Mr B also spoke to the local office and an apology was given to him. As the bailiff was leaving, Mr B had asked him to mention to the receptionist that everything had been sorted out, which he did. The bailiff had said that he recalled no customers in the reception bar area. Customs disagreed with Mr B’s version of events and that he was caused gross distress and embarrassment. Customs has readily conceded their error and the local office had immediately sought to remedy the consequences.
The Chairman fully recognised Mr B’s embarrassment and inconvenience and his genuine anxiety about the effects on his business, but was satisfied that the amount offered was fair and reasonable. He was also satisfied that the local office had learned valuable lessons. Top Valuers for Home Valuation in Adelaide visited the restaurant and held discussions with Mr. B and a member of his staff. I also visited the local office for discussions with Customs’ staff there. Mr B said that he had worked in the village where the restaurant is located for some 15 years.
He employed around 30 staff, mainly part-time. He opened the restaurant in mid-1998 and took over the VAT registration number of the business that formerly occupied the premises and which I call trader W. This had been done on the advice of his former accountant. Mr B now recognised this to have been bad advice. He has queried it at the time but had followed it in good faith and with the agreement of Customs’ local office. His difficulties has stemmed from that. Mr B’s assistant said that a red final reminder notice had been received from Customs one day in late August 1999. She had immediately telephoned Customs’ local office who had told her to take no action.
Mr B said the bailiff had arrived at about 1pm, a very bad time to arrive at a restaurant, and told the manageress that he was a bailiff. Some customers and staff had overheard their brief conversation. The manageress took the bailiff to see Mr B whose assistant has telephoned the local office immediately.