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ATO reveals characteristics and behaviours it will focus on


Accountants must make their clients aware of behaviours that will attract the ire of the ATO.

By Josh Needs 11 minute read

The ATO has revealed the characteristics, behaviours and tax issues that it would be fixated on when it reviewed privately owned and wealthy groups. 

The Tax Office advised accountants with clients from those statuses to ensure they were aware of the behaviours and characteristics that would attract the ire of the ATO. 

The ATO said these privately owned and wealthy groups are:

  • Companies and their associated subsidiaries (often referred to as economic groups) with an annual turnover greater than $10 million, that are not public groups or foreign-owned
  • Resident individuals who, together with their business associates, control a net wealth of over $5 million 


Assistant commissioner Jenny Lin said it is important for accountants with clients that fell into these categories to be across the Tax Office’s gaze. 

“It’s important to stay up to date with what attracts our attention as we regularly review this content to keep it up to date,” said Ms Lin. 

“Understanding the behaviours and tax issues of concern that impact privately owned and wealthy groups will help you get things right.” 

“You should engage with us as soon as possible if you’re concerned about any arrangements you may have entered.” 

The ATO said it published the list of behaviours, characteristics and tax issues to help organisations’ accountants get it correct at tax time and for it to also be transparent in its actions. 

The behaviours and characteristics which it said could attract its attention are: 

  • Tax or economic performance not comparable to similar businesses
  • Low transparency of tax affairs 
  • Large, one-off or unusual transactions, including the transfer or shifting of wealth
  • Aggressive tax planning
  • Tax outcomes inconsistent with the intent of the tax law
  • Choosing not to comply, or regularly taking controversial interpretations of the law, without engaging with us
  • Lifestyle not supported by after-tax income
  • Accessing business assets for tax-free private use
  • Poor governance and risk-management systems.

The ATO released its focus areas for privately owned and wealth groups after it warned the public of schemes aiming to tempt SMSF trustees into illegal early release arrangements. 

The Tax Office said the consequences for the illegal access or use of an SMSF could result in the loss of some or all of the individual’s retirement savings and the possibility of being disqualified as a trustee of their SMSF and resulting in their fund being wound up. 

Josh Needs

Josh Needs


Josh Needs is a journalist at Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, which are the leading sources of news, strategy, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Josh studied journalism at the University of NSW and previously wrote news, feature articles and video reviews for Unsealed 4x4, a specialist offroad motoring website. Since joining the Momentum Media Team in 2022, Josh has written for Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser.

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