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06 Mar 09 Private Binding Ruling (PBR) Register retained

The Taxation Institute welcomes the ATO’s decision to retain the Private Binding Ruling (PBR) register. The decision follows on the ATO’s announcement at the National Tax Liaison Group Meeting on 26 November 2008 that they would no longer maintain the costly register as it not widely used and in its present form posed an unacceptable level of risk to users. Representations to the Commissioner followed, with a meeting between Taxation Institute President, Joan Roberts FTIA (Harwood Andrews, Melbourne), Taxation Institute Vice President, David Williams FTIA, and Michael Dirkis FTIA, the Second Commissioner, Bruce Quigley, the Assistant Commissioner, Law & Practice, and other senior ATO personnel held on Friday 20 February 2009 to discuss the issue (see TAXVINE No 6 (20 February 2009)).

The Commissioner was assured after these discussions with the Taxation Institute and the other professional bodies that there was widespread awareness of the risks. The Commissioner was also pleased with the commitment of the bodies to work with the ATO in improving guidance products. One minor adjustment to the register will be the inclusion of the disclaimer when a ruling is downloaded. The Commissioner has also requested that the Inspector-General undertake a broader review of the administration of the ATO’s private binding ruling processes.

Joan Roberts views this as a sensible outcome recognizing the importance of the PBR register in ensuring the transparency of the PBR system. Although not binding, the PBR register, if used with the appropriate care, is also an important tool that supplements the ATO’s formal precedent data base by providing indicative views of the ATO’s approach in over 80,000 factual situations.

For a copy of the Taxation Institute’s media release welcoming the Commissioner’s decision, 3 March 2009, go here.

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