HWL Ebsworth Lawyers senior associate Vincent Licciardi had raised concerns after noticing that the ATO had stopped providing reasons in the edited versions of private rulings over the last six to eight weeks.
“They published the facts, they published their answer to the question and they published the question itself. However, they don’t appear to have published the reasons in certain cases,” Mr Licciardi told Accountants Daily.
“In the past, they’ve almost always published the reasons.
“Practitioners can understand that there would be some topics that the ATO might be perhaps uncomfortable publishing reasons for, or they might publish very brief reasons, and I can completely understand that. It just seems to me that they have stopped publishing details altogether for maybe the last six weeks to two months.”
However, the ATO has now clarified that there is no official policy to stop providing such reasons.
“There is no policy to stop providing reasons in edited versions. There are a limited number of cases where detailed reasoning is not provided in the edited version because we are unable to identify the facts behind a private ruling without identifying the parties,” an ATO spokesperson told Accountants Daily.
“In addition, as a result of community feedback received during our Review of Private Advice a few years ago, some private rulings do not contain detailed reasoning and so the edited version will also not contain detailed reasoning.
“This is often the case where the decision is favourable to the taxpayer and is either a straightforward application of the law, or one on which the ATO view and approach is well established.
“Providing detailed reasoning does not add value to the ruling or to the applicant in these instances. If appropriate, the ruling will provide an option for further information on the issue, should this be desired.”
While the ATO stresses that edited versions cannot be relied on by taxpayers and advisers in any way, Mr Licciardi said the reasons are often useful for practitioners.
“It gives practitioners guidance as to how the ATO might treat a particular issue or particular topic,” Mr Licciardi said.