Making it easier to comply
Making it easier to comply
We are committed to administering the tax and superannuation system in a way that makes it as easy as possible for taxpayers to comply. Most people want to do the right thing so we're always looking for helpful ways to improve how you engage with us, to make it easier and cheaper for you.
Making it easier to comply describes our current and future priorities in delivering better services to you. Our research tells us that our relationship with the community is improving over time, but we also know there are a few areas where our report card says we 'could do better'. We're working on those within the parameters of our budget.
Previously, we've published Making it easier to comply as a printed booklet. This year, embracing a faster and more cost-effective online option, we've uploaded our 'report card' directly to our website - www.ato.gov.au. This will enable us to make regular updates and keep you better informed.
Commissioner of Taxation
We are committed to being flexible, responding to changing priorities and improving our services. To achieve this we look for ways to make it easier, cheaper and more personalised for the community to interact with us. By this we mean:
- Easier: we aim to make it easier for you to understand your tax and superannuation obligations and how to meet them.
- Cheaper: we aim to make it cheaper for you to comply with your obligations by reducing the work, time and effort involved.
- More personalised: we aim to provide products and services that make sense to you and will target our compliance activities to minimise their impact on those who are trying to comply.
In these pages we outline major initiatives we are introducing to make it easier for people to comply with their obligations. Our Compliance program, outlines the wider range of services we provide to help people comply with their obligations and receive their entitlements.
We use a set of principles to guide the design of these improvements and to ensure that we understand and meet your needs. We will also continue to consult, collaborate and co-design with the community to guide our future priorities and improve community interactions with us.
Our current priorities are to:
- continue to improve our website
- continue to make it easier for individuals to complete and lodge their tax return using e-tax, including pre-filling
- continue to improve our differentiated service and treatment
- help connect people to their super
- help business interact with us online
- provide you with an integrated view of your tax position
- consolidate our A better way for tax agents
- work with other government agencies to rationalise government reporting and registration requirements to minimise red tape.
We've learned some important lessons from our experiences so far and we know we have to continuously take new legislative requirements, government initiatives and community expectations into account when we plan for the future. We also look at how people use our products and services and how satisfied they are with them to see whether we're delivering what they want and what improvements we can make.
Our focus is on continual improvement. The initiatives we implement, through until 2010, under our change program will be a big part of delivering improvements to the way the community interacts with us. Our community experience tables provide detailed information about the specific initiatives we're working on.
Making it easier to comply forms part of our suite of corporate documents. As an open and accountable administration, we publish these documents to assure the government and the community that the tax and superannuation systems are being effectively and efficiently managed and administered.
In the immediate future, we will continue to improve our website and help businesses interact with us online. We'll also make it easier for individuals to complete their income tax returns, connect with their superannuation and if they are complying with their obligations, they are less likely to hear from us. Tax agents will also find we have better products and services to offer.
When our new single integrated core processing (ICP) system is fully implemented, you will have an integrated picture of your tax position.
We will also work with other agencies to improve the ways to report and register electronically with the government.
An improved website
We evaluated our website to understand how well the site was meeting business goals as well as stakeholder and user requirements. Based on the recommendations, we made improvements to ato.gov.au.
In November 2008, we introduced a more contemporary look and feel, made it less cluttered and enhanced the search and navigation features. The redesigned website allows users to navigate easily to relevant topics, publications and forms.
We will continue to review and update content on the website to ensure users can easily find and understand the information they need.
An easier income tax return for individuals
Many individuals interact with us only once a year, so we'd like to make the experience quick and easy for them. Of course, we ensure they comply with their obligations and receive their entitlements as well, so we're building on our popular e-tax product to make the process more straightforward.
Working with stakeholders and encouraging them to lodge information online and early will help us to expand the pre-filling facility. This, in turn, will make it easier for individuals to complete their income tax returns.
For people who choose to use a tax agent to lodge their personal income tax return, we're continuing to expand the information available through the pre-filling report on the Tax Agent Portal. Tax agents already have access to the same information that is available through the pre-filling facility on e-tax and will also benefit from the work we're doing with third parties to expand the information available.
Improve our differentiated service and treatment
Improved risk management and intelligence gathering have improved our capacity to personalise our services and our ability to select those who are not complying with their tax obligations.
We are able to quickly finalise low risk income tax returns and analyse those that pose higher risks. We can also arrange tax debt repayment strategies as well as remit general interest charges in times of hardship.
Linking people to their superannuation
We are making it easier for the many individuals who have difficulty finding and consolidating their lost superannuation. From mid-September 2008, we started to move the lost member register into our new single processing system (integrated core processing or ICP) making it easier to link people to their superannuation. This register can be searched through our online SuperSeeker tool or by superannuation funds through the SuperMatch facility.
From early 2009, superannuation funds will receive a new outcome of lodgment report that clearly provides details about any lost member records that need correction. From June 2009 a web-based tool (designed to work with our existing 'lost super' search function) will populate a form that individuals can send to their funds to have their lost superannuation transferred and consolidated with other superannuation accounts.
In early 2009, the systems supporting superannuation co-contributions will be deployed into ICP allowing more effective ways of determining people's eligibility and providing timely advice to superannuation funds. We have provided an online calculator to help individuals estimate their co-contributions entitlements, and we're working to provide a calculator to help people find out if their employer is paying the correct superannuation guarantee contribution.
Helping business interact with us online
When we look at how we can make it easier for businesses to interact with us online, we need to get the balance between convenience and security right. We've already made some changes to our processes to make it easier for business operators to install our security software. Another priority is to look at how we can validate the information businesses provide to make sure we get the right information the first time.
However, we recognise we need to do more to meet the needs of business operators, so we're focussing on refining our online offer. We've been talking with businesses to find out what functions and benefits they expect when they interact with us online. We're currently working through the ideas businesses have put forward and, in consultation with them, we'll look at the ways we can help them move online.
Providing an integrated view of your tax position
We'll continue to replace our many processing systems with a new single integrated core processing (ICP) system that will manage how we administer all taxes and superannuation. Once fully implemented, you will have an integrated picture of your tax position and, with access to details of our previous interactions, we will find it easier to respond to your queries.
You will receive a new statement of account (SOA) that will help you understand your transaction history, account balance and payment options. It will also include penalty and interest information on the one statement. In addition, you'll receive an easier to understand notice of assessment (NOA).
We will progressively implement this new system. At this stage, we plan to have it fully implemented during 2010.
A better way for tax agents
We have worked with tax agents to develop a range of products and services to make it easier for them to interact with us. The Tax agent services guide describes these products and services, including a guide for online options such as the Tax Agent Portal and the electronic lodgment service (ELS) in addition to fast key codes for the tax agent phone line.
In our role as registrar of the Australian Business Register, we're working with the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and other agencies to ensure the Australian business number (ABN) is central to all business-to-government identity and dealings. This will give businesses clarity in their dealings with government and, over time, provide single ways of reporting and registering electronically with the government.
Most of the community - individuals, businesses, government bodies and others - now embrace the idea of doing business online. We're also working with other government agencies to rationalise government reporting and registration requirements and to minimise red tape, so that compliance costs for businesses are reduced.
