The taxation watchdog has launched an investigation into whether the Australian Taxation Office effectively informs taxpayers of their rights.
Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO) Karen Payne on Tuesday said she would examine how clearly and completely the ATO communicates with taxpayers about their right to review, complain and appeal decisions and actions made by the ATO.
“The communication of taxpayers’ rights is an important feature of procedural fairness and is consistent with the Taxpayers’ Charter,” she said.
“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.”
While the charter states that the ATO must outline taxpayers’ options if they want a decision or action reviewed, Payne said she has noticed inconsistencies across communications.
“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,” she noted.
Payne plans to assess a selection of written ATO communications in stages, focusing initially on correspondence regarding debt decisions, individuals and small business taxpayers, which “likely do not have significant financial resources to appeal taxation decisions in the courts”.
The review would also confirm ATO communications around access to the AAT Small Business Taxation Division.
All taxpayers, tax practitioners, solicitors, barristers and professional bodies have been invited to provide submissions and comments on how to improve communication and awareness of taxpayers’ rights of review.
The ATO recently came under fire for its handling of a public interest disclosure made by its former staffer — now whistleblower — Richard Boyle, following an investigation by the Senate Economics Legislation Committee.