The Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO), Ms Karen Payne, has announced the launch of a new investigation into effective communication of taxpayer rights to review, complain and appeal decisions made and actions taken by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The investigation, probing the effectiveness of the ATO’s communication channels when it comes to taxpayer rights, will initially focus on communication involving debt decisions, individuals and small-business taxpayers — which likely don’t have significant financial resources to appeal taxation decision in the courts.
The review will involve an investigation of a selection of written communications of the ATO’s decisions, as the IGTO seeks to understand whether taxpayers’ rights are clearly met by the Tax Office.
It will also confirm ATO communications around access to the AAT Small Business Taxation Division (SBT Division), the IGTO confirmed in announcing the review.
“The Taxpayers’ Charter notes that taxpayers have the right to be informed of their rights or obligations when the ATO makes decisions about them and their right to question,” Ms Payne said.
Noting that while the charter sets out a clear course of action, various responses have been witnessed across the different types of ATO-issued correspondence.
“The Taxpayers’ Charter states that the ATO will ‘outline [the taxpayer’s] options if [they] want a decision or action reviewed, including legal review rights and the formal complaint process’. The IGTO has observed through the taxation complaints service that information on rights of appeal and opportunities to raise complaints varies across different types of ATO-issued correspondence,” said Ms Payne, adding that all taxpayers, advisers and professional bodies are invited to provide their comments and suggestions.
Applauding Ms Payne’s move, the Tax Institute said the IGTO is well positioned to ensure fairness of the tax system.
“The Office of the Inspector-General of Taxation has an important role to play in reviewing and reporting on systems operated by the ATO,” Tax Institute president Peter Godber said.
“Clear communication to a taxpayer of their rights, whether it be in the context of a dispute or in their general dealings with the ATO, is essential in a well-functioning tax system.”