We are working with the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) Program to implement a tax file number (TFN) declaration pilot in February 2009. If the pilot is successful, we'll make TFN declaration lodgment possible directly from business software systems.
What we're working on now and for the future
We're continually looking for ways to make it easier, cheaper and more personalised for you to interact with us. In addition to our usual work, we'll be working on a range of initiatives that will deliver improvements over the coming years. These improvements help to bring about our vision of making it easier for you to comply.
Overview of improvements by segment
Some of these improvements are for specific market segments - tax agents, businesses and individuals - and some have benefits for all. Some of the improvements for specific market segments will also benefit other segments. For example, non-profit organisations will also benefit from the initiatives we're introducing for businesses and BAS service providers will benefit from the initiatives for tax agents.
The information below provides a high-level overview of the major initiatives we're working on by segment.
Detailed information of improvements by interaction type
We call your interactions with us 'community experiences' and we explain the changes we are making in terms of the way they improve your experiences. We introduce many new community experiences progressively, building on earlier improvements. Our ongoing research helps us evaluate how successfully we are meeting community needs and identify where we need to do more work.
This analysis provides information on the improvements we're making based on the type of interaction you have with us. The information is presented based on the following 'experience' groupings.
Improvements we're making for when you want to:
Make an enquiry or access information
Improvements we're making for when you want to:
Register in the system
Lodge a return
Understand your assessment
View and understand your account
Make a payment
Improvements we're making that will have impact across several types of interactions you have with us:
Lodging directly from common accounting/record-keeping software
Online - security and portal
Tools and calculators
Improvements for everyone
Helping people interact with us more easily is integral to the way we do business with the community.
We've restructured our website so it's easier for you to find the information you need using our improved content, navigation and search options. We'll continue to improve the content on our website to make it easier for you to find and understand the information you need.
We're working on giving users an integrated view of their tax position and are making our letters, notices and statements easier to understand and more consistent with other information you receive from us.
We already have a lot more of your history available to our people when you phone as a result of the new systems we introduced in the past few years. We will progressively have more of your history available, and, during 2010, the person you speak to will know the details of all the correspondence we have sent you.
You will have more options in how you choose to make payments. Improvements in our interactive voice recognition phone service will let you make payment arrangements across multiple accounts and, under certain circumstances, amend existing arrangements. During 2010, the entitlement to interest on early payment for income tax will be automatically calculated (excluding payments relating to superannuation).
We're also improving our intelligence and risk management, so that our information-gathering techniques, turn-around times and ability to detect incorrect returns is much better.
Aligning our requirements more closely with normal business and accounting procedures and practices means that we can help reduce how much it costs individuals, businesses and tax professionals to comply with their obligations and receive entitlements.
In its report, Improving Australia's tax consultation system, the Board of Taxation recommended changes to the way the community is consulted about tax legislation. We will continue to work on the newly introduced tax issues entry system
We recently restructured our website and improved our search facilities because we recognise that you increasingly prefer to go online to access information. We'll keep improving our content to make it easier for you to find and understand the information that will tell you what you need to know about your obligations and entitlements.
You will also have access to an increasing range of online calculators and decision-making tools to help you interpret the law and calculate your liabilities and credits.
Letters, notices and statements
We're working on making our letters, notices and statements easier to understand and more consistent with other information you receive from us. We'll keep tailoring our products to create more integrated correspondence, so that we can better meet the needs of different people and improve the way we work with them.
For example, the new format of the statement of account for fringe benefits tax (FBT) will help people understand their transaction histories, account balances and payment options.
We plan to provide you with statements of account containing information about FBT, income tax, goods and services tax (GST), excise and business activity statements (BASs). This statement of account will show tax as well as any penalty and interest information. It will replace refund advices, offsetting notices and correspondence about interest on overpayments and early payments. It will provide a chronological view of your account and will include a payment slip to make it easier to pay.
During 2010, individuals and businesses will receive an easier-to-understand income tax notice of assessment. We'll also be able to send a notice of assessment or notice of amended assessment at the same time as your statement of account. This will make it easier for you to see the effect of the assessment as well as your overall financial position with us.
Further, during 2010, you will be able to choose to receive correspondence either electronically or by mail.
We'll continue to replace our many processing systems with a new single system (integrated core processing or ICP) that will eventually manage how we administer all taxes and superannuation. Once fully implemented, you will have an integrated picture of your tax position and, with access to details of our previous interactions, we will find it easier to respond to your queries.
We will progressively implement the remaining releases of the change program. We have already started to deploy fringe benefits tax (FBT) into the new system and will progressively add superannuation, the Higher Education Loan Programme, income tax, excise, GST and activity statements. We will also extend our new case management systems to include the debt and interpretive advice functions.
When fully implemented, the new system will let us process registrations, forms, payments and accounting transactions across all types of tax products. This will represent a significant change in the way we work with you.
ICP will complement the client relationship management, case management and work management functions introduced in earlier releases of the change program. Together, these changes will give us a more integrated picture of your information. This means that when you phone or correspond with us, we'll have details of our previous interactions with you. This will make it easier for us to respond to your queries.
We currently use multiple business processes and systems for different taxes. This can make it difficult for individuals, businesses and their agents to easily understand their full tax position. Once fully implemented, all the information we need for processing will be in a single place with consistent treatment applied to transactions and events across different tax types.
ICP will allow us to provide more timely and personalised experiences and respond quickly to the changing demands of government and the community. ICP will allow people to manage their tax affairs and access their information through various channels. These channels include new portals for tax agents and businesses that are due for release in 2010.
The system will allow us to add new forms and products quickly and easily. It will also provide automated processes for triggering, actioning or following-up outstanding debt and lodgment obligations and unresolved credit balances.
Risk-based processing is a key feature of ICP. This will help us to prevent fraud associated with income tax returns, activity statements and other transactions. It will also help us to process transactions consistently and escalate them to debt management or active compliance areas.
Differentiated service and treatment
A differentiated approach to our services means we can offer you more personalised choices in how we interact with you.
If you do the right thing by your tax obligations you will see less of us, unless you ask for help. If you have a good history with us we will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if an exception arises. And if you are facing genuine hardship, we will provide relief appropriate to your circumstances.
Our behind-the-scenes efforts in risk analysis and detection means that we are continuously updating our understanding of your compliance behaviour and the risk associated with each individual transaction or return. Our latest analytical models help us to quickly review many returns and refunds without having to contact people for more information. Just as importantly, the models help us to select which cases to investigate because of possible fraudulent activity or unusual transactions.
Our use of one such model has shortened the turnaround time for people who would otherwise have had their refund delayed while their tax return was reviewed and it has improved our rate of detecting incorrect returns.
With this differentiated approach we can also take people's personal circumstances into consideration when difficulties arise.
We know that people from time to time experience uncertainty and hardship, such as those affected by natural disasters or financial distress associated with the current economic downturn. We help you through these unique and difficult circumstances by fast tracking refunds, arranging for tax debts to be paid in instalments or giving you more time to pay tax or to lodge returns without incurring penalties or interest.
