What has happened to ATO Interpretative Decisions?

According to the Commissioner, an ATOID is a “summarised version of a decision we have made on the application of the law to a particular situation.” (See PSLA 2001/8)

These have been around since 2001 and have been an amazing insight into the types of private rulings that the Commissioner has been giving to specific taxpayers.

In 2003 the Commissioner made over 1,200 of these decisions. And you can understand how there can be so many ATOIDs in a year. As PSLA2001/8 states…

… an ATO ID may be prepared for each decision on an interpretative issue where:

· there is no precedential ATO view on the issue, or

· there is an existing precedential ATO view however an ATO ID will improve the clarity or certainty of the ATO’s interpretation of the particular area of the law.

But it appears that there are no areas left that the Commissioner has not ruled on. Also, all the areas he has ruled on are perfectly clear.

Why? In 2016 the Commissioner released one ATOID. And that one was on what is the GST registration threshold for body corporates (booorrring).

The reason for ATOIDs was so that taxpayers could see what the Commissioner is saying to other taxpayers. Is he giving favourable ruling to some (as was suggested back in the 1990’s)?

Simply, ATOIDs serve a purpose as a resourse for taxpayers that the register of private rulings will never be (given its size). Also, it creates confidence in the private ruling system.

So if the Commissioner has decided to end ATOIDs, then what is he going to replace it with so taxpayers have both the resources and the confidence in the private ruling system?

Lets see how many are issued in 2017?

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About Ken Mansell

As a stay at home Dad most of the week this is my way of pretending I am still the tax counsel of ASX and SEC listed companies, working at big 4 firms, working at the Federal Treasury, on the Henry Review and at Parliament House for the previous government.
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