Our focus is on increasing the use of electronic channels to help people manage their affairs and reduce their cost of compliance. Better Ways, released in September 2012, lets the community know the services they can expect from us now and in the future.
Our service delivery is supported by one of the largest information technology operations in the Australian Public Service. Working in partnership with external service providers, we have over 600 systems supporting our operations (in 63 sites) and providing services to the community.
Approximately 3.9 million transactions (financial and non-financial) are processed within our enterprise systems each day, or approximately 1.4 billion annually, including:
- 21.2 million payment transactions
- 17.2 million income tax returns
- 15.9 million superannuation member contributions statements
- 13.7 million notices of assessment
- 3.3 million lost member return forms.
Our services and support to the community were offered through a range of channels, including online, phone, face-to-face and in writing. Our service channels were used 22.6 million times in 2012–13 compared to around 23.1 million in 2011–12, a decrease of 2.3%. Included in these numbers is a decrease of 6.6% in phone calls received, which we attribute to growing community awareness
and usage of our online services.
Customer services delivered in 2012–13
We continued to invest in self-help online services and encourage people to transition from paper to electronic channels. As people move to self-help online services, we expect a further reduction in the volume of routine phone enquiries which will allow us to deal with more complex enquiries. This year, there was a 50.1% increase in use of our online services compared to 2011–12.
While we encouraged people to deal with us online, we continued to provide face-to-face service through our shopfronts. In 2012–13 there were 439,000 visits, compared to over 486,000 in 2011–12.
We received over 10.5 million calls this year (including escalated calls), compared to 11.3 million last year. This 6.6% reduction is largely attributed to an increase in the use of our self-help services. We ensure our call centres are at full capacity through the use of outsourcing arrangements.
We simplified our proof-of-identity procedures by using the Document Verification Service. For example, people can now use their driver's licence as part of proof of identity. To further simplify the process we are also investing in establishing voice authentication capability.
We have developed a small business interactive tool, to provide simple online access to information and short videos specifically for small business operators. Launched in July 2013, it will also feature a virtual 'ATO small business visit' service which will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the coming year, it will be further refined and based on feedback, additional information will be available through this tool.
When discussing the launch of our new small business website, COSBOA stated:
It is written in a way that embraces small business as people with small business type questions – a lesson to all regulators on how to engage with small business about complex things. Well done and we look forward to the official launch.
Online products and assistance
In June 2013, we launched our redeveloped website (www.ato.gov.auExternal Link), which offers greater flexibility and supports future changes and innovations in online services.
Our online assistance included:
- releasing our ATO Tax 2013 app which provides links to tax information
- updating online tools and calculators to reflect legislative changes
- releasing our digital magazine, taxtime.
We use social media such as TwitterExternal Link, FacebookExternal Link and YouTubeExternal Link to provide information about tax and superannuation, respond to enquiries, and direct people to relevant information on our website.
We now have over 13,700 Twitter and over 7,300 Facebook followers and received over 55 million visits to our website during the year.
In June 2013, we launched taxtime a new digital magazine for tablet devices which gives taxpayers the information they need to do their tax return. In the first two months following its release, taxtime was downloaded more than 7,700 times.
As outlined in our Tax Practitioner Action Plan 2011–15 , this year we:
- improved how tax practitioners interact with us electronically by adding functionality to the tax agent and BAS agent portals, including the ability to view electronic notices of assessment
- enhanced the relationship management program to ensure the support and assistance we provide is more efficient and tailored to agents' needs, focusing on electronic and phone interactions
- contacted over 2,000 newly registered agents to establish the foundation for a positive and professional relationship
- provided assistance through the Tax Agent Lodgment Support Program, to over 200 tax practitioners who were unable to meet their lodgment program due to unforseen circumstances
- introduced a more streamlined complaints process for tax practitioners
- initiated regional open forums to receive direct feedback from regional practitioners.
In July 2012, we launched Tax, super + youExternal Link, our contemporary digital curriculum resource for secondary school students. At 30 June 2013, around 740 secondary schools had registered to use the resource. We also received almost 138,000 student TFN applications this year through our schools education program. Later this year, we will be piloting an elective unit on Small Business Structures and Taxation with the University of Sydney Business School.
We launched a new Diversity in focusExternal Link newsletter to showcase and promote our products and services to assist diverse audiences. We also developed new print and online products in languages other than English.
The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit in its Report 434 stated:
The Committee sees a lot of value in the ATO's YouTube channel as a way of providing easy to understand advice to taxpayers. The ability to easily provide information in different languages for business owners and taxpayers of non English speaking backgrounds is of significant value and can only assist with ensuring increased compliance.
Through our National Aboriginal and Islander Resource Centre, we provided a specialised phone and face-to-face service for Indigenous Australians. We also commissioned an Indigenous design which we apply to products for Indigenous audiences and developed two online videos and new products for Indigenous small businesses. We broadcast 34 segments on the National Indigenous Radio Service and other special broadcasting service Indigenous radio programs, and provided information and assistance at 10 Indigenous community events.
We provided support services to help people with a disability, including tax and superannuation information and products in a range of accessible formats. Our dedicated disabilityExternal Link internet page provides access to information of specific relevance to people with disability. We also presented 14 twice-weekly tax segments on radio for people with a print disability.
In June 2013 we released the ATO multicultural plan 2013–15 . This plan furthers our direction to ensure our programs, information and services are accessible to all Australians and that equitable outcomes can be expected, regardless of language or cultural background.