In August 2007, the then Treasurer announced there would be changes in the way the community is consulted when tax legislation is developed. The changes were in response to initial recommendations made by the Board of Taxation in its report, Improving Australia's tax consultation system. The report recommended a new system which would allow the community to raise minor policy and administrative issues relating to the care and maintenance of the tax and superannuation systems. A further report commissioned by the Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen MP, recommended that a pilot of a new Tax Issues Entry System go ahead - a report by the Tax Design Review Panel titled Better Tax Design and Implementation
In November 2008, the Tax Issues Entry System (TIES) was introduced. This Australian Government initiative is jointly managed by the ATO and the Department of the Treasury. It gives you the opportunity to raise issues relating to the care and maintenance of the tax and superannuation systems. This system represents a major way in which we will continue to make the tax system work better for everyone.
Tax agents and other intermediaries
The Tax Agent Portal is the main channel for tax agents to interact with us. Our planned improvements will mean tax agents have more options to interact with us online.
We have progressively improved our Tax Agent Portal since its introduction in 2003. From December 2008, tax agents have been able to use their digital certificate to access the portal in locations other than their practice - for example, in a client's place of business.
A new Tax Agent Portal is due to be released during 2010. It will provide agents with more opportunity to interact with us online. From July 2009, there will also be more information available in the income tax pre-filling report on the Tax Agent Portal.
Our 'a better way' initiative offers tax agents a range of products and services to help resolve queries more efficiently. The products and services offered under this initiative were developed in collaboration with the tax profession. The aim is to help agents build self-sufficiency, improve their access to technical experts and enable more professional-to-professional services.
Under this initiative, we will expand the 'access to experts' service, which is designed to provide better access to technical experts, and the 'professional-to-professional' initiative which offers a more personalised service for agents to gain advice on exceptional technical issues. We'll also expand the range of training products aimed to help staff new to the tax industry learn how to interact with us and use our products and services effectively.
BAS service providers support the compliance activities of many small businesses. Eligible BAS service providers can now do business with us online by accessing relevant client information and functionality on the BAS service provider portal. As well as benefiting from the improvements being introduced for tax agents with the release of the new portal during 2010, BAS service providers will have access to more functionality which will let them interact with us more online.
Auditors of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) also play important roles, so we've developed a downloadable tool, eSAT, to help them to identify compliance issues and to prepare and lodge contravention reports.
Software developers are an important intermediary between us and businesses. They play a crucial role in the development of initiatives including standard business reporting and online services and are vital in helping business operate smoothly.
We work extensively with software providers to co-design solutions that will make it easier for people to interact with us - for example, improvements to the tax time process and ensuring community readiness, enabling successful implementation of legislative changes and responses to technology developments.
Helping tax agents through our professional-to-professional service
By interacting with us online, businesses can see all their business tax accounts in one place, transact securely using digital certificate technology and get the right numbers quickly using online tax calculators and help information.
Our secure Business Portal, one of the key ways businesses can interact with us online, provides business with many benefits, including improved record keeping. Businesses can now obtain primary and secondary digital certificates faster and more easily than before and they can access the portal from any location, provided they have the appropriate software loaded on their USB stick. We also know businesses would find it useful if they could lodge returns and access other ATO services directly from their accounting software, so we're working on that, too.
We're also working with other government agencies to help to increase our shared knowledge and efficiency, reduce duplication and minimise the 'red tape' burden for businesses. These initiatives for businesses include:
- standard business reporting
- improving the way government agencies collectively identify businesses with the Australian Business Register (ABR)
- developing a business model to improve the Australian business number (ABN) and business name systems.
The Standard Business Reporting (SBR) Program, led by Treasury, aims to deliver significant efficiencies during 2010. When it is fully operational, businesses will be able to use a single, secure log-on to submit financial reports (such as activity statements) to participating government agencies and use their own accounting and record-keeping software to automatically pre-fill government forms.
In mid-2009, we'll make TFN declaration lodgment possible directly from business software systems. SBR is focussing on financial reporting first, since this affects most businesses and, of the 95 forms currently in scope across agencies, the ATO has 45 forms including the BAS.
SBR is being co-designed by Australian, state and territory government agencies, in partnership with businesses, software developers, accountants, bookkeepers and other business intermediaries from across Australia. When fully operational, SBR will simplify business-to-government reporting with agencies including the ATO, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRS), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and all state and territory government revenue offices. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is also participating in the SBR program which in the longer term will facilitate improvements made to ABS specific online services, for example utilising the single authentication process.
The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research is working with us to develop a business model for a seamless online registration system for ABNs, business names and trademarks. The model will promote the ABN as a unique identifier and the ABR as a source of accurate business registration data. We're working with agencies to ensure that the ABN is central to all business-to-government identity and dealings.
Businesses as employers, whether large or small, are important intermediaries in the tax system and have pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and superannuation payment obligations.
Smaller employers sometimes have inadequate record-keeping practices and problems with cash flow management. These factors can lead to problems managing employer obligations. We help employers by providing a range of electronic tools. We recently introduced a calculator to help businesses work out their superannuation guarantee contributions and complete a superannuation guarantee charge statement.
For individuals to realise the full benefits of e-tax pre-filling, businesses must lodge their information early and online. We will continue to work closely with businesses, including large employers, large investment bodies, payroll providers and software developers, to expand the pre-filling facility.
Improving our products and services through the 3Cs - consultation, collaboration and co-design
We have several initiatives underway for individuals, including making individual tax returns faster and easier and helping to link people to their lost superannuation.
Our online income tax return program, e-tax, is gaining even more popularity. In 2007-08, we saw a 20% increase in lodgments, with more than 70% of people using the pre-filling option
Over the last few years we have been working on expanding e-tax's pre-filling service to make it easier for you to meet your obligations and claim your entitlements. Now, there is more information available, such as PAYG summary data (salary and wages and superannuation payments), interest and dividend information, private health insurance policy details, Medicare levy surcharges, HELP debt balances and interest charges.
In addition to the existing suite of information, from July 2009 we will also include PAYG payment summaries that are lodged on paper, PAYG income tax instalment amounts and additional compliance reminders. We'll continue working with third parties to increase the amount of information available through pre-filling.
Given e-tax's popularity, we're helping more people make the move to lodging online. We'll also continue to support people who can't complete their tax online by providing ready access to the TaxPack. Our research has shown us that we can improve the structure and language of this publication, so we plan to release a new, simpler TaxPack in July 2009.
We're developing an online calculator to help individuals find out if their employer is paying the correct superannuation guarantee contribution and have provided an online calculator to help individuals estimate their co-contributions entitlements. We're also making it easier for individuals to find and access their lost superannuation
From June 2009, we will provide a web-based tool designed to work with our existing lost superannuation search functionality. The tool will help individuals to transfer their superannuation by automatically preparing a form they can send to their funds to have their lost superannuation transferred and consolidated into other superannuation accounts.
We're contributing to the whole-of-government initiative to enhance the australia.gov.au website so that it provides individuals with simple, convenient access to government information and services.
