Insights into working on tax disputes: Keith Swan


Whether you’re working with small family businesses or multimillion-dollar corporations, tax disputes are a fact of life for many tax practitioners.

Our Tax Disputes Online Series is a wonderful opportunity for practitioners from across the profession to brush up on their tax disputes knowledge. With an impressive line-up of speakers, all of whom have a strong understanding and experience of taxpayer disputes with the ATO, the program is designed around practical guidance and insight.

The issues covered range from private wealth compliance considerations, to ATO debt recovery practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The series is chaired by Keith Swan, Partner at KPMG Law’s Tax Dispute Resolution & Controversy team, who has worked in tax for nearly two decades. Starting out in the ATO’s graduate program, Keith worked in the ATO Litigation team. Tax disputes has been a staple of his tax career, more or less from day one, and, he told us, certainly a topic worthy of extended thought.

“I think the unique nature of tax disputes in terms of the bespoke legislative regime, the relevant administrative considerations and the important role of the ATO make it a worthwhile topic for a standalone series of webinars,” he said.

For those with a particular interest in the role the ATO plays in tax disputes – especially right now, amid COVID-19 – Part 3: ATO Debt Recovery Practices During and Post COVID-19, presented by Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell AO, alongside Damien Browne, Andrew Watson and Vivek Chaudhary from the ATO, is a must-attend.

This panel will give delegates an insider’s look at topics including current ATO policies on collecting existing debts from businesses hit by COVID-19 and policies on varying PAYG instalments and effectiveness of cash flow boost policies.

Although he’s intrigued by all the sessions in the lineup, Keith pinpointed “the recent lessons from having to run tax cases and dispute resolution virtually and the discreet aspects of transfer pricing and GST disputes,” as some of the areas he was looking forward to exploring most.

Virtual tax dispute resolution is set to become a potentially vital learning area for tax practitioners, as social distancing requirements for COVID-19 are still firmly in place, especially in Victoria, or areas of Sydney.

Part 5 of the webinar series, Conducting Litigation & Dispute Resolution Virtually, deals with this topic, covering the lessons learned from telephone and video resolution processes that the ATO put in place during COVID-19, plus an exploration of the challenges and opportunities this kind of technology poses in the future. The session will be run by The Hon Thomas Thawley, Thomas Arnold CTA, from New Chambers and Jeremy Geale CTA, from the ATO.

And it's not just technology. Between a changing economy and new tax legislation, savvy practitioners should be prepared to field disputes in the coming months or years.

“Political and economic factors are causing increasing tax uncertainty. Businesses focused on a challenging economic environment will require valuable assistance in managing this uncertainty. As the economy recovers and governments seek to repay debts, tax disputes are inevitable,” Keith explained.

“Tax professionals and their clients will need to prepare early and seek to manage tax disputes proactively to avoid protracted processes, unnecessary costs and/or penalties and interest.”

Tax Disputes Online Series: be part of the conversation

If you work with tax disputes in your practice and want an insider’s view of the practices currently in use, be sure to join us for this timely, relevant event.

Each and every one of the sessions is run by tax experts and delivers key insights and analysis that any accountants, auditors, lawyers and financial planners with a professional interest in taxation disputes.

Key dates and information:

26 August – Part 1: Topical tax disputes: Transfer pricing and GST

One Keith is looking forward to, this session looks at the features of a transfer pricing audit and dispute, the role of expert evidence in such disputes and the ATO’s Independent Review process.

2 September – Part 2: ATO Private Wealth Compliance Activity

Key for practitioners dealing with private wealth taxpayers, in this session ATO Deputy Commissioner for Private Wealth, Tim Dyce and Assistant Commissioner, Sarah Taylor discuss current ATO processes, including how the Justified Trust approach will be tailored to the private wealth segment.

9 September – Part 3: ATO debt recovery practices during and post COVID-19

Covering ATO policies on debt recovery and deferrals during COVID-19, this session also offers a perspective on the future of debt and small business issues after COVID-19.

16 September – Part 4: Running a Tax Case

This session covers the key aspects you need to be aware of before running a tax case, including initial considerations prior to commencing litigation, choosing the forum, evidence requirements and tips and tricks for coming out on top.

23 September – Part 5: Conducting Litigation & Dispute Resolution Virtually

COVID-19 has meant that many tax disputes have had to be managed and even resolved virtually. Learn how the ATO, courts and litigants have responded to rapid shifts in technology that replaced courtroom hearings.

30 September – Part 6: Key Observations in Tax Disputes

A final session to cover any further aspect of tax disputes, including observations about the level of audit, objection and appeal activity, and settlements, topical issues in the space and commentary on strategies for achieving commercial objectives in resolving tax disputes.

Find out more and register to attend the full webinar series.

About event Chair Keith Swan


Keith Swan is a Partner at KPMG Law in the Tax Dispute Resolution & Controversy team. Prior to that, he was a Director at EY for more than a decade and experience working with the ATO in the Litigation team. He has over 15 years’ experience in tax controversy, including managing reviews and audits, objections, alternative dispute resolution and litigation.

Keith has been an active participant in Tax Institute events for the past ten years and has more recently become a regular and valued presenter.

When he isn’t tackling tax disputes, Keith spends quality time with his family and is an avid sports fan – playing and watching.


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