Why You Should Challenge A Dubious Tax Assessment

noa If you got your tax in early (and electronically), you could well have a refund by now. But what if you get a huge bill -- and one that you don't think is reasonable? The statistics suggest you should lodge a formal objection.

While the Australian Taxation Office often looms in the popular consciousness like a final arbiter whose decisions cannot be challenged, its assessments are based on interpretations of complex rules that change frequently. And it turns out that if you object to an assessment, you have quite good odds of seeing your bill reduced or eliminated.

According to a report released this week (PDF link) by the Inspector-General of Taxation, of the 53,750 objections lodged with the ATO over the past four years, nearly half (47%) were accepted in whole or part. In practice, that suggests that if you don't like your assessment and think it's been unfairly calculated, you have a good chance of that objection being upheld.

If you've been audited by the ATO and ended up with a higher tax bill, the odds are even better. In those circumstances, 63% of revised assessments were retracted following objections.

Of course, that still means that a healthy proportion of objections end up being rejected, presumably because the ATO was able to justify its approach. But if your bill is unexpectedly large, it's almost certainly worth calling on an accountant to help you lodge an objection. (You can lodge an objection yourself, but having professional assistance makes sense if the disputed amount is large.)

To ensure you don't end up in a needless fight with the ATO, check out deduction guides for specific occupations and how long you need to keep tax documents.

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


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