Making tax time easier with e-tax
Community experience tables
Each year in our Making it easier to comply publication, we indicate the extent to which we have delivered on the previous year's commitments and our 'community experience tables' provide a more detailed view of these changes.
In a small number of cases, we have modified or dropped an initiative based on further advice and input from our co-design activities and pilots. Similarly, a few initiatives have been delayed and a few have been added.
Initiatives delivered in the last year
The Community experience tables for 2007-08 set out what we committed to and delivered. If we were unable to deliver in full, we provide more background.
Improved community experiences in 2007-08 (PDF, 96KB)
Initiatives to be delivered in the future
The Community experience tables for 2008-09 and beyond set out in detail the improvements we plan to make and the timetable. We have split the main section of the community experiences into two main parts:
- Improvements for different stages or types of interactions in dealing with us - receiving guidance and advice, making enquiries, registering to deal with us, lodging documents, the assessment process and maintaining and paying accounts.
- Improvements that support many of these types of interactions with us, such as using the tax agent or business portals, corresponding with us or using our forms.
The information in this table is subject to change, including the potential impact of any new government policy initiatives and priorities.
Improved community experiences in 2008-09 and beyond (PDF, 132KB)
Major initiatives delivered so far
In 2002, we began a program of work to understand how we could make it easier, cheaper and more personalised for people to comply with their tax and superannuation obligations. Since then, some of the major initiatives we've introduced include:
- The Tax Agent Portal
Introduced in 2003, the portal has given agents an online option for interacting and transacting with us. It affords them the opportunity to realise a real reduction in costs and, for most tax practices, the portal is now integral to the way they interact with us online.
- The Business Portal
Our research told us that most people and businesses increasingly wanted to manage their financial affairs online. The Business Portal, which we introduced in 2003, gives businesses the opportunity to interact with us in much the same way as online banking - to transact promptly and efficiently, in a convenient and secure environment.
- Pre-filling and e-tax
Most individuals only need to interact with us once a year, when they complete their tax returns. In 1998, we introduced e-tax to make it easier and faster for people to complete this annual task. Since then, e-tax's popularity has increased noticeably every year with more and more individuals choosing to use it. In 2006, we added a pre-filling service - which allows users to automatically add information already known to the Tax Office to some fields in the tax return. Enhancements since then have significantly increased the amount of information available for pre-filling, and so, by using current technology to further improve e-tax, it's even easier for people to transact with us.
- A range of online tools and calculators
Generally co-designed with users, these tools and calculators have been introduced progressively and consistently rate among the 'most popular pages' on our website.
- Simulation Centre
Opening our Simulation Centre in 2003 represented a fundamental shift in our approach to administering the tax system. Now, co-designing and developing products and services with you is 'business as usual' for us. Since it was opened, an average of 1,000 people a year - including tax agents, business people, individuals and ATO staff - have worked with us to help improve our products and services.
- Enterprise-wide management systems
We've introduced our client relationship management, case management and work management systems progressively since 2005. These new systems have streamlined our work processes and, most importantly, made your history available to the tax officer you speak with, so they can understand your situation more fully and quickly and provide the help you need.
What the community is telling us
We're continuously looking for ways to improve our systems, processes, products and services so that people find it easier to comply with their tax and superannuation obligations. We look at your use of our products and services to gauge how useful you find them. We also listen to what you want through focus groups, consultation forums and surveys and work with you to co-design a range of products and services that will meet your needs.
Over recent years, the main improvements you have asked for include:
- making it easier for you to interact and transact with us online
- improved phone services
- improved access to details of your previous interactions with us
- simpler, less complicated and easier-to-find information
- more help with record keeping.
To further explore how we can make it easier for you to interact and transact with us online, we recently talked to businesses about the functions and benefits they expect. The key themes to emerge were that by going online there is potential to:
- print and save copies of completed forms
- receive immediate confirmation that we have received forms and payments
- have a positive impact on the environment
- make it easier to conduct business online securely using more than one computer.
As well as what we hear from our research and consultation forums, we use case studies to highlight your experiences with some of the initiatives we've introduced.
We measure the effectiveness of our major initiatives. Our new client relationship management system has delivered benefits. In particular our staff now have more of your tax history and previous interactions on hand when you contact us.
We also measure your usage, preference and satisfaction with our products and services to help us understand the attributes and functionality you want. We then work with individuals, businesses and tax advisers to work out how we can best help you and provide convenient and inexpensive ways for people to interact with us.
Improvements from our client relationship management system
We rolled out our client relationship management system in 2005 so we could improve our phone and other client services. We undertake surveys with tax agents, businesses and individuals who phone us to track how we're going with improving our phone services.
In our December 2007 call centre satisfaction research survey, 85% of respondents reported their calls were resolved by the first person they spoke to and 52% agreed that the officer they spoke with knew details of their previous interactions. Also, nine out of ten respondents believed the information they received met or exceeded their expectations in terms of accuracy, clarity and usefulness.
One of the key issues users identified in the survey was the time taken to reach a service representative. To help address this issue, in June 2008 auto callback was introduced. This technology provides the caller with an option to receive a return phone call when their call reaches the top of the queue - avoiding the need for them to wait online. So far, over 50% of callers have accepted the offer of a call back rather than wait on the line - and community feedback tells us that 99% of these callers would use the service again.
Our employees are also experiencing improvements with the new system. Recent research indicates that a steady increase in the percentage of staff who feel that it is easy to understand a client's history of interactions with the ATO - up to 80% agreeing that it is easier to access client information.
Some of the survey results have shown a decline in staff satisfaction relating to the process of developing and sending correspondence. We are investigating possible causes, but we believe these results will improve once all the functionality has been released and transitional issues are overcome. We are also continuing to look for ways to improve and streamline our processes.
We try to meet your needs and expectations by making it easier for you to interact with us online. By monitoring your use of our online services, we can understand the functionality you like. This helps us develop services that meet your needs.
Tax agents continued to increase their use of the portal and it also remains their preferred way of contacting us. For businesses, although use of the Business Portal is increasing, the take-up rate has not met expectations. We'll continue to work with business operators to determine how we can meet their needs to interact with us online.
Increased use of e-tax shows us that more individual taxpayers want to interact with us online. The e-tax exit survey also shows users desire to continue using online options to interact with us.
The number of tax agents and tax practice staff using the Tax Agent Portal has remained consistent for the past three years. The plateau in the number of people using the portal reflects that penetration into the tax agent population has reached saturation point. Around 92% of active tax agents are using the portal.
However we have seen significant increase in usage and the number of transactions being processed through this channel. In 2007-08 the number of logins to the portal increased by around 69%. Activity statements and revisions lodged through the portal increased by over 28% in 2007-08, with a total of over 1,760,000 statements and revisions lodged during the period. The use of the electronic lodgment service also remains a popular way for tax agents to lodge activity statements and revisions, with over 3,220,000 transactions made during the period.
Results from the Tax agent services survey indicate that while the portal continues to be the most frequent way for tax agents to interact with us, this has decreased significantly. This has had a corresponding influence on tax agents' use of other ways of interacting with us.
