Viral taxation claim is cheap nonsense
A widely shared post claimed the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) does not exist as it was never officially published when it was established in 1973.
As such, some of the posts suggest that taxpayers can now sue the government for illegally taking cash from their pay packets.
The claim is false. The ATO was not established in 1973. Instead, his name was changed in that year. Experts told AAP FactCheck that it does not require newspaper.
Regardless, the legislative power of taxation rests with the Commissioner of Taxation.
The claim has appeared several times in recent weeks under the heading “BREAKING NEWS”, examples here, here, here, here, here and here.
The post also falsely claims that the Australian Taxation Office was established in 1973.
However, AAP FactCheck found versions of the post dating back to 2018, examples here and here.
The main text reads: “The ITR (Institute of Taxation Research) has now received irrefutable proof (through a full Freedom of Information Act search) that the Australian Taxation Office was never officially gazetted at its establishment in 1973. Legally, therefore, the ATO does not exist!”
There are several additions to the main text, including the claim that the ATO has been “illegally taxing since its inception” and that all tax laws are illegal and therefore voluntary.
But experts told AAP FactCheck that the ATO was not established in 1973, rather it was when its name was officially changed (page 145).
Michael Dirkis, a professor of tax law at the University of Sydney, explained that the Federal Land Tax Branch of the Department of Treasury was established on 11 November 1910 and was the forerunner of the ATO.
He confirmed “no newspaper was needed” for the 1973 name change.
A newspaper is an official publication “for the purpose of informing the actions and decisions of the government”. These may include election notices, government tenders and proclamations which bring acts into being.
Professor AJ Brown, of the Griffith Business School, said that even if the name change required a gazette, the legislative power to tax rested with the Commissioner of Taxation.
“The powers to assess and collect tax under federal law rest with the Commissioner (not the ATO as such). Those powers exist in a range of legislation … they are not dependent on what is called the administering agency,” Prof Brown said in an email.
Chris Jordan, Commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office.
John Bevacqua, an associate professor of business law and taxation at Monash University, agreed, telling AAP FactCheck by email: “The Commissioner and the Commissioner’s powers are set out in the Taxation Administration Act 1953.
“Section 4 establishes the Commissioner and section 4A states that the Commissioner and the Commissioner’s employees are a statutory agency for the purposes of the Public Service Act. The Tax Administration Act received Royal Assent on 4 March 1953.”
The 1953 Act’s assent appeared in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.
The claim that the ATO does not legally exist because it was not gazetted when it was established in 1973 is false.
The ATO’s name was changed in 1973, but this did not require the newspaper. Regardless, the legislative power rests with the Commissioner of Taxation under powers set out in the Taxation Administration Act 1953.
False – The claim is inaccurate.
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