At a glance
Most taxpayers seeking independent review of ATO decisions choose a tribunal6 (80% in 2010-11). About 74% (over 800) of tax and superannuation litigation cases in progress at the end of 2010-11 were tribunal cases, see figure 3.2.
This is not surprising as tribunal review is intended to be a low cost and less formal review process, and it can also be confidential7.
The number of tribunal cases declined steadily between 2007-08 and 2009-10 as mass-marketed scheme-related cases were finalised.
They increased in 2010-11 and this year, in part reflecting increased ATO compliance activity (data matching, cash economy benchmarking, and refund integrity) as well as excess contributions tax continuing to be contentious, see figure 3.1.
Most taxpayer applications to a tribunal concern their income tax assessments (64% in 2010-11).
In the same year, other applications to a tribunal initiated by taxpayers involved:
- goods and services tax (18%)
- superannuation (12%)
- fringe benefits tax (2%)
- excise (2%).
Most taxpayer applications are finalised prior to hearing (57% in 2010-11). Taxpayers concede their cases more than the ATO, see figure 2.1. However so far this year the number of ATO and taxpayer conceded cases has evened. The most common reason for the ATO conceding a case is that fresh information has been provided by the taxpayer. This indicates improved communication earlier between tax officers and taxpayers and their advisors could further minimise disputes and resolve them earlier.
In 2010-11, about 24% of taxpayer applications resulted in a tribunal decision and most of these decisions were favourable to the ATO (76%), see figure 3.3.
Trends 1 July 2007 to 29 February 2012
Figure 3.1 Summary of trends
Figure 3.2 Stock on hand (GST and excise are combined as excise is less than 20 cases per FY)
Figure 3.3 Decision results