Tax agents - first choice way of interacting with us
Number of people using the Tax Agent Portal
Number of logins to the Tax Agent Portal
Through our business perceptions survey we monitor the ways businesses say they contact us. Of those surveyed, the most commonly used ATO channel was the website, followed by phone and the Business Portal. While the number of people visiting the ATO website has remained fairly steady, the number of businesses phoning the ATO has decreased over time.
Business use of the Business Portal continues to increase, with over 175,000 different business users logging onto the portal in 2007-08. The total number of business logins also increased - from 1,592,717 to 1,973,208.
Businesses are increasing their use of the portal to lodge activity statements. The number of activity statements and revisions lodged through the portal increased by over 23% in 2007-08 - over 725,000 activity statement transactions were made during the period.
Although use of the Business Portal has increased, the take-up rate has not met expectations. To help overcome the impediments to business use of the portal, we have improved the process for obtaining digital certificates and are talking with business to determine how the portal can better meet their needs.
The electronic commerce interface (ECI) also continues to be popular with businesses. Use of this service remained relatively consistent with previous years, with nearly half a million activity statements and revisions lodged through ECI during the year.
Ways businesses are contacting us
Note: Those that had telephoned the Tax Office, attended a Tax seminar, visited the Tax Office in person, were visited by the Tax Office, were contacted via phone by the Tax Office or were audited by the Tax Office were considered to have had direct contact.
Business users of the Business Portal
Number of logins to the Business Portal
Activity statements and revisions lodged through the Business Portal
The number of individuals using e-tax continues to increase, moving up from 1.6 million in tax time 2006 to 1.9 million in 2007. We expect a further increase of 15% in 2008, to 2.2 million users. About 70% of self-preparers have used e-tax to lodge their 2008 income tax return.
Results from our e-tax exit survey, as at 7 November 2008, show that over 87% of the people who used e-tax to lodge their income tax return were satisfied with using it. Over 70% of people who used e-tax used the pre-filling service, with 86% of them satisfied with that service. Over 94% of people who used e-tax to lodge their 2007-08 income tax return indicated they would use it again and 82% of people who used the pre-filling service would use it again next year.
Take up of e-tax
Note: The 2008 figure of 2.2 million e-tax users is a projection. As at 16 December 2008, 2,163,838 people had used e-tax to lodge their income tax return.
Easier, cheaper and more personalised - perceptions
We're continuously looking for ways to improve the community's interactions with us. Measuring how we're tracking against making your interactions with us easier, cheaper and more personalised through surveys such as our annual tax agent perceptions survey, business perceptions survey and community perceptions survey helps us to provide more efficient and effective outcomes for the community in general.
Since 2003, we've tracked the survey results for insights into how you perceive your interactions with the ATO. Although these results indicate that community perceptions of our performance have improved over time, we recognise that these perceptions are shaped by individuals' total experience with the tax system as well as social and economic factors and general community sentiment and confidence.
Some of these issues are beyond the ATO's influence, so we view the results within the context of what is happening in the wider community, particularly when there are significant changes in the results.
We measure how we are tracking against the key elements of our program - namely, 'easier', 'cheaper', and 'more personalised'. For tax agents we track this through the tax agent perceptions survey.
Although these results have increased over time, all of the results for the August 2008 survey are at lower levels than in March 2007. Four of the six results show over 80% satisfaction levels. The lowest result has consistently been for maintaining client records, which is once again much lower than the other indicators, at 51%.
Given the recent decline in results, we spoke with members of the Regional Tax Practitioner Forum about what may be some of the drivers behind the results. Feedback from those forums indicates a general decline in confidence across a range of non-ATO and ATO issues.
In regard to the ATO related issues, members' feedback included the fact that it has been a very busy 12 months and that the workload was onerous. Other broad areas focused on the view that the ATO generally takes the position that it is right and that tax agents have to do more administrative work considered to have previously been done by the ATO.
In terms of the non-ATO issues, it is perceived that there has been a general increasingly difficult business environment both nationally and internationally over the last 12 to 18 months.
Tax agents - easier
- Q1 The information I receive from the ATO helps me deal with the tax system
- Q2 The ATO's systems and business processes are being improved to make it easy for tax agents to deal with the tax system
- Q3 I feel it is easier now than it was in the past to deal with the tax system
Tax agents - cheaper
- Q4 The effort involved in dealing with the ATO is less now than in the past
- Q5 The effort involved in maintaining my clients' records is less now than in the past
Tax agents - more personalised
- Q6 The information and assistance I receive from the ATO is tailored to meet my needs.
We measure the easier, cheaper and more personalised aspects of our program for businesses through our business perceptions survey. Although there has been a gradual upward trend over time, many of the results of the December 2007 and May 2008 surveys are lower than previous surveys.
We will explore the possible drivers behind these results in our discussions with businesses. If they are factors the ATO can influence, we will work with businesses to design solutions.
On a positive note, 90% of businesses surveyed believe that we treat them fairly and reasonably and 75% believe that we make complying with their tax obligations as easy as possible. Consistent with previous year's results the lowest indicator relates to record keeping (Q5).
Businesses - easier
- Q1 The ATO tries to make complying with my business tax obligations as easy as possible
- Q2 I feel it is easier now than in the past to deal with the tax system.
Businesses - cheaper
- Q3 The ATO tries to make complying with my business tax obligations as inexpensive as possible
- Q4 The effort involved in completing my business tax return is less now than in previous years
- Q5 The effort involved in maintaining records to support claims in my business tax return is less now than in previous years
Businesses - more personalised
- Q6 The ATO treats me fairly and reasonably
- Q7 The ATO takes into account my circumstances when making decisions
- Q8 The advice and information I receive from the ATO is tailored to meet my needs
- Q9 The ATO looks for new ways of doings things to help taxpayers
We measure the easier, cheaper and more personalised aspects of our program for individuals through our community perceptions survey. Most of the results of the 2008 survey have remained relatively stable, with the exception of the question relating to confusion about taxation matters, with this measure increasing from 37% to 43%.
Individuals believe strongly that the advice they receive from the ATO is tailored to meet their needs, with this measure remaining stable at 72%. Also, 59% of individuals surveyed believe the ATO takes into account their circumstances when making decisions and 57% believe it is easier now than in the past to deal with the tax system.
Individuals - easier
- Q1 The ATO looks for new ways of doing things to help taxpayers
- Q2 I feel it is easier now than in the past to deal with the tax system
- Q3 I feel very confused about taxation matters
(Note: a decline in agreement with this question indicates an improvement)
Individuals - cheaper
- Q4 The effort involved in completing my tax return is less than in previous years
- Q5 The effort involved in maintaining records to support claims in my tax returns is less now than in previous years
Individuals - more personalised
- Q6 The advice related to my circumstances
- Q7 The advice was tailored to meet my needs
- Q8 The ATO takes into account my circumstances when making decisions.
At the ATO, we take consultation and feedback seriously. We seek opportunities to talk to people - tax professionals, individuals, business operators and staff - to find out how they feel about working with us. Their advice, preferences and suggestions guide our ideas and improvement initiatives.
