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Appendix 3: Public advice and dispute management

The following tables provide statistics on how the ATO assists people to understand their tax and superannuation obligations, and how we work with people who disagree with our assessments.

Public advice

The ATO provides advice in public rulings and a range of other product types as shown in the next table. Timeliness of our public advice (for public rulings) is presented in the subsequent table.

Key public advice and guidance products, 2016–17 to 2018–19

Product

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

Total public rulings (including significant addenda)(a)

73

64

54

Practical compliance guidelines (including significant updates)(b)

20

13

20

Taxpayer alerts

11

1

4

Decision impact statements

11

10

7

Synthesised texts of the Multilateral Instrument and Australian tax treaties

na

na

6

NOTES

(a) Includes both draft and final rulings, excludes class and product rulings.

(b) Includes both draft and final guidelines.

Timeliness(a) of draft public rulings finalised, 2018–19

Product

Number

0–6 months

7–12 months

Over 12 months

Taxation rulings and determinations(b)

10

3

5

2

Law companion rulings

6

4

1

1

Annual rulings

9

All published within tax time requirements

All published within tax time requirements

All published within tax time requirements

NOTES

(a) Timeliness refers to the time taken to finalise following the end of the public consultation period.

(b) Excludes class and product rulings.

Business, partner and government interactions, 2016–17 to 2018–19

Activity

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

Effectiveness of public advice issued. In particular, in 2018–19, responses showed:

  • steady results generally – indicating that our public advice and guidance is continuing to meet the needs of our clients
  • a marked improvement in clients reporting that they were able to find the guidance they needed.

The external survey results are positive overall. The perceptions of our public advice and guidance improved in nearly all areas compared with 2015–16.

The external survey results are positive overall, showing that our public advice and guidance is meeting the needs of our clients.

Responses for 2018–19 indicate overall a similar level of satisfaction to that reported for 2017–18, with a marked improvement in the ability of our clients to find the guidance they needed.

Dispute management

The next table presents information on the numbers and types of our dispute cases.

Disputes, 2016–17 to 2018–19

Cases

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

Returns lodged

35,540,854

36,572,123

37,628,879

Adjustments arising from audits

253,000

361,107

530,508(a)

Disputed cases resolved

- objections (b)

24,490

24,350

26,276

- settlements

648

673

635

- litigations

437(c)

326

314

- independent reviews

12

16

13

Cases lodged to courts/tribunals

456

478

441

Cases resolved prior to court hearing

296

224

212

Cases proceeded to decision

141

102

102

Objections to new Part IVC litigation matters(d)

15.1 per thousand

15.8 per thousand

14.1 per thousand

Number of test case litigations finalised

2

5

7

NOTES

(a) Increased use of advanced analytics and automation has led to increased review and audit activities for individuals not in business.

(b) The increase in objections can in part be attributed to taxpayers objecting to their own self-assessments.

(c) Previously published in the 2016–17 annual report as 408.

(d) Previously reported as the proportion of objections that result in litigation.

Settlements

Settlement cases reviewed under our Independent Assurance of Settlements Program for 2018–19 are shown in the next table. Independent assurers review settlements only after they have been finalised. As a result, settlements finalised in the second half of any financial year will likely be reviewed by an independent assurer in the following financial year.

Settlements reviewed by our Independent Assurance of Settlements program during 2018–19(a)

Financial year of settlement


Settlement cases

ATO
position
$m

Settled position
$m


Variance
$m


Variance
%

2016–17

1

111.5

87.0

24.5

22

2017–18

5

225.0

83.9

141.2

63

2018–19

10

3,109.9

1,569.2

1,540.7

50

TOTAL

16

3,446.4

1,740.1

1,706.4

50

NOTE

(a) Totals may differ from the sum of components due to rounding.

The next two tables provide more detail on settlements that occurred during 2018–19.

Stage at which settlement occurred, 2018–19(a)

Stage


Settlement cases


% of total settlements

ATO
position
$m

Settled position
$m


Variance
$m


Variance
%

Pre-audit

211

33%

329.5

250.5

79.0

24%

Audit

206

32%

3,146.8

1,693.7

1,453.1

46%

Objection

115

18%

369.9

183.9

186.0

50%

AAT

92

15%

31.8

15.7

16.1

51%

Federal Court

11

2%

48.9

16.0

32.9

67%

High Court

0

0%

0.0

0.0

0.0

0%

TOTAL

635

100%

3,926.9

2,159.9

1,767.1

45%

NOTE

(a) Totals may differ from the sum of components due to rounding.

Settlements by client group, 2018–19(a)

Client group


Settlement cases


% of total settlements

ATO
position
$m

Settled position
$m


Variance
$m


Variance
%

Individuals(b)

36

6%

8.1

4.7

3.4

42%

Small business

171

27%

159.9

93.5

66.5

42%

Privately owned and wealthy groups

254

40%

232.1

124.2

107.9

46%

Public and multinational businesses

98

15%

3,517.5

1,931.4

1,586.1

45%

Not-for-profit organisations(c)

1

0%

0.0

0.1

-0.1

0%

Superannuation funds

75

12%

9.2

6.0

3.2

35%

TOTAL

635

100%

3,926.9

2,159.9

1,767.1

45%

NOTES

(a) Totals may differ from the sum of components due to rounding.

(b) The client group Individuals does not include those who are in business – for example, sole traders.

(c) The client group Not-for-profit organisations includes government entities.