AAT ABA Legal Assistance Referral Scheme
Earlier this year, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (the Tribunal) and the Australian Bar Association Taxation Committee (the ABA Tax Committee) established a Legal Assistance Referral Scheme (Referral Scheme) to provide pro bono legal assistance to unrepresented taxpayers who have lodged applications for merits review in the Tribunal’s Small Business Taxation Division and certain matters within the Taxation and Commercial Division.
The Tribunal has jurisdiction in taxation matters under Part IVC of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 to review a ‘taxation decision’ made by the Commissioner of Taxation. Thosetaxation decisionsinclude, amongst others:
- assessments, for income tax, GST and/or penalties;
- private Rulings; and
- other determinations and some other decisions.
The Tribunal has separate Practice Directions relevant for the review of Small Business Taxation Decisions and matters within the Taxation and Commercial Division.
The Referral Scheme is administered separately to other legal assistance schemes.
The circumstances in which legal assistance may be appropriate under the Referral Scheme include circumstances where:
- independent advice as to prospects of success might be of assistance;
- an unrepresented party would otherwise be unable to comply with the Directions of the Tribunal;
- urgent advice is required;
- assistance in any Alternative Dispute Resolution processes, particularly mediation or conciliation, would be beneficial; or
- a properly formulated legal argument may assist the Tribunal in determining the case.
Before making a referral for pro bono assistance, the Tribunal will take into account certain criteria for eligibility, in relation to the Applicant and the particular proceedings. Under the Referral Scheme:
- the ABA Tax Committee will maintain a list of counsel interested in participating in the Referral Scheme;
- the Tribunal will refer eligible cases for legal assistance;
- the ABA Tax Committee will identify suitable counsel registered for the Referral Scheme to refer the particular case;
- counsel will provide the legal assistance particularised in the referral certificate provided by the Tribunal; and
- in appropriate cases, the ABA Tax Committee may also approach suitable solicitors to provide legal assistance consistent with the terms of the Referral Scheme.
Counsel may register their interest in participating in the Referral Scheme with the ABA Tax Committee. Interested counsel should email the Secretary of the ABA Tax Committee, Ermelinda Kovacs, at email@example.com with the following subject line: “Re: AAT-ABA Legal Assistance Scheme”, and provide the following information:
- date of admission to practice;
- date of signing the Bar roll / admission to the Bar; and
- experience in tax advisory / litigation work (limited to 50 words).
Members of the Bar Association of Queensland seeking to register their interest and participate in the Referral Scheme should be aware of and consider any applicable rules , including:
- rules 24A, and 24B of the Barristers’ Conduct Rules 2011; and
- rule 3.1.4 Administration Rules of the Bar Association of Queensland (where applicable).