for each of us and the businesses), our and our employees’ superannuation, worker’s comp (that’s a whole ‘nother nest of complexity; we are not a standard business in any way), liaising with accountants and the bookkeeper, etc., etc.
In sum, compliance with the vast array of government-mandated regulations takes one of the partners about 75 per cent of her time. In fact, employing people—utterly necessary in any capitalist economy if you want to survive, and the attendant paperwork, is the main reason we simply do not have time to contribute here on the ATO Forums, lovely idea though it seemed when first floated.
And, again like many here, my partner and I have never had four week’s annual leave. My contribution to the business is creative: in the time we have been in business, I have written six books (one is in its fourth edition; each a total re-write); made countless DVDs and other supporting material, 90 YouTube clips, etc. etc. We have often wondered what it would be like to work for someone else—get a salary (what a concept); have paid medical leave; annual leave, and so on.
You get the picture: people who run small businesses make contributions to our society; they are creative and make new things/have new ideas/add value to the culture. Yet we are the most burdened in terms of what we need to do, compliance-wise, with an ever-increasing number of requirements—the sum of which absolutely stifles creativity. In fact, so much is this the case that my partner and I are ending one of our businesses—one that employs 15 people part time—because the return (in the largest sense) is simply not worth killing ourselves for. The work is wonderful—the necessary busywork to satisfy all requirements is not.
This, simply, is the main reason ‘Unfortunately, participation levels in the Forum have not been as high as we originally hoped for.’
The latest irritation? The site, your site, that asked for feedback cannot accept it, because:
Only use the following symbols when writing in this field…
Interesting. So I called the ATO and got an email address for the moderator and sent the post to him/her, with all offending punctuation marks deleted, and I am still waiting for a reply (five months now). The text here includes the original, offending, marks (M-dashes and the like) but my attempted post had none of them, and no indication of what was unacceptable in what I was trying to submit.