Welcome light shone on taxpayers’ rights

SYDNEY, 14 OCTOBER 2021: A report released today by the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO) on the effectiveness of the ATO’s communications of taxpayers’ rights is a win for taxpayers looking to better understand their rights.

‘The report released today is a very welcome step towards a clearer, fair and more transparent tax system,’ said The Tax Institute’s Senior Advocate, Robyn Jacobson, CTA.

The findings shine a light on the importance and benefits of communicating the rights of taxpayers when it comes to making a complaint about, appealing and seeking a review of administrative decisions and actions taken by the ATO.

The IGTO’s latest review investigated the ATO’s communications and internal policies, including their operational procedures and staff training, regarding taxpayers’ objection and complaint rights. Based on this analysis, the report makes six key recommendations including that:

  • the ATO should proactively communicate taxpayers’ objection and complaint rights in the course of making a decision;
  • taxpayers’ rights should be integrated into the Taxpayers’ Charter; and
  • the ATO should ensure the relevant information is readily accessible to all taxpayers.

‘We welcome the value and awareness that the IGTO report brings to this issue. A taxpayer’s right to be informed of their objection and complaint rights is fundamental to ensuring the tax system is fair and that all taxpayers are treated equally,’ said Robyn.

‘Many taxpayers are simply unaware of their rights in the course of their dealings with the ATO, with the relevant information being difficult to find. This leads to countless instances of taxpayers being left stranded and ignorant of their options to take action in response to decisions made against them,’ added Robyn.

The ATO has also released its response to the IGTO report, accepting all six recommendations.

‘The ATO’s response in acknowledging and adopting the recommendations in whole or principle is both welcome and important,’ said Robyn.

‘However, the ATO should be mindful that simply informing taxpayers of their rights may not be enough,’ added Robyn.

‘It is important to explain, in plain English, the differences between the various options available to them. Taxpayers need to understand the instances where lodging an objection is the most suitable pathway compared to where lodging a complaint is more appropriate. Without this education and accessible information, taxpayers will continue to be left in the dark and may unwittingly choose an unsuitable pathway to their detriment.’



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