• Review of ATO release decisions – August 2014

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    1 Executive Summary

    • This report was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in respect of its engagement by the Australian Taxation Office (the Tax Office) to independently review 125 release cases selected randomly by the Tax Office on a national basis.
    • The objective of the review is to give an independent view as to whether the Tax Office has followed its procedures, policies and guidelines and kept the taxpayer informed of the status of their application when making decisions in relation to the recovery of debt during the 2013 calendar year. Specifically, PwC has reviewed the decision process of the Tax Office in circumstances where the taxpayer has requested release from their tax debt.
    • The review involved an assessment against two specific questions that were determined by the Tax Office in relation to the decision to grant or refuse release of a tax debt.
    • The review found that in all except one case the decision to grant or refuse release was made in accordance with the content and general direction of the Tax Office’s Practice Statement Law Administration 2011/17 Debt Relief (PS LA 2011/17). In one case the decision to grant release was considered not to be in line with the PS LA 2011/17.
    • The review found that in 71 of the 125 cases reviewed, the taxpayer was kept informed of the progress and result of their application (assessed against Tax Office directive time frames). However, for 54 of the cases the Tax Office was unable to demonstrate that the taxpayer had been adequately kept informed of the progress of their application. This compares with 48 cases outside of target time frames in the 2013 Release review. We were advised by the Tax Office that they continued to receive a significant volume of release applications during the 2013 calendar year. We were advised by the ATO that in their view this resulted in an increase in assessment time frames.
    • The review was subject to a number of limitations as described at section 4 of this report. In particular, reviews were based on electronic (Microsoft Excel) case files prepared by the Tax Office for each case which comprised notes of relevant communication and correspondence between the taxpayer and Tax Office, taxpayer release application forms, Tax Office application assessment worksheets and statements of taxpayer running debt balances. The information provided has not been audited or verified in any way by PwC and we are unable to provide assurance that these provide a comprehensive and accurate record of correspondence between the Tax Office and taxpayer.
      Last modified: 10 Feb 2017QC 42291