In-house facilitation is a mediation process where an impartial ATO facilitator meets with you and the ATO case officer(s) to identify issues in dispute, develop options, consider alternatives, and attempt to reach a resolution.
At the facilitation you will have the opportunity to present your view of the facts and issues in dispute.
Our facilitator will be an officer trained in facilitative mediation who has not been involved in the dispute and who is impartial and independent.
You are welcome to bring a support person or representative.
If you choose to participate in a facilitation and the dispute is not resolved, your review and appeal rights are not affected in any way.
You are not obliged to agree to participate in facilitation if it is offered to you.
In-house facilitation is a free service.
How to request in-house facilitation
If you wish to request an in-house facilitation, your request must:
- Be in writing.
- Include your name or the name of the taxpayer who will be party to the in-house facilitation (if you are applying on behalf of another entity).
- Include the name and contact details of the person or organisation lodging the request.
- Be sent by email to email@example.com
Below is a list of information you should include in the request. The information you provide will assist the ATO in processing your request for in-house facilitation.
- Your tax file number (TFN) or Australian business number (ABN) – while it is not compulsory to provide your TFN or ABN, it will help us process your request promptly.
- The background and the issue/s of the dispute.
- The year/periods involved in the dispute.
- Details of any previous meetings, discussions or correspondence you have had with the ATO in relation to the dispute.
- The ATO reference number/s in relation to the dispute or from the most recent correspondence you have had with the ATO in relation to the dispute.
- The name of any ATO officers who have been involved in your dispute.
- What you would like to achieve from the in-house facilitation process, for example, resolution of the dispute, narrowing down the issues in dispute, avoiding the dispute going to litigation, etc.
- Where you heard about in-house facilitation, for example, via our website, an ATO call centre, a shopfront, your representative.
The facilitation process
After a request for in-house facilitation is made, the facilitation is scheduled at the earliest date convenient for the parties. Facilitation usually lasts less than a day.
In-house facilitations will preferably be held face-to-face, although in some instances it may be necessary to conduct a facilitation process by telephone or video link.
Before the meeting
- You and the ATO case officer(s) will be contacted by the facilitator. The pre-facilitation meeting will allow the facilitator to outline the process and answer your questions.
- You and the ATO case officer(s) will be notified of the date, time and venue of the facilitation.
On the day
- The facilitator will outline the meeting structure and reinforce mutual expectations and aims for the session.
- The facilitator will invite you and the ATO case officer(s) to provide your view of the dispute at the start of the facilitation.
- The facilitator will then assist the parties to identify the issues in dispute and options for resolution.
- The facilitator will assist you and the ATO case officer(s) to evaluate the options and attempt to reach a resolution.
- All parties need to participate in good faith, be respectful to other participants, be open and transparent, and be willing to negotiate.
- Participants should be authorised to discuss and resolve the dispute.
Concluding the facilitation
- If agreed upon by the parties, the facilitator can assist in recording the outcomes of the facilitation.
- If no resolution is reached, the audit or objection will be determined according to usual processes.
Confidentiality and the facilitation process
Unless otherwise agreed by the disclosing party, information disclosed during the facilitation is only to be used for this process. The only exception to this principle is if disclosure is required by law or the information represents an actual or potential threat to human life or safety.
Statement of expectations
This statement of expectations applies to all in-house facilitation participants and facilitators. It outlines what is expected of participants and what participants can expect from the process.
The role of in-house facilitation participants is to present their view of the facts and issues of the case. Participants include ATO officers involved in the case, the taxpayers and representatives of the taxpayers.
All participants will:
- be prepared for the facilitation, including ensuring all relevant people are participating or directly accessible
- be authorised to discuss and resolve the dispute
- participate in the facilitation fully and in good faith
- have an objective approach to settling the issues and be willing to negotiate and attempt to resolve all aspects of the dispute, or clarify prior to the facilitation process any limitation of the scope of the process
- be respectful of all parties, and the facilitator
- answer (where possible) any relevant questions asked by the facilitator or other parties
- as far as practicable, be open and transparent in providing information directly relevant to the case to enable a better understanding of the facts and issues
- adhere to confidentiality requirements (as outlined below).
