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04 Jun 14 Commissioner's speech - The ATO and large business

On 3 June 2014 the Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan, gave an address to the Corporate Tax Association annual convention in Sydney.

On the topic of dealing with large businesses, the Commissioner said this:

“In recognition that time is money, a cultural shift itself, we are focusing on early discussions for large business matters between the taxpayer (and their advisors) and relevant tax officers responsible for making decisions. This means we get to the core issues more quickly and short-circuit unproductive paper wars between the parties. Since 2011-12, this early engagement has helped us reduce median cycle times for rulings down from 80 days to 40 so far this year.

I want to emphasise how important it is to have both parties willing to come to the table early and discuss issues in good faith.

I know you are interested in the information gathering process and the burden that can place on taxpayers; we are already instructing our teams to look at how to gather information in a more efficient and less imposing way. This means accessing publicly available material and better targeting our requests.

Consistent with this concept and the idea of leveraging other rigorous processes like statutory audits, our Public Groups and International area has been exploring and consulting on External Compliance Assurance – sometimes referred to as ECAP. ECAP aims to leverage already rigorous external audit and assurance processes for public companies and give some taxpayers with turnovers of between $100 million and $5 billion the opportunity to use their company auditors to review factual matters we have an interest in.

We are now ready to pilot this approach and this is likely to start this month. You will see this announced in the media shortly.

We are also driving sensible closure to unnecessarily long-running cases and audits – recognising when we reach the point of diminishing returns or an impasse. If agreement or settlement cannot be reached, we need the courts to decide. Continuing dialogue for five years or more is not productive, prevents closure and damages trust.”

The full text of the Commissioner’s address is here.

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