Objecting to an ATO decision
ATO decisions are reviewable
Whether you’re a business or an individual, you’ve inevitably had to deal with the ATO at some stage. It’s also likely that you’ve had a decision regarding a tax matter that you’re not entirely happy with.
Well, fear not, most ATO decisions are reviewable. You can lodge an objection against most ATO decisions provided the objection is lodged within certain time limits.
The time limits for objecting vary from 60 days to 4 years depending on what type of decision you’re objecting to. So, if there’s an ATO decision that you’re unhappy with, it’s desirable to object as soon as possible.
Time limits for objecting
Has the ATO made a decision in relation to a tax matter that you don’t think is right or you’re not happy with? Most ATO decisions are reviewable via objection, but time limits ranging from 60 days to 4 years apply depending on the type of decision you’re objecting to.
Generally, the time limit in which to object starts from the date the assessment or notice of decision was given to you. This is usually taken to be the date the assessment, notice, ruling, demand, decision or other correspondence was delivered to you or your representative (i.e. tax professional) in the ordinary course of the post. Where the final lodgment day for the objection falls on a non-business day (e.g. a weekend or public holiday), the objection can be lodged the next business day.
Objecting to income tax assessments
Perhaps the most common type of objection is in relation to income tax.
If you’re an individual or small business objecting to an assessment of income tax, you will have 2 years from the date the assessment was given to you in which to object.
A time limit of 4 years generally applies to all other taxpayers in relation to income tax assessments.
Objecting to GST assessments
Objections to GST assessments (including amended assessments) have a similar objection time limit.
Your objection must be lodged before the later of 60 days after service of the notice of assessment or 4 years after the end of the tax period to which the assessment relates.
60 day objection period for some decisions: super guarantee & COVID-19 measures
The objection period is significantly shorter for some types of decisions. For example, objections to superannuation guarantee charge assessments and superannuation guarantee penalties must be lodged within 60 days of the date you received notice of the assessment or penalty.
Similarly, decisions relating to the government’s COVID-19 economic stimulus measures including the cash flow boost, JobKeeper payment, and JobMaker hiring credit, all have a 60 day objection period. So you will need to be on the ball and object as soon as possible if you think a decision is wrong.
Getting more time to object
There is provision to request the ATO to give you an extension of time to lodge an objection if you miss the lodgment date. To be given an extension, you will need to satisfy the ATO that your circumstances warrant an extension being granted. Factors that the ATO considers in determining whether to grant an extension of time to lodge your objection include:
- your explanation for failing to lodge the objection on time
- the circumstances for the delay
- whether you have an arguable case for the objection to be allowed
Extensions of time are not granted as a matter of course, so it’s important to lodge on time whenever possible. You should seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity.
What makes a valid objection?
To be valid, an objection must state fully and in detail the grounds of objection you rely upon. This will often involve legal reasons as to why the assessment or decision is wrong having regard to the tax law.
You are generally limited to arguing your grounds of objection in any subsequent appeal against an unfavourable objection decision. It’s therefore critical to get the legal grounds of objection right.
Some decisions cannot be objected to - you may have a right to judicial review
It’s important to know that there are some types of ATO decision that you can’t object to (e.g. remission of general interest charge). Instead, you may have a right to seek judicial review of the ATO’s decision in the Federal Court. Usually, such a review application has to be filed within 28 days of the date you receive notification of the decision.
Would you like to object?
If you or your business want to object to an ATO decision, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance to determine what legal and other grounds you might have to object and whether or not you even have an arguable case.
We are very experienced at preparing objections and can help you to get the best possible outcome. Time is of the essence, so contact us today.