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Corporate governance

Our governance arrangements support the Commissioner in leading the ATO, setting our strategic direction and ensuring we meet our commitments to government and the community. Arrangements we have in place to assist us in implementing the principles and objectives of corporate governance include:

  • sound governance structures
  • integrated fraud and risk management
  • open and transparent operations
  • being accountable to our stakeholders.

We fulfil our corporate governance responsibilities by complying with accountability requirements in legislation and policy and meeting public expectations of good management. We regularly review our corporate governance arrangements and ensure our staff have training and information on how the ATO is governed and how we are all held to account.

In this section

Our governance structures

Our governance system leads and guides our organisation. It sets the direction required to achieve our outcomes and meet our commitments to government and the community. Our governance model helps us optimise performance, oversee progress against our purpose and strategic objectives, fulfil our accountabilities, and discharge our obligations. Our governance structure is shown in ATO governance structure, at 30 June 2021.

The Commissioner is responsible for governing the ATO; from setting our strategic direction, through to ensuring we meet expected outcomes and obligations. The Commissioner is supported by both the Audit and Risk Committee and the ATO Executive Committee.

The Audit and Risk Committee provides the Commissioner with independent assurance and advice on the appropriateness of the ATO’s annual financial statements, performance statements, performance reporting, system of risk oversight and management, and system of internal controls. For more information about committee members, see the Audit and Risk Committee below.

The ATO Executive Committee is supported by an established structure of senior management committees, group executive committees, key corporate committees and stewardship groups. These groups monitor various aspects of our performance, make decisions and recommendations, and help us to be responsive to emerging change. The members of the Executive team and their specific responsibilities are outlined in Part 1, The ATO Executive.

We continue to review the roles of our committees and their membership to ensure our governance system remains purposeful, efficient and effective.

ATO governance structure, at 30 June 2021  - Strategy and Integration Committee - Resource and Investment Committee - Enterprise Risk Management Committee - Security and Business Continuity Management Commitee - People Committee - Improving Client Experience Committee In addition to these committees, the ATO Executive is supported by an established structure of Group Executive committees, Program of work committees and Stewardship groups.

The ATO Organisational structure is shown as an image in Part 1. An alternative version of the Organisational structure (as text) is also available.

The Accountable Authority

It is a requirement of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) to list the details of the Accountable Authority during the current reporting period. This is provided in the next table.

Details of the Accountable Authority, 2020–21

Name

Position title

Date of

commencement as the Accountable Authority

Date of cessation as the Accountable Authority

Chris Jordan AO

Commissioner of Taxation

1 January 2013

29 February 2024

Fraud and risk management

The minimum standards for the management of fraud are set out in the PGPA Act. They include conducting fraud risk assessments, developing and implementing a fraud control plan, and having mechanisms for dealing with fraud. The PGPA Act also requires that agencies establish and maintain appropriate systems and internal controls for risk oversight and management.

Fraud management

The Commonwealth fraud control framework 2017 outlines the Australian Government's requirements for fraud control, including that government entities put in place a comprehensive fraud control program with appropriate prevention, detection, investigation and reporting strategies.

Fraud against the Commonwealth is a criminal offence that impacts directly on Australians. It undermines confidence in the government and reduces the funds available for delivering public goods and services. The ATO considers and addresses potentially fraudulent activity occurring within our organisation and fraud risks from external sources.

Internal fraud prevention and investigations

Throughout the year, we prevented, detected, disrupted and investigated potentially fraudulent activity in the ATO, in line with the Commonwealth fraud control framework.

Potential fraudulent behaviour is identified through a variety of means – including data interrogation, risk assessment and allegations – through both internal and external channels. All allegations are assessed and actioned appropriately, including collaborating with the Australian Federal Police if necessary.

