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Private rulings: are they worth it?


This article seeks to describe a structured approach, with reference to the law and relevant decisions, which may be used when trying to decide whether it is worthwhile to apply for a private ruling. The framework suggested is that which is generally used in choosing consumer products. The article suggests that the decision must be made by reference to the taxpayer’s corporate attitude to tax risk, and the other approaches available for achieving the desired level of certainty on the tax risk associated with a particular issue. Depending on the circumstances, other approaches may be preferred. Rulings, however, offer an opportunity to understand the Commissioner’s reaction to a situation and, through engagement, achieve a positive response. They require particular care in drafting, and care in the evaluation of the response.

Author profile

Paul McNab CTA
Photo of author, Paul MCNAB Paul is a Partner and solicitor in the Sydney office of the global law firm DLA Piper. He has more than 30 years of taxation experience. Prior to joining DLA Piper, Paul was a leading partner in the Tax Controversy group of a ‘Big 4’ accounting firm where he also led the Australian firm Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) sector practice for 4 years. In recent years he has provided extensive advice to multinationals changing their business structures in response to the commercial forces of globalisation and the BEPS initiatives prompted by the OECD. Paul has consulted to multinationals across a range of sectors and transactions and has litigated taxation matters in the state and federal courts, including the High Court of Australia. - Current at 16 June 2022
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