It has been reported that yesterday – 21 April – the Commissioner of Taxation made comments to the Senate Economics Committee about working with the Federal Court to fast track “strategically important cases” where it is believed that a “principle needs to be set”. Some reports in the media refer to a “deal” between the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and the Court.
There is no “deal” being struck between the Court and the ATO about listing of cases, or any other matter. The Court is not, and has not been, in any private discussions with any party, including the ATO, about their cases. There have been recent wide-ranging public consultations with the tax profession, including the ATO, about the reorganisation of the Court’s work, including its taxation work, to improve case management and organisation of workload. This has been in the context of the recently established “National Court Framework”.
The Federal Court regularly identifies cases, the outcome of which, might impact upon cases pending in it or other courts and tribunals. Consideration is then given to early hearings if appropriate. That process is undertaken as part of management of cases and involves all parties to the litigation.
The Court has undertaken extensive consultation with law firms and litigants involved in each national practice area. The only indication regarding the way the Court will manage cases has been given in the public domain.
At the beginning of last year the court established the National Court Framework that sees cases by practice area rather than Registry location. Eight practice areas have been identified, one of which is taxation. (see link: http://www.fedcourt.gov.au/law-and-practice/national-court-framework)