On 1 January 2021, the ATO came under the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) – the statutory authority which detects, investigates and prevents corruption in prescribed Australian law enforcement bodies and their staff. We work closely with ACLEI to assess corruption matters on a case-by-case basis. Five matters were referred during the first six months of its jurisdiction, four remain under assessment by ACLEI and one matter was accepted for joint investigation with the ATO and is in progress.

Over the course of this year, we identified 432 matters of potential internal fraud, corruption or serious misconduct risk that required further investigation. The next table shows the number of internal fraud allegations or reports investigated, by outcome, for 2020–21.

Internal fraud allegations or reports investigated, by outcome, 2020–21

Outcome

Number investigated

Substantiated(a)

108

Unsubstantiated

237

Unable to be determined

15

Ongoing as at 30 June 2021

72

TOTAL

432

Note

(a) Of the 108 substantiated matters, one warranted referral for criminal prosecution and the remaining 107 were dealt with administratively or procedurally under Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct determinations.

Unauthorised access remains the largest category of substantiated allegations, and 96% of cases were identified through our proactive detection scanning and integrity monitoring. The majority involved an employee accessing their own records, those of family members or other people known to them. While such accesses usually do not indicate malicious fraudulent behaviour, the ATO treats breaches seriously and comprehensive investigations are conducted. During the year, two briefs of evidence regarding unauthorised access to taxpayer records by former employees were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration of criminal prosecution. One of these briefs was a substantiated investigation that carried over from the previous financial year.

We continually monitor our systems to identify material shifts in risk exposure and conduct regular risk assessments to inform the ATO fraud and corruption control plan 2020–21.

We invest extensively in fraud prevention activities and provide support for staff to minimise the risk of internal fraud and corruption. We continually develop our range of self-help material and contemporary communication products. A new ‘Speak Up’ campaign was launched to provide employees with a trusted place to report integrity concerns. The concept provides a central mailbox and hotline to ensure reports are referred to the most appropriate area in the ATO for action.

We also run education and awareness sessions, engaging staff in conversations about potential internal fraud and corruption risks within their business areas. These sessions complement the ATO’s mandatory security, privacy and fraud training package, which is to be completed annually by all ATO staff.

Crime in the tax and superannuation systems

It is the responsibility of the ATO to protect the tax and superannuation systems against fraud and related crimes. While most taxpayers do the right thing, we need to safeguard the system from those who don’t. We continually improve our systems to prevent and detect fraud.

As we implemented the ATO-administered measures of the Commonwealth Coronavirus Economic Response Package, our focus was on processing eligibility as quickly as possible, while still protecting the integrity of the tax and superannuation systems against the small number who attempt to gain benefits they are not entitled to. The economic stimulus legislation was designed with integrity in mind – for example, eligibility for the stimulus measures relies predominantly on information already registered in our systems.

Along with additional layers of protection designed specifically for the stimulus measures, we also deployed all our existing sophisticated integrity and risk models. Additionally, we worked across government to investigate instances of fraud against the stimulus measures and bring offenders to account.

We lead and participate in taskforces that provide a whole-of-government response to serious financial crime and related non-compliant behaviour that may undermine the integrity of our tax and superannuation systems. The ATO is the lead agency for the Serious Financial Crime, Phoenix and Black Economy taskforces, and contributes to the outcomes of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce by targeting, disrupting and dismantling organised crime syndicates that deal in illicit tobacco.

For more information about our work to protect the integrity of the tax and superannuation systems, see Strategic objective: G1 Government.

In our efforts to protect the tax and superannuation systems, we strengthened international alliances through our involvement in the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement. We also actively supported the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its efforts to enhance international cooperation in the fight against international tax and other related crimes.

For more information about our work with the OECD, see Strategic objective: C2 Client.

Risk management

Whole-of-government requirements for risk management are set out in the Commonwealth risk management policy, and in section 16 of the PGPA Act – which specifies that agencies have a duty to establish and maintain an appropriate system of risk oversight, management and internal control.

