There are times when a dispute can arise in relation to how an individual or company’s tax affairs have been dealt with by the ATO. This article explains how these disputes can arise, and how an individual or company targeted by the ATO can deal with the situation.

How does the ATO approach a Dispute?

In many cases, a dispute with the ATO will involve allegations of impropriety in relation to various tax and superannuation returns, statements and other reporting documents that are lodged with the ATO. At the first instance, pursuant to its charter, the ATO is obliged to accept the notion that the relevant party is attempting to be honest and transparent in relation to the provision of the information in question. Unless the ATO can provide evidence of carelessness, recklessness or an intentional disregard of the law, then they are obliged to accept what has been provided as a true and accurate representation of the tax affairs in question.

How Can You Deal With an ATO Allegation?

In view of the above there may be times when a party disagrees with a tax assessment, a penalty, an interest charge on an unpaid debt or some other decision that the ATO has made in relation to the tax affairs in question. If this is to occur there are various avenues available for the relevant party to have these decisions reviewed and challenged.

In relation to disputing a finding by the ATO the party in question often has a legal right to challenge or object to any such finding. This objection can be made through a number of forums and jurisdictions:

–       Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)

–       Commonwealth Ombudsman

–       The Federal Court

What Further Strategies are Available?

When legal proceedings have been commenced by the ATO a lawyer with experience in tax disputes can review the relevant circumstances in order to devise a strategy to suit you or your business’s individual needs in relation to any such enforcement activity by the ATO.

This strategy can involve commencing a dispute with the ATO through their internal dispute resolution process, or if the matter is not resolved through this process by taking the matter to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Pursuing such avenues will give you the ability to raise your concerns and potentially intervene and stop action which is perceived to be inequitable on the part of the ATO.


There are a number of circumstances where you can find yourself in dispute with the ATO. There are many strategies that can be employed to resolve such disputes and stave off enforcement action. If you need assistance, get in touch with LegalVision’s taxation lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page. 

Lachlan McKnight
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