• In-house facilitation

    Individuals or small businesses with a tax or superannuation dispute can use our in-house facilitation service.

    In-house facilitation is a mediation process where an impartial ATO facilitator meets with you and the ATO case officers to:

    • identify the issues in dispute
    • develop options
    • consider alternatives
    • attempt to reach a resolution.

    The service is ideal for less complex disputes and can be used at any stage from the audit up to and including the litigation stage.

    The facilitator is professionally trained in facilitative mediation and will not have any prior knowledge or involvement in the case. They don't establish facts, take sides, give advice or decide who is right or wrong. They are a guide to the discussion and aim to keep communication open.

    Facilitation is a voluntary process. You or your representative can ask for facilitation or we can offer it, however you are not obliged to participate in the process if it is offered to you. If the facilitation doesn't resolve the dispute, your review and appeal rights are not affected in any way.

    Watch this short video that explains the in-house facilitation process:

    Duration 1:00. A transcript of ATO In-house facilitation is also available.

    How to request in-house facilitation

    Before applying for in-house facilitation you should read the following:

    Next step:

    The facilitation process

    After a request for in-house facilitation is made, the facilitation is scheduled at the earliest date convenient for the parties. Facilitation usually lasts less than a day.

    In-house facilitations will preferably be held face-to-face, but if necessary can be conducted by phone or video link.

    Before the facilitation

    You and the ATO case officers will be:

    • contacted by the facilitator – the pre-facilitation meeting allows the facilitator to outline the process and answer your questions
    • notified of the date, time and venue of the facilitation.

    On the day

    The facilitator will:

    • outline the meeting structure and reinforce mutual expectations and aims for the session
    • invite you and the ATO case officer(s) to provide your view of the dispute at the start of the facilitation
    • assist the parties to identify the issues in dispute and options for resolution
    • assist you and the ATO case officer(s) to evaluate the options and attempt to reach a resolution.

    All parties need to participate in good faith, be respectful to other participants, be open and transparent, and be willing to negotiate.

    Participants should be authorised to discuss and resolve the dispute.

    Concluding the facilitation

    • If agreed by the parties, the facilitator can assist in recording the outcomes of the facilitation.
    • If no resolution is reached, the audit or objection will be determined according to usual processes. Alternatively, other options including your review or appeal rights will be discussed with you.

    Statement of expectations

    This statement of expectations applies to all in-house facilitation participants and facilitators. It outlines what is expected of participants and what they can expect from the process.

    Participants

    The role of in-house facilitation participants is to present their view of the facts and issues of the case. Participants include ATO officers involved in the case, the taxpayers and representatives of the taxpayers.

    All participants will:

    • be prepared for the facilitation, including ensuring all relevant people are participating or directly accessible
    • be authorised to discuss and resolve the dispute
    • take part in the facilitation fully and in good faith
    • have an objective approach to settling the issues and be willing to negotiate and attempt to resolve all aspects of the dispute, or clarify any limitation of the scope of the facilitation process before it starts
    • be respectful of all parties, and the facilitator
    • answer (where possible) any relevant questions asked by the facilitator or other parties
    • as far as possible, be open and transparent in providing information directly relevant to the case to enable a better understanding of the facts and issues
    • adhere to confidentiality requirements (as outlined below).

    Facilitators

    The facilitator's role is to manage the discussion between the participants with a view to resolving the dispute, or at least making progress towards resolution.

    The facilitator will:

    • have training, skills and experience in conducting facilitation processes
    • act in good faith and within the law
    • support the integrity and fairness of the process
    • attempt to bring the process to a conclusion in a reasonable time
    • be impartial and avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest
    • not have an interest in the eventual outcome of the case
    • not accept any gifts, bribes or rewards (whether in monetary or non-monetary form) in respect of his or her involvement in the process, except for the facilitator's current remuneration as an employee of the ATO
    • not compel any participant to agree to steps in the process, conditions or outcomes which the participant is not comfortable accepting
    • not have any prior or future involvement in the case, whether in their capacity as an employee of the ATO, without consent of all participants
    • immediately disclose to the participants anything that may, or may be seen to, affect their independence, and only continue to act as facilitator in the process with the consent of all participants
    • adhere to confidentiality requirements (as outlined below)
    • cease to act and withdraw from the process if
      • a reasonable request is made by a participant
      • anything will impair their ability to meet these expectations
    • suspend or terminate the process if they believe its continuation may harm or prejudice one or more of the participants, or that one or more of the participants are not acting in good faith.

    Confidentiality

    Any information shared during the facilitation process is only to be used for this process, unless authority is provided by the disclosing party, disclosure is required by law, or the information represents an actual or potential threat to human life or safety.

    This means:

    • what is said in the facilitation process stays in the process
    • anything said or written during or about the facilitation process, must not be spoken or written about outside of the process
    • the facilitator can only speak or write about the facilitation to the following people (where they agree to keep what you tell them to themselves)
      • the other participants
      • the facilitator
      • other people specifically involved in the facilitation process, such as lawyers and expert advisers
      • other people agreed by all participants.

    To avoid any doubt:

    • no admission by, or new evidence obtained from a participant as a consequence of the in-house facilitation process can be used by or be disclosed to any other person employed by the ATO, or acting for the Commissioner, as a basis to amend the returns of any person or would otherwise benefit the other party, without the prior consent of the participant.

    Feedback or concerns

    If you have concerns at any stage in the process, you should raise them with the facilitator or email us at facilitation@ato.gov.au.

    Participants can withdraw from the process at any time by advising the facilitator and the other participants.

    If the facilitation doesn't resolve the dispute, your rights of review will be unaffected. You may still be able to lodge an objection or appeal our decision to the Administrative Appeals TribunalExternal Link or the Federal CourtExternal Link.

    Participants (and ATO officers) will be asked to provide feedback after the facilitation. We welcome your views of the process so we can make it better and ensure it remains a valuable service in the resolution of disputes.

      Last modified: 29 Sep 2017QC 26665