The Commissioner and members of the ATO Executive promote a positive and sensible approach to risk management, and continuous improvement of risk practice across the ATO.

The ATO Chief Risk Officer directs a program of work to ensure fit-for-purpose risk management is embedded into decision-making processes across our day-to-day operations through supporting the execution of our Enterprise Risk Management Framework across the ATO.

The Enterprise Risk Management Committee (ERMC) has primary responsibility for maintaining a view of the ATO’s key risks and the broader system of risk oversight and management in operation. In conjunction with the Audit and Risk Committee, assurance is provided to the ATO Executive that risk is being effectively identified and appropriately managed throughout the organisation.

The ongoing challenges of 2020–21 – in particular, the continuing effects of a global pandemic – have further reinforced the importance of a cohesive, adaptive, whole-of-ATO approach to risk management. Importantly, we effectively managed the risks related to the rapid implementation of the government’s economic stimulus measures in response to COVID-19.

As a part of our continuous improvement to risk practice, this year we identified 12 priority risks to monitor and assure, in order to best manage any potential impacts in achieving our strategic objectives. Into 2021–22, we will build on this work, with a strong focus on setting clear accountabilities and tolerances, and monitoring performance of priority risks to ensure they remain within acceptable levels.

Reflecting progress made, the ATO achieved strong overall results in the 2021 Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Program, further demonstrating the effectiveness of our system of risk oversight and control.

Internal audit

The Chief Internal Auditor directs a comprehensive program of assurance, audit and advisory services. This work assists the Commissioner, the Audit and Risk Committee and the ATO Executive to achieve their business objectives. The ATO Internal audit branch works together with other internal assurance teams to develop, maintain and monitor efficient and effective systems of internal control, risk management and corporate governance. The branch also works with internal and external scrutineers on matters of mutual interest, coordinating assurance activity and reducing duplication of audit effort.

Audit and Risk Committee

Our Audit and Risk Committee provides independent assurance and advice on the appropriateness of the ATO’s annual financial statements, performance statements, performance reporting, system of risk oversight and management, and system of internal controls. The committee’s charter outlining the functions of the committee is available on our website at ato.gov.au/auditandriskcommitteecharter.

Committee members bring a broad range of private and public sector experience and skills, including finance, accounting, audit, legal, compliance, risk management, due diligence, and information technology. In order to provide advice and assurance to the Commissioner about the appropriateness of the ATO’s financial and performance reporting, the committee is supported by specialised subcommittees for financial statements and performance statements. The committee complies with section 45 of the PGPA Act and section 17 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule) on audit committees for Commonwealth entities.

All members of the committee during 2020–21 are listed in the next table. In 2020–21 the committee comprised three independent members and two ATO senior executives.

Details of the Audit and Risk Committee, 2020–21(a)

Member name

Qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience

Number of meetings attended / total meetings(b)

Total annual remuneration ($)

Peter
Achterstraat, AM
(Chair)

  • Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Economics (Hons)
  • Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, Certified Practicing Accountants (CPA) Australia, the Governance Institute of Australia and the Australian Institute of Management
  • Chair of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Audit Committee since October 2019
  • Commissioner of the NSW Productivity Commission since May 2018
  • Chair of the ATO Audit and Risk Committee since March 2018
  • President of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (NSW Division), 2014–2020
  • President of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (NSW Division), 2009–2014
  • Auditor-General of NSW, 2006–2013
  • NSW Chief Commissioner of State Revenue, 1999–2006
  • More than 30 years experience in finance and governance

12/12

88,013

John Brown

  • Bachelor of Commerce
  • Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand
  • Member of the ATO Audit and Risk Committee, May 2013 – May 2021
  • Board member and chair of the Audit Committee of Sydney Water, 2004–2013
  • Partner, 1979–2006; and 36 years experience with KPMG

