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Complaints about taxation (ATO)

Complaints about ATO administrative decisions

A person wishing to make a complaint about the administrative actions of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) can do so by contacting the Office of the Inspector-General of Taxation. The Office was established in 2003 as an independent statutory agency that is independent from the ATO and the TPB.

Examples of administrative actions include (but are not limited to):

  • the time it takes for the ATO to respond to a request or question;
  • the conduct of the ATO or TPB in their dealings with a member of the public;
  • the availability, or lack thereof, of certain services such as the Tax Agent Portal.

The Office cannot assist with complaints relating to a person's requirement to pay tax (or how much tax they are required to pay). A person wishing to dispute a decision which is not administrative in nature could seek a review of the decision via the process outlined below.

The powers of the Office of the Inspector-General of Taxation are outlined in the Inspector-General of Taxation Act 2003 (Cth).

For more information see the Office of the Inspector-General of Taxation's websiteor contact the Office on 1300 448 829.

Seeking Review of ATO decisions

If a person disagrees with an Australian Tax Office (ATO) decision, they have a right to object and have the decision reviewed. There are time limits that apply in making a request for review and these will differ depending on the type of tax or situation.

A person who thinks that a mistake has been made with their tax assessment can request an amendment. A written request for an amendment should be made to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), and included in the request should be an explanation as to why the person believes the assessment is incorrect.

Generally, a request for amendment must be lodged within two years of the date the assessment was made.

If the ATO make the decision not to amend the assessment, an objection to the original assessment can be lodged. There will be a time limit for lodging an objection.

An Objection Form is available from the ATO. It can be lodged by fax, post or at any ATO office. If a person decides not to use a form they will need to ensure that all the relevant information is included in their letter, along with any supporting documents.

An objection must:

  • be in writing
  • be signed and dated
  • contain a declaration that the information provided in the objection and supporting documentation is true and correct
  • include full details of why the person thinks the decision is wrong

Further information about preparing an objection can be found in the ATO’s Objection Guide which is available on the ATO website.

A person who is unsatisfied with the ATO’s decision can request an independent, external review of the decision with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) or the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)

A hearing at the AAT is less formal than a court hearing. An applicant can represent themselves in person or have someone to represent them. A request for review will need to be lodged in writing directly to the AAT (see contact details below under ‘Services’). There is a time limit in which an application must be lodged, and an application fee is payable to the Tribunal. This fee can be waived on the basis of financial hardship and a form for this is available.

A person dissatisfied with the decision of the AAT may be eligible to appeal to the Federal Court, however, this will only be in the event that there is an issue of law arising from the AAT’s decision. Legal advice should be sought before commencing any Federal Court appeal as fees may apply and cost implications may arise for unsuccessful applications

Application forms and further information can be found on the AAT’s website.

Federal Court

An applicant is able to bypass the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and lodge an application directly with the Federal Court to seek review of the decision. However, a variety of fees may apply and the Court has strict procedures and rules that must be followed. Legal advice and representation should be sought before commencing any Federal Court application as there may be cost risks should the application be unsuccessful.

Compensation for financial loss

A person who believes the ATO’s actions have directly caused them to suffer financial loss may be entitled to compensation, although there are very specific circumstances where compensation may be payable. The ATO has a compensation assistance line on 1800 005 172, or more information (including the ATO- Applying for Compensation Form) can be located on the ATO website.

Complaints about taxation (ATO)  :  Last Revised: Mon Jan 21st 2019
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.