The Tax Institute welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in relation to the Taxpayers’ Charter review (Review). The Taxpayers’ Charter (Charter) plays a crucial role in explaining the rights and obligations of taxpayers that are enshrined in the tax law, Taxation Administration Act 1953 and the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977.
In the development of this submission, we have closely consulted with our National Technical Committees and surveyed the broader membership of The Tax Institute, to prepare a considered response that provides insights as to the views of the tax profession more broadly. As agreed with you, our survey largely replicated the questions raised in the Review, as well as certain additional questions we posed. The feedback we have received is from the perspective of tax practitioners and other taxpayer representatives.
The Tax Institute commends the ATO for undertaking the Review. Since the last internal review of the Charter conducted in 2010, Australia’s taxation and superannuation systems have evolved and adapted to new technologies, legislative developments and the residual impacts from the global pandemic. As part of the Government’s response to pandemic and other crises, the ATO’s new role of delivering benefits has resulted in a broader range of interactions between taxpayers and ATO, and a more varied set of circumstances to which the Charter applies. It is therefore imperative that the Charter, being the primary means of defining the ATO’s relationship with the community, encompasses contemporary circumstances and is consistently applied to all interactions between the ATO and taxpayers.
Overall, but for the recommendations set out below, our members have indicated that the Charter covers many of the pertinent issues encountered by taxpayers and tax practitioners.
However, our members have raised concerns about the practical aspects concerning the knowledge and enforceability of taxpayers’ rights under the Charter. The main concerns raised by members were:
- the need for further education and awareness of the Charter,
- taking steps to ensure that taxpayers’ rights under the Charter are better enforceable; and
- interactions between taxpayers (or their representatives) and the ATO where the Charter was not applied.
Our submission predominantly focuses on addressing these concerns, where our members have indicated that the Charter is not at the front of mind by some ATO staff when dealing with taxpayers and their representatives. Accordingly, some of our recommendations will require legislative reform, which we acknowledge is outside the ATO’s remit. However, we consider it beneficial to further discuss with the ATO the main concerns that are being voiced by our members and to begin the necessary conversation about ensuring that taxpayers’ rights are sufficiently protected and established.