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Small-business taxpayers centre players in taxation watchdog’s probe

Small-business taxpayers will be among the main players of the taxation watchdog’s probe into the effectiveness of the ATO’s communications of taxpayers’ rights to complain, review and appeal.

The Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO), Ms Karen Payne, today announced the launch of a new investigation into effective communication of taxpayer rights to review, complain and appeal decisions made and actions taken by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The communication of taxpayers’ rights is an important feature of procedural fairness and is consistent with the Taxpayers’ Charter.

The investigation seeks to understand and confirm how effectively (clearly and completely) the ATO communicates appropriate information to taxpayers and their representatives on these taxpayer rights.

The review will involve an investigation of written communications of ATO decisions made – for clear communication of the taxpayers’ rights to review, complain and appeal these decisions.

The Taxpayers’ Charter notes that taxpayers have the right to be informed of their rights or obligations when the ATO makes decisions about them and their right to question. The Taxpayers’ Charter states that the ATO will ‘outline [the taxpayer’s] options if [they] want a decision or action reviewed including, legal review rights and the formal complaint process’.

The IGTO has observed through the taxation complaints service that information on rights of appeal and opportunities to raise complaints varies across different types of ATO-issued correspondence.

The IGTO will undertake this investigation in stages, focusing initially on ATO communications which concern debt decisions; individuals and small business taxpayers – which likely do not have significant financial resources to appeal taxation decisions in the Courts.

The review will also confirm ATO communications around access to the AAT Small Business Taxation Division (SBT Division). All taxpayers, advisers (tax practitioners, solicitors or barristers) and professional bodies are welcome to provide observations, comments and suggestions to this review. The IGTO welcomes submissions and comments on how to improve communication and awareness of taxpayers’ rights of review.

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