Small businesses now have another pathway to resolve tax disputes, with the ATO making its independent review service a permanent option for eligible small businesses (those with a turnover of less than $10 million) after a successful multi-year pilot.

The service’s original pilot commenced in 2018 and centered around income tax audits in Victoria and South Australia. It was expanded in 2020 to include income tax audits in all other Australian states and territories, along with other areas of tax including GST, excise, luxury car tax, wine equalisation tax and fuel tax credits.

“Small businesses who participated in our pilot told us they found the process to be fair and independent, irrespective of the independent review outcome, so this is a great result, and is a big part of why we are locking this service in permanently”, ATO Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Geale has said.

If your small business is eligible for a review of the ATO’s finalised audit findings, your ATO case officer will make contact and a written offer of the independent review will be included in the audit finalisation letter.

Tip: An offer to use the independent review service won’t be the first opportunity you get to respond to an ATO audit. Initial findings will be disclosed in an interim paper, so you’ll have a chance to raise areas of disagreement before receiving the final audit letter.

If you wish to proceed with the review, you’ll need to contact the ATO through the relevant email address within 14 days of the date of the audit finalisation letter, clearly specifying and outlining each area of your disagreement with the audit position.

You’ll be asked to complete and return a consent form to extend the amendment period, which will allow the ATO to complete the review before the period of review for the relevant assessment ends.

Once your business obtains approval to use the review service, an independent reviewer will be allocated to the case and will contact you to discuss the process. This officer will be from a different part of the ATO to your audit case officer, and will not have been involved in the original audit.

It’s important to note that superannuation, FBT, fraud and evasion finding, and interest are not covered by the independent review service. If your dispute with the ATO relates to those areas, or if you don’t want to use the independent review service, your other options including lodging an objection or using an in-house facilitation service. You can also raise matters with the Inspector-General of Taxation and Tax Ombudsman or the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.