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Commissioner should have right of access, but not right of abuse

Publication date: 17 Sep 97 | Source: THE TAX INSTITUTE

Confirmation by the Federal Court of the Australian Taxation Office's right to conduct random agent-focussed programs as a vehicle for 'encouraging taxpayers to comply with the law', must not unfairly burden tax agents, according to Taxation Institute of Australia President, Mr Richard Gelski.

"While it can no longer be argued that the Tax Office does not have the right to conduct random audits of taxpayers or tax agents, this should not be interpreted as meaning that auditors have been issued a licence to intimidate, bully or threaten on a whim," Mr Gelski said.

"Complaints have been lodged with the Taxation Institute, and with the Commissioner himself, that repetitive audits have been undertaken of the clients of a particular agent - in one case audits were conducted in nine out of eleven years."

"One might imagine that in those circumstances, the clients of the particular tax agent have been guilty of constantly abusing the system. Unless a claim for $200 by a hospital based medical practitioner for cleaning clothes worn while doing his rounds in circumstances where they often get blood on them constitutes a case of abuse, the behaviour of the Chatswood branch of the ATO appears to be as close to abusing power as one can imagine," he said.

The Taxation Institute calls on the Commissioner of Taxation to confirm that it is not part of the strategy of the Tax Office to unfairly burden any particular tax agents and to assure tax agents that regular revisiting of the clients of a particular agent will not occur without some reasonable cause.

"It is about time that the Commissioner of Taxation began to address these issues fairly rather than being party to bland calls for respect and courtesy from tax agents towards tax officers," Mr Gelski said.

"The Commissioner should understand that respect and courtesy cannot be mandated, they must be earned," he said.