Ato Surprise Visits Get Tick Of Approval

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15th February 2010, 12:00pm - Views: 1618

People Feature Commonwealth Ombudsman 1 image

People Feature Commonwealth Ombudsman 2 image


Monday, 15 February 2010

ATO surprise visits get tick of approval

Commonwealth and Taxation Ombudsman Professor John McMillan today confirmed

that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) had established appropriate procedures for

exercising its coercive ‘access without notice’ powers.

The wide–ranging powers allow the ATO to enter a business or private premises without

the owner’s permission to examine and copy documents, relevant to an investigation,

that deal with income, indirect, pay as you go, fringe benefits and energy–related taxes

and superannuation.

Professor McMillan made his findings following a random audit in 2009 that included

observing a coordinated, simultaneous multi–site access without notice visit in several

states and a thorough review of various files and other documentation.

‘The ATO takes the use of its access without notice powers seriously and has

established a set of sound guidelines and manuals to assist its staff to apply the powers,’

Professor McMillan said.

‘It’s pleasing to note also that the ATO’s activities generally comply with the principles

outlined in the Administrative Review Council’s report The Coercive Information

gathering Powers of Government Agencies and the Ombudsman’s Lessons for public


‘This is the second Ombudsman investigation into the ATO’s access without notice

powers in the past 10 years and it confirms that taxpayers can feel confident that the

ATO is exercising these powers in the manner in which it should.’

Professor McMillan said it was right and proper that the ATO used its access without

notice powers only in exceptional circumstances, defined by a genuine belief that

documents might be destroyed if notice was given, a well–founded concern that fraud or

evasion was occurring, or inappropriate secrecy by the taxpayer.

However, he suggested—and the ATO agreed—that the ATO’s commitment to public

accountability would be strengthened by:

greater transparency through, for example, reporting use of the powers in its

annual report

finetuning the Access and Information Gathering Manual, especially in relation to

the ATO’s excisable goods regulatory role

improving the electronic case management filing system.

The Ombudsman’s report, Australian Taxation Office: Use of access without notice


Media contact:

Fiona Skivington, Director Public Affairs

0408 861 803

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