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ATO zeroes in on private wealth groups 

The Tax Office is increasing engagement as part of its top 500 performance program.

Tax&Compliance Tony Zhang 20 April 2022
— 2 minute read

The ATO said it has a clear focus on ensuring Australia’s largest 500 privately owned groups are paying the right amount of tax, with ongoing one-to-one engagement supported by compliance reviews and audits where appropriate.


Through the top 500 performance program, the ATO aims to give the community confidence that Australia’s largest privately owned groups are paying the right amount of tax.

ATO deputy commissioner Louise Clarke said the investment by the ATO recognised the scale of these businesses. 

Annually, the top 500 pay more than $4.4 billion in income tax and $2.3 billion in net GST.

“Given the scale of these private operations can rival the size of large public companies, the community rightly expects the ATO to look closely at these groups,” Ms Clarke said.

“The ATO’s goal is to make sure the correct amount of tax is paid, not a dollar more, or a dollar less.”

The top 500 program would aim to increase willing participation, focusing on prevention rather than correction.

Ms Clarke said the ATO’s engagement approach was tailored and matched to the complexity and willingness of each group.

The groups were encouraged and supported by the ATO to improve their tax governance, assuring good compliance into the future and once the group had achieved justified trust, the intensity of their engagement with the ATO was reduced.

“Only in the most extreme cases, where groups are not transparent or take high-risk positions will the ATO use a more intensive approach,” she said.

“In the first instance, groups are encouraged to work with the ATO on a one-to-one basis to demonstrate they are complying with their tax obligations and establish a position of ‘justified trust’ with us.

“This work can include requesting information about a group’s operations to establish an appropriate level of confidence. Any requests for information are tailored to the individual group’s circumstances and activities.

The ATO warned in instances where there were suspected tax avoidance activities or non-compliance with tax laws, or where a group was not willing to engage on an assurance basis, this one-to-one engagement could escalate into compliance audits and reviews.

For high wealth individuals and their associated entities, in the five-year period from July 2016 to June 2021, the ATO undertook more than 4,700 reviews and audits. 

This was an average of approximately 940 reviews and audits each year. These reviews and audits form part of the ATO’s top 500 and next 5,000 tax performance programs.

“Reviews are undertaken when further information is required and a wider understanding of single or multiple issues arising from a High Wealth Private Group’s activity that may present a risk of non-compliance in relation to one or more aspects of the tax law,” Ms Clarke said. 

“Issues and concerns that are not resolved as part of the review process are escalated to an audit for deeper examination.”

ATO zeroes in on private wealth groups 
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Tony Zhang

Tony Zhang

Tony Zhang is a journalist at Accountants Daily, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the accounting sector.

Since joining the Momentum Media team in 2020, Tony has written for a range of its publications including Lawyers Weekly, Adviser Innovation, ifa and SMSF Adviser. He has been full-time on Accountants Daily since September 2021.

You can email Tony at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.