Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

The Complete ATO Library

This document describes accessing the Legal database of the ATO – all their law, their rulings, their guidance – as described by the ATO in their “reference manual

This may help explain what document you are trying to look for, and the authority of that document. The ATO web pages themselves are not a legal authority, and to be relied on that page must be based on the law as otherwise prescribed. Note the ATO advises as follows in relation to their website:

Our commitment to you

We are committed to providing you with accurate, consistent and clear information to help you understand your rights and entitlements and your obligations.

If you follow our information and it turns out to be incorrect, or it is misleading and you make a mistake as a result, we will take that into account when determining what action, if any, we should take.

Some of the information on this website applies to a specific financial year. This is clearly marked. Make sure you have the information for the right year before making decisions based on that information.

If you feel that our information does not fully cover your circumstances, or you are unsure how it applies to you, contact us or seek professional advice.

If you would like more information, refer to Taxpayers' charter – helping you to get things right

You can access the Legal database:

Legal Database Content

The Legal database provides content in relation to the laws administered by the Commissioner of Taxation. The Legal database contains:

  • principal Acts and Regulations relating to tax and superannuation.
  • amending Acts and Regulations relating to tax and superannuation.
  • legislative determinations issued by the Commissioner of Taxation.
  • extrinsic material relating to the amending Acts and Regulations, such as explanatory memoranda and second reading speeches.

Public Rulings

Public rulings and determinations set out the Commissioner's opinion about how a tax law applies. Public rulings include Law companion rulings, which are a special set of public rulings on how recently-enacted law applies to a class of taxpayers, or to taxpayers generally.

Practical Compliance Guidelines

Practical compliance guidelines are guidance materials on how the ATO will allocate its compliance resources according to assessments of risk. They also outline administrative approaches that mitigate practical difficulties relating to the operation of tax laws.


The Legal database contains published case judgments involving taxation matters from Australian courts. Case judgments from Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are also available. It also contains the Test case litigation register, which details the progress of cases approved for test case funding, cases declined for test case funding and the reasons why, and the outcome of all test case funded matters.

Decision Impact Statements

Decision impact statements are a statement of our response to significant cases decided by the courts or tribunals.

ATO Interpretative Decisions

An ATO interpretative decision (ATO ID) is an edited version of a decision the Commissioner makes on an interpretative issue, and is indicative of how the Commissioner might apply the law on that particular issue.

Law Administration Practice Statements

Law administration practice statements provide direction and assistance to our staff on approaches to be taken when performing duties involving the laws administered by the Commissioner.

Taxpayer Alerts

Taxpayer alerts are intended to be an early warning of our concerns about significant, emerging or recurring higher-risk tax or superannuation arrangements we have under risk assessment.

SMSF Regulator's Bulletins

Self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) regulator's bulletins outline our concerns about new and emerging arrangements that pose potential risks to SMSF trustees and their members from a superannuation regulatory or income tax perspective.

Other ATO Documents

These are other documents produced by us that are relevant to interpretative issues. They include other documents containing the precedential ATO views, minutes of our external forums, such as the National Tax Liaison Group, technical discussion papers, Super CRT alerts and dispute resolution instruction bulletins.

ATO Law Aids

The Legal database contains a number of other document types that assist in the interpretation and application of the law such as:

  • The National tax equivalent regime manual
  • interpretation NOW!
  • fact sheets for employers, individuals and small business
  • guidance notes for super changes
  • consolidation reference manual
  • Edited private advice

    A public historical record of private written binding advice we have issued – edited for confidentiality purposes.

Archived Document Types

A number of document types are no longer current, and remain on the Legal database for historical reference only. These include:

  • ATO receivables policy
  • case decision summaries
  • an index of historical documents
  • superannuation circulars

Finding Documents

There are three ways to find documents in the Legal database:

  • Search – for a quick or advanced search
  • Browse – to navigate through a table of contents for all documents held on the Legal database
  • Quick access – can be used if you know the section of an Act, or the reference number of a document, such as a public ruling.

Find out about:


  • Updated: 17th July, 2018