Usually a tax objection is the only feasible way to dispute a tax assessment.
One time opportunity
That said, an objection is a valuable and relatively low cost opportunity to put a case to a commissioner that an assessment needs to be corrected.
Don’t miss it
Costs ratchet up where a taxpayer still wants to dispute the assessment once the objection is disallowed. The objection opportunity should be taken. Assistance from a tax disputes legal professional, like The Tax Objection, can be valuable. The right lawyer can draft objection documents, or review documents already prepared, suggest a strategy and let you know the prospects of success of the proposed objection.
Appeal after disallowance of a tax objection
If an income tax objection is disallowed by the commissioner then the taxpayer has sixty days from the issue of the disallowance to appeal to either of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (“AAT”) or the Federal Court of Australia. So time is a factor as well as cost if an objection is disallowed.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
The AAT is a lower cost dispute resolution forum than the Federal Court. Generally the AAT will not award costs meaning that if a taxpayer loses an appeal to the AAT then the taxpayer will not have to meet the legal costs of the commissioner. Although the AAT is not a court and the AAT is not bound by the rules of evidence, the AAT is essentially a quasi-court in tax appeals and appellants will be at a disadvantage if the implications of the rules of evidence are not understood.
To commence an appeal in the AAT a fee of $861 usually applies. The AAT offers alternative dispute resolution services before a case moves to a hearing in the AAT. If a case in the AAT does not resolve and it proceeds to hearing a barrister will usually be required for the taxpayer. Legal costs will exceed $50,000 in many cases that reach the full hearing stage.
The Federal Court option is a more expensive alternative and, if the taxpayer loses, an order to meet the costs of the commissioner usually follows. Running a case in the Federal Court usually involves six figure legal costs.
Try to win at the objection stage
In that context making the most of the objection stage to a dispute a tax assessment before it reaches the pressing and expensive appeal stage does make sense.