We’re challenging the Australian Taxation Office to enshrine fair treatment of taxpayers in legislation. It’s a major campaign priority for us.
Far too often we see self-employed, small business people in particular being treated badly by the ATO. The ATO has an internal policy that’s supposed to ensure that all taxpayers are treated fairly by ATO officers. The policy is stated in its Taxpayers’ Charter. The ATO is currently reviewing this policy. We’ve made a submission.
Most ATO officers behave fairly. There are some rogue ATO officers and there’s occasional incompetence. Taxpayers deserve legislated protection from rogues and incompetence. That’s fair. That’s justice.
We’ve said in our submission:
The Taxpayers’ Charter is an ATO ‘feel good’ statement of well-meaning intent as to how the ATO will or does treat taxpayers. It does not do anything to create a legislative obligation upon the ATO to treat taxpayers with any measure of fairness.
If the ATO were genuine and serious about ensuring that taxpayers were treated fairly and required to be treated fairly, the ATO would encourage and support a legislated Taxpayers’ Charter. Such legislation would impose sanctions against the ATO and ATO officers for breaches of the Charter. We recommend that the ATO support such legislation.
On a straightforward reading of the ‘Taxpayers’ Charter – essentials’ there is nothing in the wording of the Charter itself that triggers the need for compliance by the ATO if the Charter is breached by the ATO.
Our analysis of tax administrative laws is that any supposed taxpayer ‘rights’ are scattered through complex different legislative Acts that require expensive and specialised legal advice to comprehend, let alone apply. The upshot is that few people outside the ATO know or understand the rules and what the ATO lawfully can and cannot do in administrative terms.
We compare this with the USA, where taxpayers have rights to fair treatment in legislation. The USA tax office (IRS) must comply with these fair treatment laws.
In comparison, the ATO Taxpayers’ Charter is only a public relations exercise. We’re calling on the ATO to support taxpayer fairness in legislation.
Our submission to the ATO is here. It’s not too long a read and sets out:
- The ATO Taxpayers’ Charter;
- A table of the complex laws covering alleged Australian taxpayer rights; and
- The USA Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
We’ve been running this campaign for over a decade now and will continue to do so.