ato logo
Search Suggestion:

Making sure we get it right

Learn about our commitment to understanding how the law applies to privately owned and wealthy groups.

Last updated 16 March 2022

The diversity of privately owned and wealthy groups means a wide range of tax issues come to our attention. Although our officers have a sound understanding of the applicable law, they are able to get assistance from internal advisers and legal specialists.

We give our officers access to technical experts within our business units to ensure our engagements with you are progressed effectively. They may also seek further legal support from our Office of the Chief Tax Counsel where there are concerns about the accuracy of existing positions. Our experts may be involved in discussions with you and your tax advisers.

At times, we may also seek expert advice from external industry specialists or external legal service providers. We consider engaging external counsel as early as possible in situations where the matter is clearly significant or there is uncertainty regarding our view of the law.

To make sure we get it right, we use:

Technical and case leaders

Technical leaders have specialised tax technical skills, enabling them to assist other client engagement officers with risk identification and complex matters. To deal with more complex, novel and sensitive audit and review cases, we may appoint senior tax officers as specialist case leaders. These officers are usually part of the ATO’s senior executive service.

Case leaders commonly provide support in cases with highly complex facts or technical issues or where we are not meeting planned milestones. They also assist where cases raise systemic issues of broader significance.

Technical and Settlement Panel

As part of our assurance process, our officers refer certain issues to our Technical and Settlement Panel to ensure integrity of our technical decisions.

The panel, comprising of senior technical officers, provides independent advice on decisions relating to larger audit or review cases, complex technical issues, settlements subject to the ATO Code of Settlement and suspected fraud or evasion matters.

The panel helps us make timely, well-considered decisions by providing expert technical advice.

Matters that are referred to the panel include:

  • tax shortfalls of over $5 million
  • issuing of default assessments under section 167 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936
  • all settlement proposals, with the exception of settlements generally involving more than 20 taxpayers which are referred to our Widely-based Settlement Panel
  • findings of fraud or evasion
  • shortfall penalty decisions that propose penalties of over $1 million or at the rate of 75% for intentional disregard
  • tax avoidance schemes
  • cases with complex technical issues.

General Anti-Avoidance Rules Panel

The General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) Panel helps us in our administration of Part IVA and other general anti-avoidance provisions by providing independent advice. It ensures decisions about applying these provisions are objectively based and there is a consistency in approach to various issues that arise in the application of the GAARs.

The panel, made up of senior technical officers and external experts has an advisory role; it does not make the relevant decision but its advice is taken into account by our decision-makers.

Matters are generally referred to the panel after we have issued a position paper and have considered your response.

The panel may consider matters without your response where:

  • it is for the purpose of providing preliminary advice about a matter
  • you have chosen not to respond to the position paper
  • there are time constraints
  • a reasonable time has passed without a response.

To help the panel provide us with advice, you will usually be invited to address the panel meeting. Before attending a panel meeting, you will also be asked to provide a written submission.

See also: