Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. From 1 May 2015, the IGTO is able to assist you to address your disputes about the administrative actions of the ATO.
Yes. From 1 May 2015, the IGTO is able to assist you to address your disputes about the administrative actions of the TPB.
Once you lodge a dispute via our web form, you will promptly receive an acknowledgement from our office to your email address.
For disputes involving the ATO, we will first verify that you have already lodged a formal complaint with the ATO and the ATO has considered it.
If there has not been a formal complaint lodged with the ATO, we will afford the ATO with an opportunity to review and resolve your complaint before we continue with any investigation. Where the ATO reviews your matter, the ATO will record it as a formal complaint and an ATO complaints handler will contact you directly. We will also inform you that the ATO will review your complaint first and that it will contact you directly to work towards resolving the issues. The ATO will advise us when it considers it has resolved your complaint and we will contact you directly to confirm if you agree.
If you agree that the ATO Complaints handler has resolved your complaint, we will finalise and close your case.
If the ATO Complaints handler was unable to resolve your complaint and you remain dissatisfied, we will assess how we may be able to assist after considering the ATO Complaint handler’s reasons for decision, supporting information and your views on the remaining issues to be resolved.
If there has been a formal complaint lodged with the ATO previously, your case will be placed in a queue to be allocated to an IGTO investigator as and when they become available to conduct an examination of the actions and decisions that are the subject of your dispute. Cases are allocated on a first-in first-out basis.
We triage all disputes lodged with our office to identify cases with exceptional circumstances. An investigator is allocated to these cases in overriding priority to other cases and will conduct their examination of the actions and decisions in dispute without affording the ATO with opportunity to review the case first.
Please note that it may be up to nine months before a dispute lodged with our office is allocated to an investigator. We ask that you wait for our investigators to contact you, as responding to follow up calls made to our office diverts our limited resources and further delays our ability to allocate cases more promptly for action.
The IGTO can help you through independent investigation of the ATO or TPB’s actions or decisions which are the subject of your dispute. Essentially, the IGTO investigates actions and decisions to determine whether they were fair in the circumstances. This depends on the issues in dispute. It can mean, for example, that our investigation examines whether the actions or decisions were lawful, whether the process was fair, whether the decision is rational, or whether the impact of the action or decision was not unreasonably disproportionate.
Examples of type of dealings or interactions the IGTO can assist you with include:
- the timeliness of responses to your requests;
- the conduct of ATO or TPB officers;
- the availability of services (such as ATO online); or
- whether the ATO auditor has considered all relevant information provided in your case.
However, the IGTO is not empowered to investigate:
- rules imposing or creating an obligation to pay an amount under a taxation law; and
- rules dealing with the quantification of such an amount.
The IGTO will generally not actively examine the actions and decisions in dispute where the ATO or TPB complaint has not been finalised, unless there are special reasons to do so. We will make this decision based on the information you provide when lodging your dispute with us as well as the information the ATO provides us.
If you are not satisfied with the way your formal complaint is being handled, you should discuss this with the agency first.
If you have not yet lodged a formal complaint with the ATO or TPB you can do so by contacting them directly. Details on how to do this is set out here.
The IGTO may investigate ATO or TPB actions and decisions which are the subject of your dispute as long as it will not interfere with the Court or Tribunal’s management of the litigation or consideration of the issues which are the subject of litigation.
However, it may be more appropriate for the IGTO to await the outcome of litigation before conducting an investigation of ATO or TPB actions or decisions that are the subject of the dispute. For example, where those actions or decisions are material to the issues in contention in litigation, it would be appropriate to await the outcome of that litigation because it minimises the risk of inadvertently interfering with the Tribunal and Court’s administration of justice.
Also, the IGTO cannot provide you with legal advice in relation to litigation matters. You should seek independent legal advice if your matter is being litigated.
In answering this question, it is important to understand that:
- the ATO is responsible for ensuring that taxpayers have applied the tax laws correctly and paid the right amount of tax;
- the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Courts are responsible for determining whether the better decision was made in applying the tax laws to the facts; and
- the IGTO is responsible for determining whether the ATO has carried out its responsibilities fairly, where reasonably-based concerns are raised.
Accordingly, the IGTO is not empowered to determine whether there is a better decision to be made in applying the tax laws to the facts. In other words, the IGTO cannot directly change the amount of tax that has been raised in an audit. This is the role of the Tribunal and Courts.
