Interpreting statutory text — previously internal ATO mullings

The ATO’s Tax Counsel Network has long been in the business of closely studying and understanding tax law, and for most of its existence members of the network have shared their thoughts, logic and conclusions with each other.

However since June 2015, the ATO and its network of Tax Counsels has been making its previously internal ruminations public — at first in a very limited way, but over time over a much wider distribution target. The ATO says it made this information public in response to growing external interest, and that until then they have been filed under “miscellaneous papers” in the ATO’s legal database.

Concise and succinct documents have been released, called iNOW (a contraction of “interpretation now”) and is, according to assistant commissioner Gordon Brysland, “a reinvention initiative to drive awareness on what is happening on the statutory interpretation front”.

“iNOW began as a way to address the need – recognised by top judges – for those working with legislation to get better at reading it,” Brysland says. The monthly episodes provide bite-sized commentary on recent cases and important principles, along with simple and practical tips. The iNOW documents are aimed at improving awareness about statutory interpretation.

Since its inception, iNOW has grown from a modest internal publication to one that is publicly available (and demanded!) it is read widely by members of the legal profession – from judges to uni students. The documents, which are labelled “episodes”, are not public rulings or legal advice and are not binding on the ATO.

A further improvement to the iNOW series has been the creation of a dedicated website, with links to every episode. You can also subscribe, so that each episode is emailed to you.

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