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How we do this review

The essential request steps, what happens if your request is declined, the independent reviewer's role and how case conferences work.

Last updated 30 October 2022

Essential request steps

To request an independent review, you must:

  • receive an offer to apply for an independent review
  • email your request to apply for an independent review within 10 business days of the offer
  • clearly specify and outline each area of your disagreement with the audit position.

Extend the amendment period

We may ask you to complete and return a consent form to extend the amendment period before we commence your review. This will allow us to complete the review before the relevant assessment period of review ends.

Discussing settlement

It is always open to you and the audit team to discuss considering settlement and potential dispute resolution approaches. The independent review process is not intended to limit opportunities for this to occur.

If your request is declined

If your request is declined:

  • we will advise the reasons why
  • your audit will be finalised in accordance with the Statement of audit position.

What the independent reviewer does

If your request is approved, an independent senior officer will be assigned to review your case.

The independent reviewer won't have had any past involvement in your audit case and will bring an independent 'fresh set of eyes'. They will:

  • consider your position and the audit position
  • contact you to discuss the process and address any questions you may have
  • arrange an informal meeting (case conference) with the audit team, you and your representative to
    • confirm the agreed facts
    • determine and, if possible, narrow down the specific areas of disagreement
    • ask questions to clarify issues.

To maintain independence, you should refrain from contact the independent reviewer to discuss the merits of your technical position. These discussions should be reserved for the case conference.

The independent reviewer has the discretion to discontinue your review if asked to consider new facts, material evidence or arguments unless requested by them for clarity or special circumstances. They will consider:

  • what is fair to both you and the audit team
  • if it will delay or complicate the process.

In some circumstances, the reviewer may consult other ATO staff (independent to the audit team) to form their recommendations, for example, to clarify a question of legal interpretation with a member of the Tax Counsel Network. When this occurs, independence from audit decision making is maintained.

Escalation process

We are committed to fairness to taxpayers through consistent decision making.

To enable this in an independent review, we have introduced an escalation process to either the Chief Tax Counsel or to the Deputy Chief Tax Counsel depending on the issue for consideration.

The Deputy Commissioner of Objections and Review will make the final decision on whether escalation will occur.

How the case conference is conducted

Your independent reviewer will invite you and/or your representatives to attend a case conference, in person or online, to discuss your individual circumstances. They will issue an agenda approximately a week before to identify any issues they wish to discuss or clarify.

The case conference:

  • is normally held within 8 weeks of your review being allocated
  • can take up to 3 hours depending on the issues in dispute
  • should only be attended by your representatives or advisors and audit officers who have been directly involved in the audit (an exception may be made if there has been a recent change in advisors or audit officers)
  • is informal in nature
    • Senior representatives or advisors who can't demonstrate a significant role during the audit and external legal counsel aren't usually permitted to attend
    • Your independent reviewer determines who may attend
  • is not an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) or the forum to consider and discuss ADR – discuss potential dispute resolution approaches with your audit case officer.

Your reviewer won't provide you with any minutes, notes, observations, recommendations or preliminary conclusions from the case conference. You are welcome to take your own notes.

After the case conference

The outcome of an independent review is in the form of recommendations on:

  • what the reviewer considers is the better view of the facts
  • the application of the law to those facts.

They send their recommendations to the audit team to finalise your audit in accordance with the recommendations.

An independent review won't decide between matters of conflicting expert opinion. These matters can be considered if the case proceeds to objection.

You may also wish to talk to your audit officer about whether an alternative dispute resolution process would assist in resolving such issues.

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