11/12

48,305

Carol Holley

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand
  • Member of the ATO Audit and Risk Committee since January 2020
  • Current chair or member of several Audit and Risk Committees of the NSW government
  • Former non-executive director and chair of several other Audit and Risk Committees, including:
    • Australian Nuclear and Science Organisation, 2016–2021
    • Defence Housing Australia, 2009–2016
    • Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, 2006–2016

12/12

41,143

ATO Members(c)

Acting Second Commissioner Kirsten Fish

  • Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Laws, Master of Laws
  • Admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of NSW and the High Court of Australia, current NSW Legal Practicing Certificate
  • Member of the Law Society, Chartered Tax Advisor and member of The Tax Institute
  • Member of the ATO Audit and Risk Committee, October 2020 – June 2021
  • Acting Second Commissioner, ATO, March–June 2020 and October 2020 – June 2021
  • Chief Tax Counsel, ATO, 2015–2020
  • Partner, Clayton Utz, 2008–2014

7/12

Acting Second Commissioner Deborah Jenkins

  • Bachelor of Business Studies (Financial Economics) Hons
  • Chartered Tax Advisor and member of The Tax Institute
  • Member of the Audit and Risk Committee, July–‍September 2020
  • Acting Second Commissioner Law Design and Practice, ATO, July–‍September 2020
  • Deputy Commissioner in the ATO since 2017
  • Assistant Commissioner in the ATO, 2015–2017
  • Partner, KPMG, 2007–2015
  • More than 20 years tax experience in the private and public sector

5/12

Assistant Commissioner Rajitha Srikhanta (Deputy Chair)

  • Certified Practising Accountant
  • Bachelor of Business (Accounting)
  • Deputy Chair of the ATO Audit and Risk Committee since July 2019
  • Assistant Commissioner in the ATO since 2015
  • Over 20 years public service and tax administration experience

12/12

Notes

(a) While the ATO Audit and Risk Committee financial year operates from 7 October to 2 October, the details in this table cover the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.

(b) The number of meetings attended are in accordance with their term as a member of the Audit and Risk Committee, which may not be the full year. Meetings held out of session are excluded.

(c) ATO personnel do not receive additional remuneration for their participation on the ATO Audit and Risk Committee.

The ATO Audit and Risk Committee includes the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). The TPB and the ACNC also have their own Audit and Risk Committees, which are considered subcommittees of the ATO’s Audit and Risk Committee. The TPB and the ACNC are independent statutory authorities, however the Commissioner is the accountable authority for the ATO, the TPB and the ACNC.

Conformance with obligations

Our ‘Conformance with obligations’ program is a key component of our governance arrangements. The program is aligned with Australian Standards AS ISO 19600:2015 Compliance management systems – Guidelines. The program aims to:

  • reduce risks of non-conformance, while increasing the likelihood of early detection and correction
  • improve employee awareness of legal and policy obligations at all levels of the organisation
  • foster a culture that does not tolerate illegal or unethical behaviour, preventing corporate misconduct
  • drive positive organisational change through monitoring, measurement and assessment
  • enhance community confidence in our activities.

Assurance that we are meeting our legislative and policy obligations is provided in quarterly conformance statements from responsible senior management and from our integrity indicator results. By asking our business areas how they are managing potential risks and instances of non-conformance, we drive continuous improvement in our systems and procedures. Findings are regularly reviewed by the Audit and Risk Committee.

Open and transparent operations

Australia’s tax and superannuation systems are community assets. Appropriate access to information about these systems enhances transparency and leads to increased levels of trust and confidence.

External scrutiny

External scrutineers provide independent reviews of the ATO’s operation – either as the result of their own annual program of work, or in response to concerns raised by members of the public and the Australian Parliament. Reviews help us to identify options for improving services to our clients, address potential barriers to willing participation, and ensure the successful delivery of outcomes in our administration of the tax and superannuation systems.

The TPB and the ACNC publish additional information about external scrutiny in their annual reports.

