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Our principles

Our information-gathering principles help ensure information is gathered in a fair and professional manner.

Last updated 18 July 2023

About the principles

If we need to access information you hold, we prefer to seek your cooperation in making it available to us. However, the laws we administer give us wide-ranging powers to obtain information, and in some situations, we need to use these powers. We use them fairly, professionally and, as far as possible, in an open manner.

When gathering your information, our notice and access powers must be used for the proper application of the laws that we administer. Our officers will follow these principles when gathering information from you, and when exercising the powers. We use a cooperative approach if possible

We prefer to use a cooperative approach when gathering information. We will generally consult with you before using our formal powers to obtain your information.

We use our formal powers if required

We may use our notice and access powers where a cooperative approach is no longer productive or where your circumstances, history or behaviour warrant the use of our formal powers.

There are also situations where we will adopt a formal approach at the outset.

We take your costs into account

We will consider ways to minimise your compliance costs when deciding what information or documents we require.

We respect your rights and treat you fairly

When requesting your information, we will respect your rights and give you reasonable time to comply.

We will provide you with information about your rights and obligations under the laws we administer and the ATO charter and give you reasonable time to consult with your advisers.

We will respect your right to claim legal professional privilege, and that advice given to you by a professional accounting adviser in some cases should remain in confidence. Also, advice prepared for a corporate board on tax compliance risk should, in all but exceptional circumstances, remain within the confidence of a board of company directors (including properly constituted sub committees) and their advisors.

We give you prior notice

In most cases, we will give you prior notice if we intend to access your premises or documents. In rare circumstances, we take action without giving you prior notice.

We advise you before making a third-party enquiry

We will generally advise you before making a third-party enquiry about your tax affairs. However, in some situations, we may need to approach a third party directly without telling you first.

We explain our decisions

We will explain why we require information unless this may impact on our enquiries or may be in breach of privacy or secrecy provisions. We will also inform you if you are not compelled to comply with a request.

We give you a right of review

You will have access to our decision makers if an information-gathering issue is to be escalated.

Where you believe our officers have not conducted themselves according to our information-gathering principles and practices, a senior officer will be available to listen to your concerns. Any abuse of our powers is treated as a serious matter and any officer abusing our powers may be subject to counselling or disciplinary proceedings.