ATO Practice Statement Law Administration

PS LA 1998/1

Law Administration Practice Statements
  • This document has changed over time. View its history.

1. Why do we have Law Administration Practice Statements?
2. What are LAPS?
3. What are your responsibilities in relation to LAPS?
4. What are the types of LAPS?
5. Who maintains a LAPS?
6. How is a LAPS developed?
7. More information

This practice statement is an internal ATO document, and is an instruction to ATO staff.

If taxpayers rely on this practice statement, they will be protected from interest and penalties in the following way. If a statement turns out to be incorrect and taxpayers underpay their tax as a result, they will not have to pay a penalty. Nor will they have to pay interest on the underpayment provided they reasonably relied on this practice statement in good faith. However, even if they don't have to pay a penalty or interest, taxpayers will have to pay the correct amount of tax provided the time limits under the law allow it.

This Law Administration Practice Statement explains the system of Law Administration Practice Statements.

1. Why do we have Law Administration Practice Statements?

Law Administration Practice Statements (LAPS) are corporate policy documents, which provide instructions to ATO staff on the way they should perform certain duties involving the application of the laws administered by the Commissioner - usually referred to as 'technical' work.

Policy for the performance of technical work should be issued in the form of LAPS. Office minutes and other communications shouldn't be used for this purpose, except as an interim measure whilst a LAPS is being developed.

2. What are LAPS?

The following provide the basic principles behind LAPS:

The primary purpose of a LAPS is to provide instruction to staff. Although technical issues may be discussed in LAPS, this should only be to the extent required to give sense to the instruction. LAPS are not intended to provide interpretative advice.
LAPS do not express a precedential ATO view.
Although the primary audience for a LAPS is ATO staff, in the interest of open tax administration, they are published externally.

A taxpayer who relies on particular LAPS will remain liable for any tax shortfall if those LAPS are incorrect, or are misleading and the taxpayer makes a mistake as a result. However, they will be protected against any shortfall penalty that would otherwise arise. In addition, they will be protected against interest charges on the shortfall if the particular LAPS were reasonably relied on in good faith.[1]

3. What are your responsibilities in relation to LAPS?

You must be aware of and follow LAPS relevant to the task you are performing.

When developing guidelines, work instructions or other tools to support policy outlined in a LAPS, you are to ensure that the underlying intent of the LAPS is maintained, and you must include a link and a reference to the LAPS.

If you think that the application of a particular LAPS has an unintended consequence, or that the particular LAPS is incorrect, you must escalate the matter using your business line escalation process.

4. What are the types of LAPS?

There are two series of LAPS - the standard series (such as this one) and the general administration series.

General administration LAPS are identified by a (GA) after their number. These LAPS outline an exercise of the Commissioner's powers of general administration (which are set out in the various Acts administered by the Commissioner)[2], and provide practical compliance solutions in situations where a strict interpretation of the law may be unsatisfactory.

Note: we no longer prepare GA LAPS. If necessary, you should discuss an alternative advice and guidance product (such as a practical compliance guideline) with your BSL PAG Unit.

5. Who maintains a LAPS?

LAPS are 'owned' by a business line, and it is the responsibility of that business line to maintain the currency of that LAPS.

6. How is a LAPS developed?

The process for developing a LAPS depends on the type of LAPS it is.

The procedures for developing a LAPS are outlined in the Public advice and guidance manual. You should follow these procedures when creating a LAPS.

7. More information

For more information:

Visit the LAPS myATO site (link available internally only)
View the Public advice and guidance manual (link available internally only)
View LAPS on ATOlaw (internal) or Legal Database (external)
Commissioner's powers of general administration (link available internally only)
Email the Law Publishing and Policy team in Tax Counsel Network