Judicial reviews and administrative tribunals

The courts may be called upon to determine the application of tax law. See Appendix 5: Strategic litigation for a list of significant cases decided by the courts and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Australian Information Commissioner

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), established under the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010, provides independent oversight of privacy protection and access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

In 2020–21, we registered 15 cases where the OAIC notified the ATO of a review of our FOI Act decisions. In the same period, we finalised 11 cases where the OAIC notified the ATO of the decision. Of those 11, three were discontinued by the OAIC, three were withdrawn by the applicant and, in the remaining five, the OAIC affirmed one ATO decision and varied four.

Details of OAIC investigations are available at oaic.gov.au.

Freedom of information

We use our website to give people access to documents and policies that we use in making decisions. In addition, we provide information under the FOI Act. Past documents released under the FOI Act are publicly listed on our FOI Act disclosure log, other than documents exempt from this requirement. The disclosure log is available at ato.gov.au/foi.

As an agency covered by the FOI Act, the ATO is also required to publish information as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS), displaying on our website a plan showing what information we publish in accordance with the IPS requirements. The ATO IPS plan is available at ato.gov.au/ips. As the TPB and the ACNC operate as independent bodies, they publish separate plans on their websites. See tpb.gov.au and acnc.gov.au.

The IPS is a requirement in Part II of the FOI Act, and has replaced the former requirement to publish a ‘Section 8’ statement in an annual report.

Auditor-General

The Auditor-General, operating under the Auditor-General Act 1997, is supported by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to produce independent performance audits, financial statement audits, and assurance reviews.

The following performance audits concerning the ATO were tabled in 2020–21:

  • Establishment and Use of ICT Related Procurement Panels and Arrangements – across entities (August 2020)
  • The Australian Taxation Office’s Management of Risks Related to the Rapid Implementation of COVID-19 Economic Response Measures (December 2020).

The reports on these performance audits are available at anao.gov.au. Details of the ANAO financial audit of our operations are provided in Part 5 - Financial statements of this report.

Parliamentary committees

Each year, the ATO appears before a number of parliamentary committees to answer questions about our administration of the tax and superannuation systems.

House committees

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue is tasked with reviewing the performance of the ATO as outlined in our annual reports. In 2020–21, we appeared before one House committee – the Tax and Revenue Committee Inquiry into the Commissioner of Taxation Annual Report 2018–19.

Senate committees

We appeared with Treasury at five Senate Estimates hearings in 2020–21, responding to approximately 414 questions on notice, as well as the following Senate Committee inquiries:

  • Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry into the importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry
  • Senate Select Committee on COVID-19(a)
  • Senate Economics Legislation Committee inquiry into Treasury Laws Amendment (Your Future, Your Super) Bill 2021 [Provisions]
  • Senate Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs inquiry into Pathways and Participation Opportunities for Indigenous Australians in Employment and Business
  • Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into the Unlawful Underpayment of Employees' Remuneration
  • Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs inquiry into Centrelink's compliance program(b)
  • Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee inquiry into the PGPA Amendment (Tax Transparency in Procurement and Grants) Bill 2019.

Notes

  1. We appeared four times at the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 in 2020–21.
  2. We appeared twice at the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs in 2020–21.
Joint committees

We did not appear before any joint committee inquiries.

Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman

The Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO), established under the Inspector-General of Taxation Act 2003, undertakes reviews and investigations to identify systemic issues in the administration of tax law. These may be at the request of the government or the ATO, through environmental scans or following complaints from the public.

The IGTO released the following reviews and reports in 2020–21:

  • Death and Taxes: An investigation into ATO systems and processes for dealing with Deceased Estates (July 2020)
  • Aspects of the ATO’s Administration of JobKeeper and Boosting Cash Flow Payments for New Entities (December 2020)
  • An investigation and exploration of Undisputed Tax Debts in Australia (June 2021).

The full reports are available at igt.gov.au.

