Following the announcement of a review of its Charter (previously known as the Taxpayers’ Charter) in September 2022, the ATO has finally launched a refreshed version taking into account all the submissions received during the review period. The Charter explains what taxpayers can expect when they interact with the ATO, the ATO’s commitments, what the ATO requires of taxpayers and the steps taxpayers can take if they are not satisfied.
One of the main criticisms receiving during community consultation was that the previous “65-page Charter was inaccessible, dense, and did not reference the ATO’s support for people with vulnerabilities or those impacted by difficult times”. ATO Assistant Commissioner, Katherine Philp noted that the refreshed Charter has been streamlined to make it easy to understand and helpful without changing important ATO commitments. The Charter now contains links to more detailed information where required and is aimed at strengthening the ATO’s relationship with the community.
Specifically, the Charter now prominently outlines a support and assistance section for taxpayer’s experiencing vulnerability and difficult times or those impacted by crisis events. While the ATO notes that it cannot generally remove taxpayers’ tax obligations, whether it be payment or lodgment, it will endeavour to provide ways to assist taxpayers in meeting those obligations and consider individual circumstances where possible.
Under the Charter, some of the ATO commitments include:
- treating taxpayers with courtesy, consideration and respect;
- being impartial and acting in good faith with honesty and integrity;
- treating taxpayers as being honest unless there is reason to think otherwise and providing taxpayers opportunities to explain;
- be responsive and provide reliable, timely, accessible, accurate and easy-to-understand information;
- clearly explaining its decisions, and keeping taxpayers informed of progress; and
- communicating and explaining taxpayer’s rights, obligations and review options.
The refreshed Charter also highlights in easy-to-read format the steps taxpayers can take to have a decision reviewed or if they are not satisfied with the service they have received from the ATO. A review of a taxation decision can either be internal or external, with an internal review with an independent ATO officer, if requested, as the first step. Where the taxpayer is unsatisfied with the outcome an external review can also be sought (ie through Courts or Tribunals).
Taxpayers who are either not satisfied with ATO’s service or believe that the Charter has not been followed should contact an ATO officer and discuss their situation in the first instance. If that does not resolve the issue, taxpayers can then escalate the issue to a manager. Again if the concerns raised by the taxpayer are not addressed by the escalation, a formal complaint can be lodged. The ATO generally aims to resolve all complaints within 15 business days; however, some cases may take up to 30 days. According to the Charter, making a complaint will not affect the taxpayer’s relationship with the ATO.
Those taxpayers unsatisfied with the outcome of the complaints process have the option of contacting the Inspector-General of Taxation and the Taxation Ombudsman for an independent investigation. In situations where taxpayers believe that ATO’s actions have given rise to a legal liability (eg negligence) or have suffered financial losses caused by the ATO’s defective administration they may also apply for compensation.
This article is for general information only. It does not make recommendations nor does it provide advice to address your personal circumstances. To make an informed decision, always contact a registered tax professional.