Case study: Helping tax agents through our professional-to-professional service - Scott Wearne and Bernadette Crennan
Case study: Making tax time easier with e-tax - Robert Wrigley
Case study: Improving our products and services through the 3Cs - Michael Strong and Darryl Daisley
Case study: ato.gov.au refresh - Tom Byrnes
Helping tax agents through our professional-to-professional service
The Tax Office is constantly looking for ways to improve its services to tax agents.
Through consultative and co-design processes, a service was developed to provide tax professionals with more personalised assistance and guidance in resolving or progressing matters.
A key part of this service involves making it easier for tax agents to phone a senior ATO officer to progress an exceptional issue or gain technical guidance.
This service model is known as the 'professional-to-professional' service. A pilot, involving 30 agents, began in March 2008. Under the pilot, one tax agent within a tax practice was given a nominated senior ATO officer as their contact point.
The senior ATO officer has an understanding of the tax practice's client base and circumstances, and takes ownership of the issue - listening, evaluating and working to resolve or progress the matter. If the ATO officer cannot resolve the matter, they will involve a subject matter expert to bring it to a conclusion or provide the necessary advice.
One of the Tax Office professionals playing a key role in the success of this professional-to-professional program is Scott Wearne, Director of GST Interpretative Assistance. Scott is based in our Hurstville office in Sydney.
Scott is confident the program has been successful and is in line with the ATO's aim of an easier, cheaper and more personalised tax service.
'It seems that a number of the issues raised by tax agents during the pilot had been "in the bottom drawer" for some time because they either didn't know how to progress them or had not had time to research the issue as it was outside their usual dealings,' he said.
'Giving senior tax agents access to our subject matter experts to discuss the ATO view has been easier, cheaper and more personalised for the tax agents, and possibly reduced the need for a private ruling or resulted in a more focused request for a ruling.'
Scott said his client base under the professional-to-professional program was intentionally diverse, ranging from a single suburban tax agent to large partnerships with a number of senior partners. 'I had excellent professional relationships with all the tax agents and found it a positive experience,' he said.
After phoning and introducing himself to the tax agents, Scott found that the workload settled into a routine revolving mainly around technical issues. He would take phone calls or receive emails from tax agents regarding particular circumstances and how they should be treated.
Scott said: 'I work in GST and have extensive GST knowledge, but referred to subject matter experts in other business lines for questions regarding other taxes. I would then relate the advice back to the tax agent and possibly give the subject matter expert as a contact for further discussions, with the other officer's agreement.'
The most frequently asked questions related to superannuation and non-resident clients or supplies.
In one case Scott handled, the tax agent was seeking clarity on how negative gearing could be used by a self-managed superannuation fund.
With input from a Tax Office colleague who works in this area, Scott was able to inform the tax agent that the latest information was about to be distributed via a taxpayer alert from the Tax Office.
'Our advice to the tax agent was that he should monitor our website and other forms of tax agent communication,' Scott said. 'In the meantime, we were available to clarify with him the general principles involved.
'When I conveyed this to the tax agent, he was very happy with both the response and the turnaround time.'
As business services manager at a Melbourne accountancy and business advisory firm, Bernadette Crennan likes the fact that her contact with the Tax Office is quick, efficient and productive.
Her days are busy as she manages staff workflows, applies quality control to jobs and responds to many phone and email queries from clients.
The services offered by her firm, Nugents Pty Ltd, range across tax and regulatory compliance, strategic business planning, asset protection strategies, self-managed superannuation funds, wealth management and other areas.
'Our client base is mainly small-medium enterprises and the family groups involved,' Bernadette said. 'We also have several clients who are larger groups of entities and their affairs are more complicated. We take care of their compliance needs, the group forward planning and any other issues that may arise.
'We contact the ATO on a daily basis through the Tax Agent Portal to check details of client accounts, lodgment dates and outstanding returns and requests for refunds and the like.
'We also call the ATO on a weekly basis in relation to issues such as remission of penalties or interest or if we have a tax issue that we need clarified.'
So far, Nugents have had to call on the professional-to-professional service option only once, but it was a good outcome, Bernadette said. 'We had a query in relation to the distribution from a trust to beneficiaries, and whether the clauses of the trust deed allowed this distribution - if not, would changing the deed to allow this be considered a resettlement of the trust.
'We were impressed with the service we received. The officer came back to us with relevant references on which we could base our advice to our client.
'We were very happy with the ATO officer we worked with. He was very helpful and we were confident that the details he provided were correct. The fact that we had a specific contact was also better as we felt that there was a personal connection.'
Making tax time easier with e-tax
Robert Wrigley is a methodical man, with an eye for detail. He maintains good records and knows how to use the leading commercial software available for people who manage their own tax affairs.
He's not the sort of taxpayer you'd want as a critic of e-tax because you'd be left in no doubt he knows exactly what he's talking about.
But Robert is one of the large number of fans of e-tax, the ATO's free software that allows you to prepare your individual income tax return and then lodge online. Officially launched in 1999, e-tax continues to grow in popularity.
Each year, the number of people downloading and using e-tax passes a million sooner in the tax time season than the year before. In 2008, that milestone was reached in early August, as part of a 14% increase in user numbers from 2007.
Robert, from Queensland's Gold Coast, spent 27 years in the Australian Defence Force before running a range of small businesses. He receives a Department of Veterans' Affairs disability pension, military superannuation, and has some property investments and shareholdings.
He describes his tax affairs as 'simple to complex'. He said: 'I was very cautious about starting e-tax as I had always used an accountant.
'But I've been using e-tax three years now and it's clear that it saves me time and money to be able to submit from home. Any monies due back to me are directly deposited and in an amazingly short time.'
Robert says he's recommended e-tax to family and friends, and all have recognised its value once they've used it. He believes the design success of e-tax so far indicates that any future improvements will be similarly successful.
Adopting a methodical approach, Robert pre-prepares some of his more detailed information manually first. He feels comfortable that this will allow him to know he's used e-tax properly and has complied with the obligation on all taxpayers to provide correct information.
'I like the feeling that if I make a mathematical error it will be most likely picked up,' he said. 'The pre-filling application allows me to compare my share investment calculations and dividend information to the ATO's.'
'I would always lean in the favour of the ATO figures, unless there was a huge disparity. The program will remind you and refer you back to unattended items. It's excellent.'
As much as he likes the pre-filling option available in e-tax, Robert also thinks it's the area where some further co-design will improve the service. He hastens to add though that he understands that the later reporting dates of some listed companies may be the challenge.
'Some of the company information in respect to dividends is very slow in coming. This year I received some, which were exactly as I had calculated but felt I wasn't prepared to wait for the remainder so I used my own records.'
'Perhaps if the lodgment date was extended past October, I'd be prepared to wait for the pre-fill information.'
Pre-filling is popular among taxpayers, with Tax Office figures showing that more than 70% of e-tax users choose to pre-fill.
The idea or proposal for pre-filling was raised in 2002 as part of the Commissioner of Taxation's 'listening to the community' forums. The concept was already being used in Nordic countries.
