Our strategies are directed to resolving disputes early and in a fair and effective manner, to provide the community with confidence in the integrity of the tax system.
We encourage our employees to consider dispute management options at all stages of each dispute. We consider that some form of dispute management can be used in most, if not all, matters, to:
- narrow the issues in dispute
- foster mutual understanding of interests
- enable the dispute to progress more efficiently, even if it ultimately progresses to litigation.
We believe that ongoing discussion is essential to the effective management of disputes. It promotes a complete understanding of the facts and circumstances of the dispute. It also provides an opportunity for both sides to explain their views and discuss the options available to resolve or limit the scope of the dispute, or to remove any blockers to its progress.
We progressively review most aspects of our approach to dispute resolution and continue to update our approach and implement necessary changes.
We believe that early and ongoing discussions with clients are essential to provide:
- a complete understanding of the facts and circumstances of the dispute
- the opportunity for both sides to explain their views, listen to alternatives and discuss available options for resolving the dispute.
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI) operates to help reduce the number of disputes, including:
- helping applicants to make a request so that it does not attract refusal provisions
- consulting with applicants about the imposition of charges and the scope of the request
- consulting with third parties about their interest in documents falling within the scope of the request.
The ATO approach is to provide information informally wherever possible. When practicable to do so, our decision makers deal with FOI applicants outside the FOI Act, subject to agreement of the applicant.
We support and endorse the APS and ATO values of openness and transparency, and believe that pro-active disclosure will produce better outcomes and lead to a reduction in disputes and less need for people to make applications under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
We encourage our employees to give taxpayers information about decisions that have directly affected them (where allowed under law). A large number of corporate and operational documents are available on our website under the Information Public Scheme and from our contribution to the Australian Public Service.
Further information can be found at Information Publication Scheme.
We handle all ATO complaints in accordance with the Taxpayers' Charter.
We offer a variety of channels to lodge complaints, including a dedicated phone hotline 1800 199 010 and an online complaints form. We also give access to a network of complaints resolvers across all business areas of the ATO.
If a complaint is upheld, we may apologise as part of the resolution of the complaint.
A dedicated team of our case managers deal independently with more difficult complaints, including those that are escalated by business areas. We also have a Liaison Unit to manage our relationship with the Inspector General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman, (IGTO) including any investigations they refer to us.
We have corporate and business area quality assurance processes for complaints including IGTO interactions.
We use the ATO Professionalism Survey to do both of the following:
- measure community perceptions of our complaints handling process
- monitor and report on performance against service standards and other aspects of complaints handling, such as trend information, feedback, and systemic or recurring issues.
We take responsibility for our actions that cause compensable financial loss. Above all, we apologise for our mistakes. We do not take a defensive approach to liability, and we do not want you to have to resort to litigation to make a legitimate monetary claim.
Instead, we take a common sense and pragmatic approach to the resolution of disputes in this area. When we assess a monetary claim made against us, we aim for early resolution by negotiating a fair and publicly defensible outcome with you, balancing the need for integrity and rigour in the claims assessment process with community expectations, natural justice and timeliness.
We have dispute avoidance and settlement procedures in our Enterprise Agreement that emphasise the importance of discussions between the employee and their manager.
We acknowledge allegations and complaints as quickly as possible (in most cases within 5 days) and approach all complaints and allegations with an open mind.
We explore dispute resolution options with those in dispute and provide reasons for any decisions we make, unless there are specific reasons why we cannot do so. For example, allegations of criminal behaviour or whistle blowing have formal and structured responses which must comply with the relevant standards.
We recommend appropriate changes to address any systemic or other problems identified during the dispute.How our strategies work towards resolving disputes early and in a fair and effective manner.