Escalations & Advising
The Tax Counsel Office (TCO) has broad responsibility for determining the Commissioner's view of the law for the Department, for providing advice to the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioners and Chief Tax Counsel on tax technical matters, and having some oversight as to how the law is implemented by other areas of the Department.
Issues may be escalated to the TCO as part of Inland Revenue's escalation process. This will occur where there is doubt or different views about how the law should apply to particular arrangements or matters. Once a decision is made by the TCO this will become the Commissioner's view on that matter or issue. From time to time, these decisions will be made by the Chief Tax Counsel.
The group is required to apply a high level of legal and technical expertise, and an overt commitment to impartial decision-making.
The TCO offers an adjudication review as part of the Department’s disputes process. This process was designed so that tax disputes could be resolved at an early stage to reduce the number of litigated cases. The role of a TCO adjudicator within this process is to take a fresh look at tax disputes in an impartial and independent manner, and to provide technically accurate decisions.
Adjudication is not mediation, nor is the adjudication team required to investigate. That function has already occurred earlier in the process. Consequently, TCO staff conducting adjudications very rarely meet with either the taxpayer or the Inland Revenue investigator involved in a dispute. The adjudication process is independent of the Commissioner's investigative or audit function, and the TCO staff that act as adjudicators are either qualified accountants or solicitors.
A report on the reasons for a decision is issued to both the taxpayer and the Inland Revenue investigator. If a decision finds in favour of the taxpayer, the Commissioner has no right of appeal. However, if the adjudication report finds in favour of the Commissioner, the taxpayer may appeal to the Taxation Review Authority or the High Court.