Pre-filling was first introduced in e-tax in 2005 - the information consisted of medical expenses tax offset data from Medicare. In 2006, Centrelink benefit information was available to be pre-filled into both e-tax and the Tax Agent Portal pre-filling report.
Specific government funding was provided to expand the pre-filling pilot in 2007. In May that year, the Treasurer announced that the pre-filling pilot would become a full production system in 2008, with all available electronically provided data to be included.
In 2008, the information available to download directly into an e-tax tax return included payment summaries, government payments such as pensions and allowances, interest and dividend amounts, managed fund information and medical expense details claimed through Medicare.
For those taxpayers who choose to use an agent to prepare their tax return, the pre-filling service is also available to agents through a report available in the Tax Agent Portal.
In a speech to the National Institute of Accountants Public Practice Symposium in April 2008, the Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D'Ascenzo, said pre-filling can help tax agents and their clients by removing the need for them to find and supply a range of information.
'We know pre-filling is popular with many tax practitioners and we are constantly working to improve the range, quality, volume and timeliness of the information that we can provide,' the Commissioner said. 'Pre-filling is an area where we would like to do even more in the future.'
New pre-filled information that was available through both the Tax Agent Portal and e-tax in 2008 included:
- ATO-held information, including the Higher Education Loan Programme, and prior year deductions
- payment summaries, where the employer provided details to the Tax Office electronically, and
- dividend, interest and managed fund information from more financial institutions and publicly listed companies.
Improving our products and services through the 3Cs - consultation, collaboration and co-design
The Tax Office is going through an extended period of planned change, as we aim for ongoing improvements to capitalise on our new platform of integrated systems and processes.
The procedures and processes that deliver the change must be carefully designed to achieve the best possible outcome for the government, the community, taxpayers and other intermediaries, and the Tax Office.
Our user-based design approach to change is based on what we call the 3Cs - consultation, collaboration and co-design.
Under the Tax Office 2006-10 strategic statement, consultation, collaboration and co-design are part of our business model. This includes managing 'our relationships with taxpayers and key intermediaries such as employers, the tax profession and software developers through consulting, collaborating and co-designing solutions that encourage high levels of voluntary compliance and reduce red tape and compliance costs'.
The Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D'Ascenzo, has encouraged staff to view consultation as seeking the views of relevant stakeholders to identify and understand their perspective and issues. It is also about explaining to them the context of the matter, and any policy or practical perspectives that underlie the issue. It is a two-way dialogue, the Commissioner explained.
Collaboration is working with others on joint solutions. Co-design is a process of involving the user in the design of solutions so that the output best meets their needs, is user-friendly, and achieves the desired outcomes.
For Michael Strong, National Director, Excise Change and Product Management in the Brisbane office of the ATO, the 3Cs are key organisational values that guide him and his team as they seek out opportunities to reduce the community's compliance costs.
'User-based design allows us to view the world from the taxpayer's perspective.' Michael said. 'Using this approach we will get better outcomes because the materials we produce for the community will be written in their words not ours, using their thinking and not ours, and fitting with their natural systems, not ours.
'If we apply these principles, compliance becomes the norm because it is easy.'
Michael's responsibilities include supporting the ATO's Fuel Schemes Advisory Forum (FSAF). The forum has been established to facilitate consultation on fuel scheme (such as fuel tax credits) between the Tax Office, industry associations and government departments.
He is confident that the 3Cs can be used to lift the bar on excellence in the Tax Office administration of tax and superannuation.
'An example of this is the work we are doing in fuel tax credits to improve record-keeping methodologies. We have a working party with industry representatives to design new record-keeping methods for clients to calculate their fuel tax credit,' he said. The changes to an existing method, and development of a new method, will go a long way to reducing the costs of compliance for businesses in all market segments.
'We were also told by clients that they had difficulty in determining their entitlements to claim a fuel tax credit. To make it easier, we developed and implemented an eligibility tool that can be used by anyone to determine their entitlement to claim a fuel tax credit. Members of the FSAF provided us with examples of work carried out in their industries, and types of equipment used, that we could use in the tool to make it more relevant'.
'It is possible to achieve a good experience for stakeholders who interact with us by making it easy for them to comply - by having tools and products that are understandable and useful. We need to design for the 90% of people for whom tax affairs are simple.
'I think the 3Cs has improved our ability to do this and inspires confidence among those who want to know about what we do,' Michael said.
Darryl Daisley, from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is well placed to have seen the benefits of the 3Cs approach.
Darryl's the leader of the firm's Perth-based customs and excise team. The team provides advice to some of Australia's leading listed companies on issues such as project-related duty concessions, tariff classification disputes, fuel concessions to mining and oil/gas companies, and customs requirements for large importers/exporters.
Since 1999, Darryl has represented the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) on the FSAF. He has some 23 years of experience in international trade matters, including more than a decade with the Australian Customs Service.
He said the FSAF is a good example of the application of the3Cs approach. 'The federal fuel schemes have undergone significant change since 2000, moving from the diesel fuel rebate scheme to the energy grants credit scheme and now the fuel tax credit system,' he said.
'Throughout this period, the ATO has continually sought feedback via the forum members on the implementation of the schemes and the quality of materials available to the taxpayer, to ensure compliance with the legislation and regulation.
'This forum has delivered many positive outcomes for taxpayers. The ability to provide constructive feedback to the ATO on many fuel-related public rulings has allowed the ATO to insert industry examples, written in our words and aligning with normal business practices.'
Darryl said that during his interaction with the ATO's Excise business line he'd seen both the quantum and quality of supportive material significantly improved. Similarly, there's been an expansion of the opportunities to work with the ATO on specific projects - for example, in late 2007 into 2008, PwC ran a national series of fuel seminars aligned with AMEC and state-based chambers of commerce, and supported by the ATO. It was an effort well received by the broader business community, Darryl said.
In another recent demonstration of the 3Cs, AMEC provided feedback at the June 2008 FSAF that the current record-keeping methodologies for fuel tax credits were not well aligned with the new entitlements afforded taxpayers since 1 July 2008. This was particularly so with the 50% off-road credit for the use of light vehicles.
Darryl said the ATO suggested the formation of a working party to consider and address the issue. 'Over the last two months, in consultation with the ATO and a number of FSAF members, a new record-keeping submission has been produced for consideration by the Excise Executive. It's aimed at streamlining the ability to capture entitlements in a manner that is not onerous, one that is fair and reasonable, reduces red tape and compliance costs.
'This is a clear example of where the ATO was able to quickly gather the relevant stakeholders in a single room for two days to consider and address the issues with industry representatives.'
Case study: Tax officer Tom Byrnes
Continued improvements to the content of the ATO's popular website are planned for throughout 2009 and beyond.
User surveys consistently record the Tax Office website www.ato.gov.au as one of the most visited internet sites in Australia.
With that level of popularity and repeat visits, the revamp of ato.gov planned for late 2008 had to be undertaken professionally, carefully, creatively and with a real commitment to the needs of the site's users.
After more than two years of work on the project, the new-look ato.gov website was launched in late November. The aim was to retain the strengths of the familiar site while addressing areas where improvement was needed.
