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  • Open and transparent operations

    Taxpayers’ Charter

    The Taxpayers' Charter (the Charter) outlines the relationship we seek with the community – one based on mutual trust and respect. It outlines our commitment to providing accurate, consistent and clear information, helping clients understand their rights and entitlements, and helping them meet their obligations. It sets out the way we conduct ourselves when dealing with taxpayers and explains:

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

    The seven documents that describe how the Charter applies, in cases such as conduct of an audit, are available on ato.gov.au

    Freedom of information

    Australia's tax and superannuation systems are community assets. Access to information about these systems enhances transparency and leads to increased levels of trust and respect. People can access documents and policies that we use in making decisions, from our website. In addition, we provide information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

    Past documents released under the FOI Act that are not personal information about individuals or businesses are publicly listed on our FOI Act disclosure log.

    As an agency covered by the FOI Act, the ATO is also required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS), displaying on our website a plan showing what information we publish in accordance with the IPS requirements. The ATO IPS plan is available at ato.gov.au.

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

    Public interest disclosure

    Public interest disclosures received by the ATO are managed in accordance with ATO procedures, which meet the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.

    This year we reviewed and refreshed our procedures following consultation with internal and external stakeholders, including the Commonwealth Ombudsman, staff and unions. Additional supporting material was developed and made available on a dedicated intranet site, and awareness raising was conducted through a range of mediums.

    During 2016–17 we received 34 public interest disclosures.

    External scrutiny

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

    Auditor-General

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

    The following seven performance audits concerning the ATO were tabled in 2016–17:

    • Conduct of the external compliance assurance process pilot (tabled 31 August 2016)
    • Meeting revenue commitments from compliance measures (tabled 12 September 2016)
    • Australian Taxation Office’s implementation of recommendations (tabled 9 February 2017)
    • Cybersecurity follow-up audit – cross-entity with Department of Human Services and Department of Immigration and Border Protection (tabled 15 March 2017)
    • Child support collection arrangements between the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Human Services (tabled 15 May 2017)
    • Managing underperformance in the Australian Public Service – cross-entity with eight agencies including the ATO (tabled 23 May 2017)
    • myGov digital services – cross-entity with Department of Human Services and Digital Transformation Agency (tabled 27 June 2017)

    Further details of these performance audits are provided in Appendix 5 of this report, with complete audit reports available at anao.gov.auExternal Link.

    Details of the ANAO financial audit of our operations are provided in Part 4 of this report.

    Inspector General of Taxation

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

    There were 1,274 complaints received from the Inspector-General in 2016–17:

    • 756 complaints (59%) had not previously been lodged with the ATO and were subsequently transferred back to the ATO’s complaint handling process
    • 518 complaints (41%) were referred for ATO response back to the Inspector-General for resolution with the client.

    The IGT released the following two reports relating to the ATO in 2016–17:

    • Review into the Taxpayers’ Charter and taxpayer protections (released 13 December 2016)
    • Review into the Australian Taxation Office’s employer obligations compliance activities (released 24 May 2017).

    Further details of these reports are provided in Appendix 5, with complete reports available at igt.gov.auExternal Link.

    Commonwealth Ombudsman

    While the IGT investigates complaints from the public about administrative actions of ATO and the TPB, the Commonwealth Ombudsman continues to deal with public interest disclosure issues relating to the ATO or TPB.

    There were no own-motion investigations completed by the Ombudsman in 2016–17.

    Past reports are available at ombudsman.gov.auExternal Link.

    Parliamentary committees

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

    House Committees

    The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue is tasked with reviewing the performance of the ATO as outlined in our annual reports. In 2016–17, one report was tabled by the Committee, available at aph.gov.auExternal Link.

    We appeared before the following three House committee inquiries:

    • Tax and Revenue Committee – Inquiry into the 2015–16 Annual Report of the Australian Taxation Office
    • Tax and Revenue Committee – Inquiry into Taxpayer engagement with the Tax system
    • Economics Committee – Inquiry into Tax Deductibility.
    Senate Committees

    We appeared with Treasury before three Senate Estimates hearings, responding to approximately 477 questions on notice, as well as the following eight Senate Committee inquiries:

    • Economics References Committee
      • Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance
      • Inquiry into the impact of non-payment of the Superannuation Guarantee
       
    • Economics Legislation Committee
      • Inquiry into Tax Rates Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Reform) Bill 2016 related bills
      • Inquiry into Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Bill 2017
       
    • Red Tape Committee – Inquiry into effect of red tape on the sale, supply and taxation of alcohol
    • Community Affairs References Committee – Inquiry into design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative
    • Education and Employment References Committee – Inquiry into impact of the Government's Workplace Bargaining Policy and approach to Commonwealth public sector bargaining
    • Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee – Inquiry into the nature and scope of any agreement reached by the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments in relation to distribution of proceeds of the liquidation of, and litigation concerning, the Bell Group of companies.
    Joint Committees

    We appeared before the following three joint committee inquiries:

    • Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA)
      • Inquiry based on Auditor-General’s reports 6 (2016–17), Corporate Planning in the Australian Public Sector, and 31 (2015–16), Administration of Higher Education Loan Program Debt and Repayments
      • Inquiry into Auditor-General's report 42 (2016–17), Cybersecurity Compliance
       
    • Law Enforcement Committee
      • Inquiry into illicit tobacco.
       

    Judicial reviews and administrative tribunals

    Significant cases decided by the courts and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in 2016–17 are listed in Appendix 4.

    Australian Information Commissioner

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

    In 2016–17, there were 38 FOI Act decisions made by the ATO referred to the OAIC for review. In the same period, the OAIC finalised 24 reviews, all favourable to the ATO.

    Details of OAIC investigations are available at oaic.gov.auExternal Link.

    Complaints handling

    The number of complaints received is only a small proportion of our interactions with the community, representing 0.1% of the total tax returns lodged in 2016–17.

    In 2016–17, the ATO received 25,073 complaints (inclusive of Inspector-General of Taxation complaints).

    Complaint processing performance was 93% resolved in 15 business days (or within the date negotiated) which exceeded the benchmark of 85%.

    The largest proportion of complaints received related to the processing of forms.

    FIGURE 3.2 Top complaint issues, 2016–17

    Image showing the breakdown of the top complaint issues in 2016–17. There were 23,914 issues, 5406 which related to form processing, 4398 account management, 3410 registrations, 2991 guidance and information, 1643 superannuation, 1348 access to services, 1337 debt and payments, 945 people, and 891 lodgment and penalties

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

    • a single complaint may include multiple issues
    • a complaint issue may not have been captured
    • data on the complaint issue is not captured for complaints resolved when the client first calls us.
      Last modified: 30 Oct 2017QC 53642