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Australian Taxation Law: Australian Taxation Office Guidance & Rulings

Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Guidance & Rulings

Income tax, fringe benefits tax and goods and services tax are collected by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which is headed by the Commissioner of Taxation. The ATO also administers and enforces these taxing regimes. The ATO regularly publishes its views on the operation of Commonwealth taxation laws in the form of authoritative interpretative guidance and rulings, as well as decision impact statements on Court and Tribunal decisions. 

The taxation rulings system allows the Commissioner to make binding rulings that the Commissioner must honour, meaning that a taxpayer who relies on a ruling cannot later be penalised by the ATO, even if the view expressed in the ruling is later found by a Court to be incorrect. 

The binding rulings include:

  • Public rulings - advice issued by the ATO to explain an application of tax law to taxpayers generally, a class of taxpayers or a particular arrangement, and include:
    • Taxation rulings (TR)
    • Income Tax Rulings (ITR)
    • Goods and Services Tax Rulings (GSTR)
    • Taxation Determinations (TD)
    • Goods and Services Tax Determinations (GSTD)
    • Class rulings (CR)
    • Product rulings (PR) 
  • Private rulings - advice on the application of tax law to a particular taxpayer in relation to a specified arrangement. Only that taxpayer may rely on the private ruling. Private rulings may later be made public, without identifying the taxpayer concerned, as guidance to others. These published versions of private rulings are called 'interpretive decisions' (IDs).
  • Oral rulings - advice on a simple matter related to the tax affairs of a taxpayer who is an individual.
The ATO also issues the following, which are not binding on the Commissioner:

The ATO also publishes bulletins, guidelines, statements, media releases and consultative documents. It also produces useful guidebooks and manuals detailing the practical operation of taxation laws.

More on guidance (including interpretative decisions) and rulings is available on the ATO Advice and Guidance website.                         

ATO Legal Database

To find ATO rulings, determinations, guidelines, interpretative decisions, decision impact statements etc on all tax matters, use the ATO Legal Database.

You can search this database, or browse it by topic or type - for example:

  • select Browse >>Browse All >>Topic >>Income Tax>>Capital Gains Tax>>CGT Assets (this will find all rulings determinations, decision impact statements etc on this topic)
  • select Browse >>Browse All >>Type >>ATO Rulings and Determinations>>By Type>>Rulings>>Topic (this will find rulings only on the selected topic)