Save where disclosure of requested information would seriously prejudice an ongoing investigation, the IGT recommends that the ATO:
- adopt and promote a policy of open and informal information sharing with taxpayers; and
- where information is not to be disclosed on an informal basis, that decision should be signed off by a senior officer with information access expertise and the reasons for this are communicated to the taxpayer.
We agreed with this recommendation and implementation was completed on 19 November 2013.
The Taxpayers' charter - if you're subject to a review or audit publication has been updated to reflect the need for ATO officers to engage in clear and open communication with taxpayers during reviews and audits. We also encourage taxpayers to take an open and informal approach to information sharing with us.
We have instructed staff that where a taxpayer makes an informal request for information relevant to their case and a decision is made that the information will not be communicated to them, then that decision must be reviewed and approved by one of our senior officers with information-access expertise.
The reasons for refusing to release information requested by taxpayers are then communicated to the taxpayer, taking care to ensure that disclosing the reason does not itself result in the harm sought to be prevented.
We have issued Practice Statement PS LA 2013/3External Link Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in ATO Disputes to replace PS LA 2007/23 (withdrawn effective 31 July 2013). Paragraphs 19-22 state:
- ADR is generally initiated by agreement between the parties.
- Taxpayers can request ADR. Requests should be made to the tax officer managing the dispute, who will discuss the request with their manager and appropriate technical staff before responding.
- If the ATO is unwilling to participate in ADR, then the reasons for this must be clearly communicated to the taxpayer.