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Introduction and Welcome

This Annual Report sets out the performance and achievements for the Office of the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO) during the financial year ended 30 June 2020 (FY20). During FY20 we celebrated 5 years operating as the Taxation Ombudsman and I ‘celebrated’ my first anniversary in the role as IGTO — on 6 May 2020. One year into my role, I have a much clearer understanding of the function of the Office and the dual roles of the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman:

  • The Taxation Ombudsman provides independent assistance and assurance directly to taxpayers and tax professionals and investigates taxation complaints about their tax affairs — complaint enquiries and complaint investigations, respectively; and
  • The Inspector-General of Taxation undertakes investigations of actions, systems and taxation laws regarding tax administration matters – review investigations.

IGTO is here to help …

How does this help?

Help the community resolve their taxation complaints

Independent investigation and assurance:

  • improves the efficient resolution of disputes and complaints;
  • provides access to tax expertise and assistance for the most vulnerable and those with limited financial resources (especially small business)
  • reduces red tape and the cost of compliance
  • minimises unnecessary disputes and related costs before Tribunals and the Courts; an
  • improves community perceptions of the fairness of the tax system.

Help to improve the taxation administration system for the benefit of all taxpayers, tax practitioners and other entities.

Independent review investigations identify areas for improved tax administration and enhance community trust and engagement in the tax system.

Help build confidence in the fairness of the tax system

Independent oversight, investigation and assurance improves:

  • the accountability in the system and
  • administrative actions, decisions and systems relating to tax administration.

Help with advice to the Minister, the Government and the Parliament and its Committees on tax administration issues and opportunities to improve the tax administration systems, laws and actions or decisions made by Tax Officials.

Independent perspectives enhance accountability, trust and impartiality in the tax system and brings new insights for Ministerial consideration and for Parliamentary committees with oversight responsibilities.

The two roles and investigation modes of the IGTO complement each other and provide assurance to the community that taxation laws are being administered consistently with community expectations, which builds confidence in the fairness of the tax system.

This year has been exceptional for many reasons, with two significant disruptions to the lives of many Australians — the bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts continue to be with those who have experienced loss, devastation and disruption. Our thoughts are especially with those who have lost family, friends, and colleagues as a result of either the bushfires or the COVID-19 virus.

The IGTO responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic. We adapted our information and communication technology (ICT) platform and work practices to support our team members working remotely to protect themselves, their families and the community at large. In implementing remote working arrangements, we have strived to ensure that we continue to provide a high quality service to taxpayers and tax practitioners. We predict an increase in the number of complaints that the Taxation Ombudsman will receive over the coming months — particularly in the areas of debt recovery and eligibility and access to the Government’s COVID-19 support measures. We will strive to provide the highest quality of service with our available resources and in the circumstances.

I would like to thank the IGTO team for their commitment, dedication and professionalism in assisting the community — especially in these difficult times. Importantly, the IGTO team are willing and want to assist the community through their:

  • Professionalism — applying experience, knowledge and understanding of the tax system;
  • Independence — relying upon facts, evidence and logic; and
  • Responsiveness — willingness to listen to complainants and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or Tax Practitioners Board (TPB), in a respectful, patient and calm manner.

This report provides insights into the important role that the IGTO performs in the Australian community. An overview of our functions is presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Overview of the function of the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman A figure of the overview of the function of the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman