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How the ATO ‘manages’ parliament – ATO techniques as ‘lawmaker’

Sunday, June 20, 2021

In 2018, high-profile tax lawyer Mark Leibler stated that the ATO effectively makes tax law. He said:

“…for all intents and practical purposes, it’s effectively the (Tax) Commissioner who lays down the law.” “…Commissioner effectively continues to act as lawmaker…”
The accuracy of this statement can be seen, in part, in the way the ATO ‘manages’ its appearances before Parliamentary Committees.

Our observation is that the ATO is polite, professional but provides answers only in general ways, avoids specifics and always emphasises how ‘nice, reasonable, and sensible’ it is. It uses the ‘you can trust us’ approach. By using this approach the ATO deflects attention away from facts that show them to be unreasonable, unfair, aggressive, breaching rules and intent on being an arbitrary tax ‘lawmaker’. In our view the ATO usurps the parliamentary process of democracy in this manner.

We’ve monitored some of the recent Senate quizzing of the ATO (2 and 3 June). Here are some YouTube clips you might find interesting. We think these clips give an insight into the ATO, but we’ll let you decide what you think of the ATO’s parliamentary management techniques.



In our view the Australian Parliament needs stronger oversight of the ATO’s tax management processes. Legislation is needed to achieve this.


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