The facilitator's role is to manage the discussion between the participants with a view to resolving the dispute or at least making progress towards resolution.
The facilitator will:
- have training, skills and experience in conducting facilitation processes
- act in good faith and within the law
- support the integrity and fairness of the process
- respect time and attempt to bring the process to a conclusion in a reasonable time
- be neutral, impartial and avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest
- not have an interest in the eventual outcome of the case
- not accept any gifts, inducements or rewards (whether in monetary or non-monetary form) in respect of his or her involvement in the process, except for the facilitator's current remuneration as an employee of the ATO
- aside from taking actions necessary to maintain control of the discussion, not compel any participant to agree to steps in the process, conditions or outcomes which the participant is not comfortable accepting
- not have any prior or future involvement in the case, whether or not in their capacity as an employee of the ATO, without consent of all participants
- immediately disclose to the participants anything that may, or may be seen to, affect their independence, and only continue to act as facilitator in the process with the consent of all participants
- adhere to confidentiality requirements (as outlined below)
- cease to act and withdraw from the process if
- a reasonable request is made by a participant
- anything will impair their ability to meet these expectations
- suspend or terminate the process if they believe that continuation of the process may harm or prejudice one or more of the participants, or that one or more of the participants are not acting in good faith.
Any information disclosed during the in-house facilitation process is only to be used for the in-house facilitation process, unless authority is otherwise provided by the disclosing party, disclosure is required by law or the information represents an actual or potential threat to human life or safety.
- what is said in the facilitation process stays in the process
- anything said or written during or about the facilitation process must not be spoken or written about outside of the process
- the facilitator can only speak or write about the facilitation to the following people (where they agree to keep what you tell them to themselves)
- the other participants
- the facilitator
- other people specifically involved in the facilitation process, such as lawyers and expert advisers
- other people agreed by all participants.
To avoid any doubt:
- No admission by, or new evidence obtained from, a participant as a consequence of the in-house facilitation process can be used by or be disclosed to any other person employed by the ATO, or otherwise engaged to act for the Commissioner, as a basis to amend the returns of any person or would otherwise benefit the other party, without the prior consent of the participant.
Before the facilitation
Before the facilitation meeting:
- Participants will be separately contacted by the facilitator. The pre-facilitation meeting will allow each of you to separately be introduced to the facilitator who will outline the process, establish your objectives, clarify aspects of the dispute and answer any questions you have about the process.
- Participants will be notified of the date, time and venue of the facilitation.
- Any change to the date, time or location will be communicated to all participants as soon as possible.
On the day
On the day:
- The facilitator will outline the meeting format, reinforce mutual expectations and aims for the session, and will assist to document the outcome if requested by both parties.
- Participants will be invited to communicate their aims for the session, interpretation of the tax issues in dispute and briefly summarise their concerns.
- The facilitator will summarise each participant's view to ensure mutual understanding by all parties. Participants will be able to briefly respond to the facilitator's summary.
- The facilitator will establish an agenda listing the issues to be resolved or questions to be answered.
- Participants will discuss all agenda items to evaluate options and the decision-making process.
- The facilitator will assist the participants in their discussions to reach an agreed resolution to the issues.
After the facilitation
If participants have agreed on an outcome, the facilitator will assist the participants to record the agreement, settlement or recommendation. The case will be finalised in accordance with the agreed outcome.
Feedback or concerns on the facilitation
If you have concerns at any stage in the process, you should raise them with the facilitator or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Participants may withdraw from the process at any time by advising the facilitator and the other participants.
If the facilitation does not resolve the dispute, the taxpayer's rights of review will be unaffected and they may still be able to lodge an objection or appeal our decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Federal Court.
Participants will be invited to complete a feedback form after the facilitation to capture their views of the process. We appreciate your feedback to help us measure the effectiveness of the process and make any improvements. Both you and the ATO case officers will be asked to offer feedback regarding the facilitation. This will help ensure facilitation remains a contemporary and valuable service in the early resolution of disputes.
This document sets out the process of facilitation and mutual expectations of participants and the facilitator.