What should you do when the ATO makes contact – 5 top tips
Being contacted by a government authority can be a daunting experience. Everyone knows the ATO has wide statutory powers and has abundant resources to fund its pre-audit and audit activities. If the ATO forms a view it can seem as though there is now way to challenge that view and you are stuck with the costly consequences.
Based on years of experience in dealing with all areas of the ATO, we have put together a bullet point reference for managing ATO contact:
1. Seek professional help.
The ATO may have contacted you by telephone or by letter or email and asked you to explain something to them. Given the enormous power of the ATO, it is worth asking a professional to look over the ATO request and provide some advice about how to respond to protect and promote your best interests.
2. Request that all communications are in writing.
Every time the ATO asks for anything at all, no matter how minor it may seem, ask them to “put it in writing”. This is the only full proof way to ensure full transparency or costly misunderstandings.
3. Establish a “project manager” as a single point of contact for all communications with the ATO.
This would most likely be your lawyer who will manage all outgoing and incoming communication with you, the ATO and your accountant.
4. Use all the tools available to you to get as much information as possible,
for example, a carefully drafted Freedom of Information Application can disclose useful intelligence on the reason, scope and direction of the ATO enquiry. You can then make important decisions about what issues to focus on and how to allocate your resources.
5. If the dialogue with the ATO officer is not heading in the right direction, ask for the case to be elevated to a more senior officer within the ATO.
Perspective and experience might be what is required to get the matter back on track and resolved quickly.