Amendment history

Date of amendment Part Comment
17 April 2018 All Revised for currency and advising the discontinuance of GA LAPS.
19 February 2015 All Rewritten practice statement published
19 December 2013 Throughout Removed Law and Practice and replaced with Tax Counsel Network.
Removed Law (from Practice Management) and replaced with TCN
Minor changes to formatting
Paragraph 24 Removed 'staff' and replaced with 'ATO personnel'
Paragraph 37 Updated Sub-plan Executive with Group Executive
Paragraphs 36, 39 and 41 Replaced Taxpayers' Charter team with Charter Review team
Paragraph 42 Replaced Second Commissioner (Law) with Second Commissioner (Law Design and Practice)
2 May 2013 Paragraph 7 Insert requirement to ensure underlying intent of the LAPS is maintained when ATO personnel are developing guidelines or similar products to support the LAPS
Footnote 6 Insert instruction to consider packaging GA LAPS documents for Commissioner's approval where the GA LAPS will need to issue in a short timeframe and will be issued for external consultation
Throughout Minor changes to wording to reflect updates to Branch name, other references
18 October 2012 Throughout Updated processes to reflect withdrawal of the priority technical issue system
Removed requirement to undergo official extension of time process if due dates pass
Updated names of relevant areas of responsibility
Updated citations and style in accordance with corporate requirements
Paragraph 2 Allowed for interim policy to be distributed via office minute, subject to conditions
Paragraph 39 Removed the active role of the Assistant Commissioner, Law Practice Management Unit in the registration and approval processes of process LAPS
29 November 2011 Various Unified format of headings
Various Formatting of LAPS citations updated as per ATO Standards for Citations and References
Paragraph 12 Maintenance & Support team's role in LAPS currency review.
Paragraph 30 Removed reference to former Commissioner Carmody's speech as this link is no longer available
Paragraph 42 DCTC approval of topics being added to the LAPS Program
Paragraph 39 Assistant Commissioner's details updated to Law Practice Management Unit.
Various PTI & Public Rulings Branch updated to PTI & Public Rulings Unit (PTI & PRU).
Various Tax Office updated to ATO as per the ATO Style Guide.
Contact details Updated.
27 August 2009 Paragraph 14 Sentences included to allow for the introduction of point in time functionality
Paragraph 37 Inserted to mandate the use of Siebel in the development of LAPS. All consequent paragraphs renumbered
Paragraphs 39, 42 and 45 Amended to allow for minor changes to the process due to the introduction of Siebel
Related practice statements Hyperlink to PS LA 2009/4 added
Other references Hyperlink to Siebel procedures added
21 May 2009 Paragraphs 45 - 46 Amended to incorporate the process outlined in PS LA 2009/4 in relation to obtaining approval for the exercise of the Commissioner's power of general administration
23 September 2008 Contact details Contact details updated
29 June 2007 Various Amended to:

update paragraph relating to citation of LAPS
change classification types of LAPS to process, technical and GA
change procedures for the development of LAPS
make adherence to Information Kit for Authors and Sponsors mandatory

31 July 2006 Various Amended to:

allow for changes in procedures regarding the drafting and approval of all LAPS
formalise TechNet role in regard to consultation
include requirement to register significant technical LAPS as a priority technical issue
include clarification of the CMPS/LAPS boundary
improve wording for clarification
update procedure for approval of LAPS (GA)
include new paragraphs 4 and 22 concerning precedential ATO view and level of protection

Also previously amended on 20 December 2002, 4 May 2003 and 9 June 2005

Date of Issue: 17 December 1998

Date of Effect: 17 December 1998

See Law Administration Practice Statement PS LA 2008/3 Provision of advice and guidance by the ATO.

For example, section 8-1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

File 98/117644

Related Practice Statements:
PS LA 2008/3

Subject References:
general administration
law administration practice statements
practical compliance
practice statements

Legislative References:
ITAA 1997 8-1

Authorised by:
Michael D'Ascenzo

Business Line:  TCN

PS LA 1998/1 history
  Date: Version:
  21 May 2009 Updated statement
  27 August 2009 Updated statement
  29 November 2011 Updated statement
  18 October 2012 Updated statement
  2 May 2013 Updated statement
  19 December 2013 Updated statement
  19 February 2015 Updated statement
You are here 17 April 2018 Updated statement
This practice statement was originally published on 17 December 1998. Versions published from 21 May 2009 are available electronically - refer to the online version of the practice statement. Versions published prior to this date are not available electronically. If needed, these can be requested by emailing