The ATO and IGTO have worked together to ensure complaints are directed and escalated through the right channels. This streamlining of processes has contributed to a significant reduction in the number of complaints the ATO received via the IGTO, compared to previous years. In 2020–21, the ATO received 686 complaints via the IGTO (compared to 1,382 in 2019–20). Of these:

  • 161 complaints (23.5%) had not previously been lodged with us and were subsequently transferred back to our complaint-handling process
  • 525 complaints (76.5%) were referred to us to provide a response to the IGTO for resolution with the client.

IGTO-reported complaints encompass assistance and assurance, and are more enquiry-like in nature.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

While the IGTO investigates complaints from the public about administrative actions of the ATO and TPB, the Commonwealth Ombudsman provides oversight in the ATO’s management of allegations and complaints made under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) and Public Interest Disclosure Standard 2013 (PID Standard).

Public interest disclosures received by the ATO are managed in accordance with ATO procedures, which meet the requirements of the PID Act, PID Standard and Commonwealth Ombudsman guidelines.

During 2020–21:

  • 16 disclosures were made direct to the ATO
  • 2 additional disclosures were referred to us from the Ombudsman
  • no disclosures were referred by the ATO to the Australian Federal Police for investigation.

Additionally, we were notified by the Ombudsman that the ATO, along with other government agencies, is the subject of an own-motion investigation aimed at reviewing our administration of, and compliance with, the PID Act. This investigation is ongoing.

Disability reporting

The National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 is Australia’s overarching framework for disability reform. It acts to ensure the principles underpinning the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are incorporated into Australia’s policies and programs that affect people with disability, their families and carers. The Australian Government remains committed to the development of a new National Disability Strategy which is due to be released in 2021.

All levels of government will continue to be held accountable for the implementation of the strategy through biennial progress reporting to the Council of Australian Governments. Progress reports can be found at dss.gov.au.

Disability reporting is included in the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service reports and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at apsc.gov.au.

In 2020–21 we developed the ATO’s 2024 Diversity and inclusion strategy. Through this strategy we will continue to support individuals who identify with disability – through employment, retention and career development initiatives. The number of employees who voluntarily identify with disability increased to 4.2% of our ongoing workforce in 2020–21.

We remain focused on building the ATO’s reputation as an employer of choice for people with disability by increasing awareness of what we can offer potential employees. We are also doing more to encourage current employees to self-identify in human resource systems – to allow the ATO to better understand the diversity of staff and connect them to opportunities and relevant information.

In 2020–21, the ATO continued to deliver initiatives for employees with disability which included upgrades to technology and software to provide more contemporary, reliable and flexible tools to support staff while working from home, and in the office. We have also provided employment opportunities for people on the autism spectrum via entry-level employment programs.

The ATO offers all staff support and reasonable adjustment options and local assistance via our site-‑based People Support Teams. We also promote the National Disability and Ally Network and the Neurodiversity Employee Network, to facilitate the sharing of experiences for staff who identify as having disability, as well as allies or staff who are closely connected to someone who has disability or neurodiversity.

Being accountable to our stakeholders

We are accountable to our ministers, parliament and the community for how we administer the tax and superannuation systems. This includes being accountable for how we deal with people and the information they share with us.

The Taxpayers’ Charter outlines our commitment to dealing with taxpayers in a way that is professional, considers their circumstances, and provides them with relevant information.

We understand that people will sometimes be unsatisfied with their interactions with us. Our complaints process is designed to make it easy for them to raise an issue with us.

As required under Section 3B of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA), our annual report includes additional information on disclosures of taxpayer information that occurred during the year.

Taxpayers' Charter

We work to build a relationship with the community that is based on mutual trust and respect. Our Taxpayers’ Charter sets out our commitment to act professionally, treat taxpayers fairly and reasonably, and help them meet their obligations by providing accurate, consistent and clear information. The charter explains:

  • taxpayers' rights
  • taxpayers' taxation obligations
  • what taxpayers can do if they are not satisfied with our decisions, actions or service
  • the standard of service taxpayers can expect from us.

