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Litigation and case law

Find out about our approach and philosophy to litigation and alternative dispute resolution and links to case law.

Last updated 20 January 2020

Here you'll find information about our approach and philosophy to litigation and alternative dispute resolution, and links to case law and decision impact statements.

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Conduct of ATO litigation

Our approach and philosophy to litigation is set out in our practice statement, PS LA 2009/9 Conduct of Tax Office Litigation. It provides:

  • guidance to tax officers about our obligations to act as a model litigant under the Attorney-General's Legal Services Directions
  • the processes tax officers must follow to ensure those obligations are met, including how to engage external legal service providers.

The practice statement also explains our commitment to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in litigation and discusses the various obligations that are imposed under the different court and tribunal rules.

Case law

In our legal database we list Australian court and tribunal decisions that involve tax matters. We also provide a compilation of recent case law decisions, listed alphabetically.

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Decision impact statements

We publish decision impact statements (DIS) on significant court or tribunal decisions to inform the community of our view on the implications of the decision.

They set out how the law will be administered as a consequence of the decision, noting any implications to existing ATO rulings. They are not public rulings and are not normally expected to contain advice.

DIS are published on our legal database, and are listed by calendar year.

Test case litigation

Usually, taxpayers fund their own litigation. However, there are some issues where it is in the public interest to have the law clarified through litigation.

While only a taxpayer can start such litigation, under the test case litigation program, we provide financial assistance to taxpayers whose litigation is likely to be important to the administration of Australia's revenue and super systems.

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Alternative dispute resolution

We recognise and support the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a cost-effective, informal, consensual and speedy means of resolving disputes. This extends to using ADR to deal with only part of a dispute, or to deal with procedural or interlocutory matters in relation to a dispute. All tax officers handling disputes must consider whether ADR processes might assist in the resolution of the dispute or limit the scope of the dispute in some material way. ADR processes include direct engagement and negotiation with taxpayers and their representatives.

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