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  • Dispute Resolution Working Group key messages 22 August 2022

    Charter and purpose

    The group last convened in 2019 but going forward our expectation is the group will meet regularly.

    A charter has been developed to support the Dispute Resolution Working Group.

    The group will be looking at the whole disputes pipeline, including dispute resolution issues that may arise during audit, the objections process and litigation.

    Law design and practice structure changes

    The structure of Law Design and Practice changed in late 2021.

    Recognising the importance of both the objections and litigation functions, the restructure split the functions so that there is now a Deputy Commissioner to focus on objections, Andrew Orme and a Deputy Commissioner to focus on litigation. Fiona Knight.

    The business line formerly known as Review and Dispute Resolution was renamed Objections and Review. It undertakes objections and independent review, has carriage of in-house facilitation and dispute assist and administers the tax clinics.

    The Office of Chief Tax Counsel is headed up by Fiona Dillion as the Chief Tax Counsel. Litigation and Legal Services as well as Tax Counsel Network are part of this business line. Litigation and Legal Services responsibilities include the test case funding panel, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Small Business Funding and Independent Assurance of Settlements.

    Implementation of recommendations from Taxpayer Review Rights

    The group discussed the implementation of recommendations from the Inspector-General of Taxation report An investigation into the effectiveness of ATO communications of taxpayer rights to complain, review and appeal (PDF 5.55MB)This link will download a file.

    Implementation of the recommendations included:

    • updates to staff training packages and procedures to ensure staff awareness of their responsibilities to communicate taxpayer review rights, manage taxpayer complaints and respect taxpayer’s rights of review
    • development of a communication strategy for staff
    • updates to internal forms to be able to identify which element of the Charter a complaint relates to
    • updates to the search function on so that information that pertaining to taxpayer rights to complain, review and appeal are easily located.

    Information regarding the avenues to complain to the ATO will be made more easily accessible on once the key word search improvements have been implemented.

    Implementation of the recommendation concerning the Taxpayers’ Charter is progressing in the context of a broader review of the Charter.

    Current state of objections and litigation

    There has been a significant decrease in objections stock on hand since mid-2020. This is important for the client experience because it means cases can now be allocated promptly to objections case officers.

    A significant driver of objections in the last 2 years has been remediation projects, including objections following the Commissioner of Taxation v Douglas and Addy v Commissioner of Taxation decisions. There were also significant stimulus objections in 2020 and 2021, which have now tailed-off.

    The Commissioner of Taxation was successful in a high proportion of Part IVC litigation cases in 2021–22. It was noted that there has been a significant decrease in debt litigation in the last 2 years.

    Clarifying the meaning of ‘independence’ in the objections process

    The group discussed work that has commenced to clarify for staff the operation of communications protocols governing communication between objections staff and original decision-makers. The aim is to ensure a consistent approach by staff. Objection decisions should be fully informed, and the protocols should support this whilst also ensuring the structural and functional independence from original decision-makers. The experience over 7 years in working with the protocols will inform this work.

    Accessibility of objections for small business and individuals

    The group discussed the current experience for individuals in lodging objections, including issues with the existing objection form. There was a presentation on opportunities being explored to make the objection lodgment process more contemporary and accessible.


    Attendees list




    Andrew Orme (Chair), Objections and Review


    Farisha Ali, Objections and Review


    Fiona Knight, Office of the Chief Tax Counsel


    Hoa Wood, Individuals and Intermediaries


    Leanne Simon, Strategy and Support


    Leigh McCarthy (Secretariat), Objections and Review


    Rebecca Saint Deputy Commissioner PG&I


    Renae Ali, Objections and Review


    Richard Mold, Objections and Review


    Tim Rowe, Objections and Review

    Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

    Ashley King

    Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

    Paul McNab

    CPA Australia

    Andrew O’Bryan

    Federal Court

    Alison Legge

    Law Council of Australia

    Hugh Paynter

    Law Council of Australia

    Paul Sokolowski

    The Tax Institute

    Chris Kinsella

    The Tax Institute

    Sue Williamson

    The University of Newcastle

    Tania Sourdin


    Apologies list



    Administrative Appeals Tribunal

    Kim Richardson

    Corporate Tax Association

    Paul Suppree

    Federal Court

    Catherine Forbes

    Federal Court

    Catherine Krol

      Last modified: 11 Oct 2022QC 70555