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Commissioner's Review

Page banner with photo of Chris Jordan AO, Commissioner of Taxation

I am pleased to report on our performance for 2018–19, with the major progress of our Towards 2024 Plan to build trust and confidence in the administration of the ATO and develop a more streamlined, integrated and data-driven organisation. At the core of Towards 2024 is the ongoing focus on improving the client and staff experience and fostering a culture of service.

Building community trust and confidence in our administration of the tax and superannuation systems is a key to fostering willing participation. This year, we:

  • collected gross tax of around $533 billion, and provided refunds of over $107 billion, with net tax collections of $426 billion, up $29 billion (7.4%) over the previous year
  • delivered a successful Tax Time 2018, with over 10 million individual income tax returns lodged, resulting in almost 8 million refunds
  • delivered on our government commitments, including through our funded taskforces on corporate tax avoidance, the black economy and financial crime
  • supported individuals to correctly claim work-related expenses, with an estimated revenue impact of $560 million over the last two years
  • continued our analysis of tax gaps and, for the first time, published the individuals gap, moving away from a focus on audit liabilities to a more preventative and pre-emptive approach
  • implemented reforms to the superannuation system, including downsizer superannuation contributions, the first home super saver scheme, and early release of super on compassionate grounds
  • implemented the Member Account Attribute Service and the Member Account Transaction Service
  • improved the process to apply for an Australian business number (ABN) to better identify ineligible applicants.

We introduced a new measure to better understand community confidence in our administration, with a first-year result of 65 out of 100 – a solid result but with room for improvement.

Complaint numbers show we’ve moved in the right direction, with less than 20,000 complaints received in 2018–19 – the lowest number since 2009.

We will further strengthen trust and confidence as we become a more streamlined, integrated and data-driven organisation. This year, we:

  • streamlined processes through Single Touch Payroll (STP), with its successful deployment resulting in over 160,000 employers reporting information for around 8.1 million individuals
  • used information from STP to pre-fill 2018–19 tax returns
  • laid the groundwork to enable over 15 million Australians to securely access government services online – delivering key elements to establish a digital identity and integrate GovPass into the broader digital ecosystem
  • invested in better technology for staff, including new computers and data analysis tools, providing access to more data to ensure better and more consistent services for our clients.

Our work on whole-of-government solutions continues to deliver improved services for end users. In 2018–19, we saw another increase in the number of individual taxpayers using myTax.

We saw an unprecedented number of returns lodged in the first week of Tax Time 2019, with more than half a million lodgments and as many calls to our contact centres. At its peak, we were processing an average of 7 million transactions a day.

By 30 September 2019, we had received over 9 million individual tax return lodgments (including around 1 million for prior years) and issued over 7 million refunds totalling over $20 billion.

We continue to engage and work constructively with those who help us deliver technology and services. During the year, we:

  • implemented our Online services for agents system, working with digital service providers (DSPs) to integrate this functionality into their agents’ practice management software
  • developed collaborative relationships with suppliers, using an agency-wide approach to procurement to create savings for the ATO and our providers
  • implemented Online services for DSPs to provide a modern and secure platform for their interactions with us.

Looking forward

We have made progress towards our goal of bettering our interactions with clients, but I also recognise there is room for improvement. That is why our Better as usual program will focus on improving our clients’ experience with the tax system. As part of the program, we are:

  • reviewing the series of interactions a client may have with us that forms their end-to-end experience – this ‘pipeline’ work will help us understand the hotspots that need attention
  • improving our quality feedback loops so we are drawing on our past experiences to improve our services and make better decisions
  • dedicating a team to work on our most complex cases – we need to identify these cases early, give them the priority they need and, where appropriate, take action with empathy to deliver the best outcome
  • putting in place the right safeguards (cultural and procedural) for decisions and actions that can have significant client impacts.

Clients will have improved digital access to our systems and real-time transactions; and a greater whole-of-client view for our staff will enable them to take an end-to-end approach to a client’s tax affairs.

We are investigating new ways of working smarter, using artificial learning and automation to deliver better services. As the use of data and automation increases, we remain conscious of our role as custodians of Australians’ information. We need to be able to assure people that our use of data is legal and ethical and that our systems are secure. I want the ATO to keep this focus to ensure we maintain community trust.

In September this year, we launched our new culture strategy to support our staff as we seek to improve services to clients.

My Executive Team and I would like to thank the people in the ATO and our partners, who have made these positive results possible. We are looking forward to the progress we will make together in 2019–20 and future years.

Chris Jordan AO
Commissioner of Taxation
Registrar of the Australian Business Register