Selection of reviews
The Inspector-General of Taxation Act 2003 sets out the functions and powers of the Inspector-General of Taxation.
The functions of the Inspector-General are generally to review tax administration systems and to report on those reviews to government.
The Inspector-General will usually initiate reviews on his own behalf. He may be requested by the Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, Parliament or the Commissioner of Taxation to conduct a review. However, he is under no legal obligation to conduct such a review. The Inspector-General may also be directed by the Treasurer or Assistant Treasurer to conduct a review. Although the Inspector-General will have a legal obligation to conduct a review where directed, under section 9 of the Act he has the discretion in setting the priorities for his work program, including those reviews which he has been directed to conduct.
Conduct of Reviews
Division 3 of the Act provides the Inspector-General with powers that may be exercised for the purposes of review, including for the purpose of deciding whether to undertake a review.
The Inspector-General may invite submissions from the public. People who, in good faith, make submissions in response to an invitation are protected from civil proceedings arising from making that submission. The Inspector-General may require tax officials to provide information and documents notwithstanding any tax law secrecy provision. He may also make and keep copies of documents. He has wide ranging powers to gather information from the ATO and access ATO premises.
Division 4 of the Act places obligations on the Inspector-General and his staff in dealing with information obtained in the course of a review. These obligations are generally to keep confidential any information relating to a particular taxpayer’s affairs, information identifying tax officials, submissions made on a confidential basis and information subject to legal professional privilege.
Where a review report contains information that criticises the ATO or tax officials, the Inspector-General must give the Commissioner of Taxation an opportunity to make a submission in relation to that criticism.
Reporting of reviews
The Inspector-General must provide a written report to the Assistant Treasurer after completing a review. The Treasurer or the Assistant Treasurer must either table in Parliament or publicly release a copy of the report within 25 sitting days of Parliament. Therefore, all reports become available to the public after a limited period of time.
Inspector-General of Taxation - 29 January 2004