Information describing how the charter applies in different contexts – for example, in an audit – is available on our website at ato.gov.au/charter.

For more information about how we measure the effectiveness of the Taxpayers’ Charter, see Appendix 2: Taxpayers' Charter - our performance.

Complaints handling

The ATO continues to focus on improving the experience of our clients. Complaints, feedback and compliments provide valuable insights that help us to enhance our services. The ATO’s delivery of the COVID-19 stimulus measures, which benefited millions of Australians, had a flow-on effect to complaints. During 2020–21, we received around 6,300 complaints related to these measures, which are included in the issues listed below. Across all categories, we received 24,740 complaints in 2020–21; almost equalling the 2019–20 figure of 24,778 (which was also affected by COVID-19).

Complaints continue to represent a very small proportion of our interactions with clients. Of the 19.5 million tax returns lodged annually, about 0.1% of our interactions resulted in complaints. We met our service commitment target, with a complaint finalisation result of 85% resolved in 15 business days or within the date negotiated with the client.

In 2020–21, the ATO received 2,578 items of feedback which most often related to enhancements to our digital services, as well as our communication products and channels. In addition, we received 2,051 compliments from the community. This recognised our efforts to deliver good client experiences, often relating to positive interactions with our staff, as well as the delivery of stimulus measures and our digital services.

Complaint issues, 2020–21  income tax 4,583; superannuation 4,516; client records 3,053; services and systems 2,956; people 1,917; activity statements 1,537; debt and lodgment 1,392; technical advice 948; review and litigation 628; account action 603; employer reporting obligations 330.

Notes

Our complaint issues categories changed on 1 July 2020, and therefore cannot be compared to previous years.

The number of complaint issues is different to the total number of complaints, for the following reasons:

  • a single complaint may include multiple issues
  • a complaint issue may not have been captured (for example, where we resolved it during the client’s initial interaction).

Reporting on tax administration

The Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA) provides the ATO with powers to administer the tax system. Under section 3B of the Act, we must report each year on whether the information we hold has been disclosed to other parties.

Disclosures to ministers

During 2020–21, there were 9 occasions on which information was disclosed to ministers under subsection 355-55(1) in Schedule 1 of the TAA:

  • 8 occasions to the Minister for Housing and Assistant Treasurer
  • 1 occasion to the Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology.
Requests and disclosures made to law enforcement agencies

Subsection 355-70(1) in Schedule 1 of the TAA allows the ATO to disclose information to law enforcement agencies in certain circumstances. Details of the information requests made and subsequently provided under this section are reported in Appendix 11: Information provided to law enforcement agencies.

Disclosure of protected information

We are required to report on the number (if any) of taxation officers found guilty of disclosing protected information, which is a specific offence listed in section 355-25 in Schedule 1 of the TAA.

In 2020–21 there were no taxation officers found guilty of such an offence.

Exercise of the Commissioner's remedial power

Subdivision 370-A in Schedule 1 of the TAA grants the Commissioner limited powers to modify the operation of the law where it is not working as intended or is creating disproportionate compliance costs. The Commissioner’s remedial power provides the ability to resolve smaller unforeseen or unintended outcomes in the tax and superannuation law in limited circumstances.

The Commissioner exercised this power twice in 2020–21:

  • In December 2020, a modification took effect enabling disabled people access to GST-free supplies of cars and car parts where a current certificate of medical eligibility has been obtained.
  • In May 2021, a modification took effect enabling foreign resident employees under the Seasonal Labour Mobility Program (who have held a temporary work visa) to remain liable to a final concessional withholding tax rate of 15%. This modification was made due to COVID-19 restrictions on international travel.

The Commissioner published seven additional issues to the list of when the Commissioner’s remedial power was considered but not exercised in 2020–21.

More information about the Commissioner’s remedial power and when it has, and has not, been used is available on our website at ato.gov.au/CRP.