Staff at the Australian Tax Office unit chasing big fish evaders have received a controversial email from management saying major projects done by directors would now be done by junior staff.
But the ATO says the email sent to staff was wrong and a clarification will be issued.
Staff in the unit were this week told APS 6 and executive level 1 personnel would be "empowered to take ownership of projects" previously given to directors.
This would be done "regardless of their level of complexity or level of capability of our junior officers".
The Australian Services Union's tax branch secretary, Jeff Lapidos, said it was an illegal re-assignment of tasks in the ATO unit known as Public Groups and International, which deals with companies turning over more than $250 million.
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Second Commissioner Neil Olesen said on Thursday afternoon the original email was wrong and a clarification would be sent to staff.
He said the ATO gave staff work that was appropriate to their skills, capability and classification levels.
"At the same time, we give our people opportunities to extend their skills, and support them appropriately to do this," he said.
"As part of the steps we are taking to manage within our budget, we are examining the way we work, the way in which we manage risk and how we are structured and located."
The email misfire comes as the ATO has been hardest hit by a tough budget. It will lose 4700 staff over the forward estimates and more than 2000 in the coming financial year.