• Service: Tax, Dispute Resolution
  • Type: Regulatory update
  • Date: 11/06/2013

Tax Insights

KPMG's analysis of tax issues and developments.

Michael Charles

Michael Charles
Director, Tax

+61 3 9288 6671

Starting from scratch (again?) 

by Michael Charles, Corporate Tax Specialist

An Australian Taxation Office (ATO) 'position paper' on a tax matter in dispute is not formally part of the self-assessment system but it is vital to it. There continue to be the same problems with position papers identified by the Inspector General in his 2011 Report into the ATO’s large business risk review and audit policies: quality, timeliness and process.

A position paper will need considerable attention: key information might not be properly reflected in the facts, the basis of the claim not understood, or the relevant law not grasped. Unfortunately, you may have only 28 days to deal with all of this, and manage any concerns with a premature assessment, with all of its legal and commercial ramifications.


The challenge lies in not only with putting your case again to the ATO (both fact and argument) but also dealing forcefully with any areas of misunderstanding and /or disagreement expressed in the position paper. A properly constructed and detailed critique is the best option.


If you anticipate a position paper, you need to be ready to deal with the demands it presents in a very short time. Preparation needs to begin beforehand. The position paper will be the basis for any future dispute.


The Commissioner has recognised the high cost of disputes for both the ATO and taxpayers. The announcement of a pre-assessment review process for future position papers by an independent senior technical person in the law area, rather than the large business area, is welcome. As always, the responsibility will still be the taxpayer to ensure that the facts are properly recognised to ensure a fair review can be made.


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