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What to do when the ATO asks for information from you or your clients


When seeking information, the Australian Taxation Office correctly prefers the informal approach, at least initially, but can and does back it up with extensive and coercive statutory powers of entry, search and examination. Those statutory powers are under constant analysis and explanation, both by the courts and in the ATO's own Access Manual. This article examines the ATO's powers and its practice, at both the informal and formal levels, and provides detailed commentary about how to respond to and deal with an approach by the ATO, including the assertion of client professional privilege, the accountants' concession, and the difficult question of offshore inquiries. The author recommends the preparation of a corporate communications strategy and a manual for dealing with ATO visits, and provides a checklist of the matters which such a manual might contain.

Author profile

David Marks QC CTA
David is a commercial Silk at the Queensland Bar practising principally in tax. He has a broader practice in commercial litigation, trusts and estates, and administrative law. He contributes to the life of the profession through his committee work for The Tax Institute and other professional bodies. He is a Chartered Tax Adviser and a registered Trust and Estates Practitioner. He received The Tax Institute’s Meritorious Service Award in 2013. David serves on the disciplinary panel of an international practitioner association. - Current at 12 February 2021
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