This is a letter written by the ATO. Someone sent it to me. The letter is not addressed to me. I’m not joking or making it up
Cancelling your Australian business number For your information and action
We wish to advise you that your Australian business number (ABN) xxxxxxxxx may be cancelled.
Recently we conducted a review of the Australian Business Register to identify persons who may no longer be entitled to an ABN. Your registration was selected in that process.
The Registrar of the Australian Business Register has the authority to cancel your ABN if satisfied that you are no longer entitled to have an ABN.
As you have not reported any business income in your 2007 and 2008 income tax returns, it is unlikely that you are carrying on an enterprise.
What happens next
If you have no objection to your ABN being cancelled, you do not need to do anything. We will automatically cancel it from the Australian Business Register.
If you commence an enterprise as a sole trader in the future you can reapply for your ABN. When you apply you will be issued with the same ABN that you had previously (emphasis added – and there goes my last surviving hypothesis as to what the ATO is trying to achieve from this correspondence). This ensures that you can re-use items such as stationery and business cards when you return to your business.
If you do not agree that your ABN should be cancelled, you must complete and return the enclosed form within 28 days of this letter being issued. We will use your responses to assess your entitlement to an ABN.
Mail your form to:
Registrar Initiated ABN Cancellations Australian Taxation Office
PO Box 3373
Penrith NSW 2740
For further information on entitlement to an ABN you can visit our website at www.ato.gov.au or you can phone us on 13 28 66 between 8.00 and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday.
Protecting your privacy when you phone us
If you phone we need to know we are talking to the correct person before discussing ABN eligibility. We will ask you for details only you or your authorised representative would know. It will also be helpful if you have your tax file number or ABN ready when you phone us.
Registrar of the Australian Business Register Commissioner of Taxation
I am relieved to know that, no matter how farcical the activity, privacy is protected at all times.
Still, perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps there is some logic to this – but it sure is hard to see what it is. The only logic I can see in this is that it might be possible to use ABNs to aid fraud or some other nastiness in some way, but since all you’d need to do to misuse an ABN is send in a tax return (however dodgy, or just small scale) it’s pretty hard for me to imagine any sense whatever in any of this.
Unless it’s taking a leaf out of J. M. Keynes when he says that, if you can’t think of anything better for governments to fund in a depression, it’s better to fund people digging holes in the ground and filling them in than to let people go idle. Perhaps this is a somewhat more geneel equivalent.