Decision Impact Statement
LVR (WA) Pty Ltd and Anor v. Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Commissioner of Taxation
 FCAFC 90
57 AAR 374
289 ALR 244
203 FCR 166
90 ATR 37
Venue: Federal Court
Venue Reference No: WAD 428 of 2011
Judge Name: North, Logan & Robertson JJ
Judgment date: 22 June 2012
Appeals on foot: No.
Decision Outcome: Adverse
Impacted AdviceRelevant Rulings/Determinations:
Power of AAT to dismiss application without proceeding to review the decision
Failure of applicants within reasonable time to comply with AAT directions
Mandatory relevant considerations
Reasons of AAT substantially copied without attribution from written submissions Whether constructive failure to exercise jurisdiction
Practice and Procedure
Obligations of parties to court
Model litigant obligation
Obligation to inform court of source of decision-maker's reasons where copied verbatim and without attribution from party's written submissions
Outlines the ATO's response to this case that concerns dismissal of applications for the taxpayer's failure to comply with directions; AAT's failure to take into account a relevant consideration; copying of submissions without attribution; and model litigant obligations.
Brief summary of facts
On 30 July 2010, the AAT dismissed applications for review of the Commissioner's objection decisions, without proceeding to review the objection decisions, on the basis that there had been a failure to comply within a reasonable time with AAT directions. The applications were lodged on 30 August 2007, and the AAT directions were first made on 26 August 2009.
The only ground relied on by the taxpayer before the Full Federal Court was that the AAT had failed to take into account a relevant consideration, namely an affidavit the taxpayers had filed in the AAT proceedings several days before the dismissal hearing. It was common ground that the AAT's reasons for decision did not refer to the affidavit in question.
At first instance in the Federal Court, Gilmour J dismissed the judicial review application on the basis that the AAT had in fact taken into account the affidavit in question.
It was common ground in the Full Federal Court that approximately 95% of the AAT's reasons had been copied from the written submissions of the Commissioner.
Issues decided by the court
The Full Federal Court unanimously allowed the appeal and set aside the decision of Gilmour J in the Federal Court.
The Full Federal Court held that the AAT had failed to take into account a relevant consideration, namely, an affidavit lodged on behalf of the taxpayers, in coming to its decision to dismiss the applications. As a consequence of this failure, the AAT 'decision-maker thereby failed either to embark on or to complete his jurisdictional task'.
As there had been a failure to take into account a relevant consideration by the AAT, the Full Federal Court expressly did not decide whether the copying without attribution amounted to a constructive failure by the AAT to exercise jurisdiction. The Full Federal Court, however, was critical of the extensive unattributed copying by the AAT and also critical of the parties and their counsel in not drawing the extent and context of the copying to the judge's attention.
The Full Federal Court noted that, if counsel for the taxpayers failed to fully explain the position to Gilmour J, counsel for the Commissioner should have done so to make sure that the judge understood the full circumstances surrounding the AAT's reasons for decision.
The Full Federal Court discussed the nature of the model litigant obligation and the obligations of counsel representing federal government agencies. These comments were made, however, 'without reflecting' on counsel who appeared before the Full Federal Court.
ATO view of Decision
The ATO has decided not to seek special leave to appeal from the decision of the Full Federal Court. The decision turned on the particular material, submissions and sequence of events before the AAT and the Federal Court hearing at first instance. The dismissal issue will be considered again by the AAT in due course.
The Full Federal Court did not find that the Commissioner breached his model litigant obligation. The Court, however, referred at length to the nature and extent of the model litigant obligation, which is binding on federal government agencies and their counsel. The Commissioner will continue to strive to meet every aspect of the model litigant obligation in all matters, and before all courts and tribunals. In particular, he will consider what action should be taken in any matters where verbatim copying issues arise. The Commissioner has reviewed all current appeals to the Federal Court from decisions of the AAT in light of the Full Federal Court judgment.
Implications for ATO Precedential documents (Public Rulings & Determinations etc)
Implications for Law Administration Practice Statements
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