However, the IGTO may investigate whether an ATO audit was conducted fairly and lawfully, for example, where information reasonably suggests that the ATO’s actions were unfair. If the IGTO investigation finds unfairness in the way that the ATO auditors determined the amount of tax raised, then the IGTO may make non-binding recommendation for the ATO to take action to address that unfairness. However, this ATO action may not result in a change of the amount of tax that was raised.
Taxpayers can challenge the amount of tax raised in ATO audits in a review process called the objection and appeal process (set out in Part IVC of the Taxation Administration Act 1953). Under this process, if the amount of tax that the auditors raised was incorrect, the amount of tax will be changed where the taxpayer can show that what the auditors raised was excessive and show what the correct amount should be.
If you believe that the amount raised is incorrect, you may challenge the decision by lodging an objection with the ATO. Information on how to object is available on the ATO’s website.
If you are not happy with the ATO’s objection decision, you may appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Federal Court of Australia.
You should seek your own independent legal or tax advice if you need help in these matters.
The IGTO may assist taxpayers to ensure that the audit is fair and transparent, having regard to all the circumstances. In some cases, the IGTO may also recommend changes the ATO may make to the audit approach to achieve fair and transparent outcomes.
However, the IGTO is not empowered to make decisions as to whether an audit should be commenced or continued or what issues should be audited.
The IGTO can investigate ATO actions and decisions that relate to a proposed disclosure of your tax debt information to credit reporting bureaus (or the underlying debt itself). If you have lodged a dispute with the IGTO about a proposed disclosure or the underlying tax debt, and the IGTO is conducting an investigation into these actions, the ATO will not disclose your debt to credit reporting bureaus while that investigation is in progress.
While the ATO is required to consult the IGTO on the proposed disclosure, the IGTO (like other ombudsmen) is not empowered to compel or direct the ATO in relation to its decision to report tax debt information to credit reporting bureaus – ultimately, that will be a matter for the Commissioner of Taxation (or his authorised officers). Additionally, the IGTO does not endorse any decision the ATO may make in relation to disclosing tax debt information to credit reporting bureaus.
The best measure to prevent the ATO from disclosing a taxpayer’s business tax debts is to continue to effectively engage with the ATO to address the outstanding debt. The IGTO is available to assist taxpayers where they are experiencing difficulties engaging with the ATO for this purpose.
No. The TPB has responsibility for dealing with complaints against all registered tax agents and business activity statement (BAS) agents in Australia. Details on how you can lodge a complaint about your tax agent are available on the Tax Practitioners Board’s website.
If you are not happy with the way in which the TPB has handled your complaint and you have attempted to resolve your concerns with the TPB directly but remain dissatisfied, you can lodge a dispute with the IGTO.
No. The TPB is responsible for registering tax agents and BAS agents. If you are not happy with the TPB’s decision, you can apply for it to be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal is empowered to reinstate tax and BAS agents’ registration. Further information is available on the Tax Practitioners Board’s website.
The IGTO is not empowered to investigate the actions of the Tribunal, including its decisions. Depending on the decision made, the tax laws may provide you a right to appeal the Tribunal’s decision to the Federal Court.
You should seek your own independent legal or tax advice if you need help in these matters.
If you need information about your tax affairs, you should contact the ATO.
Alternatively, you may wish to consider seeking advice from a registered tax agent.
If you are not happy with a decision we have made in respect of your complaint, you may request that the matter be reconsidered or internally reviewed. Please refer to Complaints about our investigation for further information about these options.
The service we provide is based on the IGTO service and conduct expectations guidelines. If you are not satisfied with our service or conduct (including the professional conduct or behaviour of IGTO officers), or believe our processes can be improved, you can provide feedback or raise your concerns by speaking to the officer handling your matter.
If you cannot resolve your concerns with the relevant officer or feel that you are unable to speak to them, you can make a complaint about our service or conduct by emailing: [email protected].
For further information, please refer to Complaints about our service or conduct.
- speaking to the officer handling your matter. If they are unable to address your concerns, they will make a record of it and consult their manager to determine the most appropriate course of action; or
- speaking to the officer’s supervisor, if you feel unable to speak directly to the officer concerned.
All applications for access to information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 may be lodged by emailing [email protected]. We will respond to you within 28 days of receiving the application.
Please note that depending on the volume of information requested, there may be a fee payable.
In most cases, if you are seeking information related to your own tax affairs, you should contact the ATO directly as we do not hold this information.
The IGTO values the privacy of our stakeholders and manages all confidential information in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988.
If you have any concerns regarding the ways in which we have handled your information, you may lodge your complaint at [email protected].