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  • Independent review – small business pilot

    On 1 July 2018 we started a 12-month pilot to offer an independent review service to eligible small businesses disputing income tax audits in Victoria and South Australia.

    In an independent review, an independent technical officer from outside our audit area reviews the merits of our audit position before the assessment or amended assessment is issued.

    On 15 October 2018, the pilot was expanded to eligible small businesses nationally.

    Following the initial 12-month pilot period, a decision has been made to extend the pilot for a further 18 months – to 31 December 2020.

    From 1 October 2019, the scope will be further expanded to include some GST and indirect tax audits.

    Disputes relating to the following topics are excluded:

    • superannuation
    • fringe benefits tax
    • fraud and evasion findings
    • interest.

    Eligible businesses with an audit in progress will be contacted directly by their case officer and offered the opportunity to participate in the pilot.

    Find out about:

    The independent review process

    The independent review is conducted by an officer from our Review and Dispute Resolution business line. This officer will not have been involved in the audit and will bring an independent 'fresh set of eyes' to the review.

    The independent reviewer will consider the documents setting out your position and the audit position. They will schedule a case conference with you and the audit officer generally within one month of receiving your review request.

    The case conference is an opportunity for all parties to assist the independent reviewer with understanding the facts and contentions.

    The independent reviewer will then consider both parties’ positions and prepare recommendations as to the appropriate outcome. They will communicate the outcome to the taxpayer and audit officer. The audit team will finalise the audit in accordance with the independent reviewer’s recommendations.

    How to request an independent review

    Your audit case officer will contact you if you are eligible to participate in the pilot. An offer of independent review will also be included in the audit finalisation letter.

    If you wish to proceed with the review, you need to email us within 14 days of the date of the audit finalisation letter. You must clearly outline the specific issues you dispute from the audit decision in your request.

    Once you have submitted your request, you will be contacted by a Review and Dispute Resolution officer to discuss your request. They may discuss other options for addressing the issues you have raised. If eligible, your request will then be referred to an independent reviewer to undertake the review.

    You may be asked to complete and return a consent form to extend the amendment period. This will allow the review to be completed before the period of review ends.

    Who is eligible to participate in the pilot

    Small businesses disputing income tax and GST audits conducted by our Small Business area will be eligible for the pilot.

    You are not eligible for an independent review if:

    • when requested you do not complete a consent to extend amendment period, to allow the review to take place
    • the relevant notice of assessment or amended assessment has already issued
    • dispute topics excluded from the initial pilot, include
      • superannuation
      • fringe benefit tax
      • fraud and evasion findings
      • interest (including the shortfall interest charge or the general interest charge).

    Independent review offers will also be made in certain audits relating to compliance with contractor arrangements.

    Other dispute options

    If you don't wish to seek an independent review, or are ineligible, you may:

    • lodge an objection to any amended assessments or notices which issue to you
    • consider using the ATO’s in-house facilitation service to assist in resolving your dispute.

    You may also consider raising your matter with:

    • The Inspector General of TaxationExternal Link – The Inspector General of Taxation can assist you with concerns or complaints you may have in relation to the administrative actions taken by the ATO or the Tax Practitioners Board.
    • The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise OmbudsmanExternal Link – The ASBFEO can assist and provide general information on how to resolve a dispute, facilitate discussions between you and the ATO. They can provide access to external alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services or refer you to another Commonwealth, state or territory agency who can more appropriately deal with your matter.

    See also:

      Last modified: 01 Oct 2019QC 55900