I am pleased to report on the performance of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for 2020–21. The last year has been one of the biggest in the ATO’s history, and we were called on to do more than we’ve ever done before. Continuing our strong record of meeting government and community expectations, we supported Australians when they needed it most and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved.
We continued our focus on delivering government stimulus measures and supporting those affected by COVID-19. Across the whole program, the roll out of JobKeeper saw $88.8 billion in economic support in 2020–21, and our administration of the temporary Early Release of Super and Cash Flow Boost stimulus measures saw $37.8 billion and $35.7 billion released into the economy. We also supported those through lodgment and payment deferrals, as well as flexible payment options, including interest-free payment plans.
In 2020–21 we also:
collected gross tax of $580.1 billion and provided refunds of $128.7 billion, with net tax collections of $451.4 billion, up $46.6 billion (11.5%) from 2019–20
delivered Tax Time 2020, receiving over 14.2 million individual current-year income tax returns, resulting in over 10.9 million refunds
delivered key government commitments, including through our Tax Avoidance Taskforce and Serious Financial Crime Taskforce
completed, as part of the Modernising Business Registers program, the transfer of the registry functions from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) to the ATO.
While the delivery of stimulus measures was a priority, demand for our core services continued, and in fact increased to record highs with Tax Time 2020. On the first day of tax time alone, we processed more than 740,000 lodgments received via our online service channels, including income tax returns, early release of super applications, JobKeeper and cash flow boost payments – a massive increase from the 100,000 we processed on the first day of tax time in 2019.
We tailored our advice and guidance and worked closely with the tax profession to help the community through the impacts of the year. We know this year was hard on tax practitioners, as they navigated a raft of new measures for clients experiencing significant stress and uncertainty. We also helped them understand entitlements and obligations and, where we could, provided quick access to support options for their clients, including quicker refunds and payments.
Service standards and staff engagement could have waned during this period due to increased demand and the challenges posed by the environment, but instead they went up. Our client and community confidence score rose to a record high of 68 for 2020–21 – two points higher than the previous year. Employee engagement scores also reached record highs and have remained there into 2021. These results demonstrate not only how successfully the ATO rose to the challenges brought on by the pandemic in Australia, but how it in fact strengthened our resolve and commitment to service.
I am honoured that in 2020–21 I was appointed the first Registrar of the newly established Australian Business Registry Services (ABRS). The ATO is leading the delivery of the Modernising Business Registers (MBR) program, delivering on the government’s deregulation agenda, and we are bringing together registers across the ATO and ASIC into one place. In 2021, the ATO welcomed 221 new staff from ASIC to join us. Together, we will be consolidating over 30 business registers to streamline how businesses interact with government and manage their registry obligations.
While we did all this, we also continued our business transformation, achieving some key milestones over the last 12 months. For example, we:
delivered Online services for business, making it easier for businesses of all sizes to manage their obligations with the ATO
made further enhancements to Single Touch Payroll (STP), enabling streamlined reporting for employers by leveraging their current processes – real-time reporting through STP is also helping employees get timely and accurate information.
I am pleased to say our people have been the foundation of our achievements. I’m very proud of the flexibility, resilience and commitment ATO staff have shown, and of the strong leadership displayed across all levels of the organisation. ATO staff proved again that our culture, commitment and care for each other is what enables us to serve the Australian community with empathy and integrity.
The ATO is committed to continuously improving our services and systems to deliver better experiences for our clients. Our commitment to transformation is evidence of this and has positioned us to rise to the challenges of 2020–21. In the year ahead, we are driving our transformation even further as we move towards delivery of some key initiatives. Through this, we will strive to exceed the expectations of government, clients and staff and make our tax, superannuation and business registration systems stronger and more accessible for the benefit of the community.
Chris Jordan AO Commissioner of Taxation and Registrar of the Australian Business Register and the Australian Business Registry Services