The Australian Taxation Office will visit almost 500 businesses in and around the regional NSW communities of Port Macquarie and Wauchope in late July and early August.

The ATO will target small businesses operating in the black economy, with a particular focus on cafes, restaurants, personal care businesses, and the building and construction industry.

Some businesses in the region are not registered for GST or pay-as-you-go withholding, “which can be a sign of the black economy”, according to ATO assistant Commissioner Peter Holt.

“Another reason we’re planning the visits is because there are a number of businesses in this region with overdue income tax returns,” he said.

“The visits also give us an opportunity to talk to business owners and help them get things right if they need a helping hand.

“We may discuss record keeping and payment facilities, outstanding lodgments, tax debts and managing employee entitlements, such as superannuation.”

The visits are part of the ATO’s strategy to deal with the black economy, which costs the Australian economy an estimated $50 billion per year.

Last financial year, the ATO visited almost 9,000 business, in a variety of industries, based in all states and territories.

“Most businesses do the right thing. However, businesses who deliberately do the wrong thing – for example, pay cash in hand, or fail to lodge income tax returns or business activity statements – get an unfair advantage and make it harder for businesses who are doing the right thing,” Mr Holt said.

“By detecting and addressing this behaviour, we’re helping to ensure a level playing field for honest small businesses.”