The result is a more contemporary look and feel which is less cluttered and offers enhanced navigation features. In response to feedback from taxpayers and tax professionals, we're refreshed the site with a more usable layout, new Google search function, and quicker, easier access to online information, calculators and services.
The fundamental features that users said they like have been retained, including the extensive range of online services and information tailored for individual and business taxpayers.
ATO Assistant Commissioner, Publishing, Tom Byrnes, said that the refresh introduced new and enhanced features, with further new functionality and improvements to be added over time.
'We put a lot of effort into planning the structure of our content to make it more logical and intuitive,' Tom said. 'However, improving the content will be an ongoing process and a key focus for us into 2009.'
Because the project is a refresh - not a new site - virtually all the web browser bookmarks or favourites will still work for users. The only exception is links to the ATO's Large Corporates & Multinationals segment; this has been restructured, so users may need to revise their bookmarks for those pages.
Further improvements over coming months will include the progressive addition of more step-by-step explanations for key tasks and issues, and reorganising content to make it easier to navigate.
Over the next three to five years we plan to implement significant upgrades to our web infrastructure so we can provide more extensive and convenient online services for taxpayers and tax professionals.
The need to refresh the site came out of extensive research and consultation which found that while the site was performing reasonably well, it needed work.
Many users thought it was looking a bit tired and bureaucratic, the search function was weak, and the navigation functions were a bit clumsy. Some users also expressed frustration at the lack of structure to the site's content.
While the ato.gov revamp provides a range of improvements, it also retains several features that users liked about the old site. For example, the refresh still has most of the segment structure and online tools the research identified as being popular.
'When you first log on to the refreshed site, you'll immediately notice it has a more contemporary feel and less cluttered look,' Tom said. 'Users will find it easier to access the information and tools they need. The refresh provides a clearer and more logical structure to the navigation menus and improves the prominence of the online tools and content updates.'
In response to what you told us you wanted, we've adopted a set of principles to guide the design of our products and services. These principles underpin our initiatives to make it easier to comply.
We strongly believe in the 3Cs - consultation, collaboration and co-design. When we apply the 3Cs to the work we do, we put the community of users at the centre of our administrative design. Using the 3Cs we can make compliance easier and cheaper. The 3Cs are integral to the way we work today.
Our guiding principles
These principles are that, as far as possible, our services will focus on each person as an individual. For example, you will:
- have online access to information that is personal to your dealings with us
- receive letters, notices and forms that make sense and are easy to understand
- be able to deal with a tax officer who understands your history with us
- have your personal circumstances and levels of cooperation and risk taken into account if we undertake any compliance action, such as an audit
- increasingly be able to do business with us at a time and in a way that suits you, especially through online products - both our own and commercially available software
- receive relevant up-front guidance and support to help you manage your own affairs (including for tax agents)
- gain high-quality responses to your questions, issues and interactions, in reasonable turnaround times, to increase certainty and consistency
- be confident about the reasonable level of record keeping we require for people to comply with their tax and superannuation obligations
- know that we aim to make tax and superannuation compliance a by-product of normal business, by ensuring, for example, that our systems link better with accounting software to make record-keeping, reporting and compliance obligations easier
- understand we will work with other government agencies to make interactions simpler and more seamless, such as reducing overall reporting requirements for business.
We will continue to acknowledge the important role tax agents play in the administration of our revenue system and continue to develop an open and constructive relationship with them, recognising their needs as we administer the tax system.
Consultation, collaboration and co-design
We keep evolving to meet the community's needs. We now have more than fifty consultative forums, including taxpayer, industry and professional representatives, to help us keep in touch with you and your expectations. These forums provide an opportunity for stakeholders to generate ideas, raise concerns and initiate changes to the way we administer the tax and superannuation systems.
We engage individuals, businesses and tax practitioners to help us design many of our products and services and we maintain our relationships with the major accounting firms and advisers.
Our commitment to co-design helps us create products and develop systems that are more integrated with the way people do business. This in turn helps us deliver positive experiences for people who use these products and services that, ultimately, lead to outcomes that are more efficient for the community in general.
Wherever possible, we test our proposed products and services, before we introduce them, with people who will be using them. Our state-of-the-art simulation centre, located in Brisbane, brings our people and the community together to design and test many of our products and systems.
These products and systems include computer software applications, online systems, forms and training materials for initiatives like the change program, and standard business reporting.
We also use the centre to test upgrades to existing electronic products, including the business and tax agent portals, in addition to paper products like superannuation guarantee guides.
Over the past year, the centre has engaged approximately 280 members of the community - individuals, tax agents, superannuation intermediaries, business owners and people with special needs - across 33 projects to improve the usefulness, usability and accessibility of systems and products.
Improving our products and services through the 3Cs - consultation, collaboration and co-design
Previous editions of Making it easier to comply are available from our website.
Making it easier to comply was last published as a separate booklet in 2007-08. If you wish, you can obtain a hardcopy of the web pages by selecting the 'printer friendly format' icon at the top of the Table of Contents.
Frequently asked questions
What is Making it easier to comply?
The ATO aims to make it as easy as possible for people to voluntarily comply with their tax and superannuation obligations by implementing a range of initiatives designed to improve our products and services.
Making it easier to comply is a publication the ATO produces that reports our progress in implementing initiatives aimed to improve taxpayer and tax agent experiences. It outlines our progress to date, what we will deliver in coming years, which clients will be affected and when these improvements will happen.
Updates to how the ATO supports voluntary compliance by making it easier, cheaper and more personalised are periodically published in Making it easier to comply.
Making it easier to comply was first published in 2003-04. You can access previous editions of the publication through our booklets and publications list.
What does 'making it easier to comply' mean?
The ATO aims to create products and services that make it easier for those who interact with us to comply with their tax and superannuation obligations.
We consult, collaborate and co-design with the community and set about delivering a range of products and services to make it easier, cheaper and more personalised for you to comply with your tax and superannuation obligations.
What is 'easier, cheaper and more personalised'?
Easier cheaper and more personalised is a program of work to improve the ATO's services, developed after consultation with the community and its stakeholders in 2002. Specifically, this means:
Easier: we aim to make it easier for you to understand your tax and superannuation obligations and how to meet them.
Cheaper: we aim to make it cheaper for you to comply with your obligations by reducing the work, time and effort involved.
More personalised: we aim to provide products and services that make sense to you and fit with the systems people use every day, and to target our compliance activities to minimise their impact on those who are trying to comply.
This program of work is reported in Making it easier to comply.
What information is available in the publication?
Making it easier to comply covers the significant improvement initiatives that are being implemented across the ATO to make it easier for taxpayers to comply with their tax and superannuation obligations.
It outlines our priorities, what the community is telling us through our research and consultation and people's preference, usage and satisfaction with our products and services.
Our Compliance program outlines the ATO's wider range of products and services designed to help people comply with their obligations.
We deliver an open and accountable report on our work in Making it easier to comply.
Who should read Making it easier to comply?
Making it easier to comply is divided into segments for individuals, businesses and tax agents. Some of our initiatives are for these specific segments and some have benefits for all.
Last Modified: Tuesday, 26 May 2009