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  • Commissioner’s review

    I am proud of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and its performance. In 2017–18, the people in the ATO delivered on a multitude of commitments to government and to the community through our business lines, taskforces and projects. We also continued our transformation to improve the client and staff experiences; focusing on delivering contemporary services to make it easier to do the right thing, and targeting and bringing to account those who do not meet their obligations.

    Our existing taskforces achieved significant results in addressing tax avoidance and evasion, serious financial crimes, and illegal phoenix activity, and we began preparations for implementation of the new Black Economy and Superannuation Guarantee Taskforces. We implemented the first phase of Single Touch Payroll (STP), reaching a major milestone in streamlining and helping superannuation to be more transparent for Australians, and we progressed full implementation of the Practitioner Lodgment Service (PLS) through practice management software for tax agents. Our data and analytics capabilities continued to ramp up, with expanded pre-filling of third-party data in tax returns (via myTax and PLS) and successful results in nudge messaging to taxpayers.

    We continued to reinforce a culture of service and I am pleased that the APS Census results show continued improvement in our staff engagement – at its highest since the survey began, and higher than similar sized APS agencies. The census results also showed we’re embracing innovation and grassroots change – initiated and delivered by people across all areas of the ATO – all contributing to our reinvention.

    Our 2017–18 highlights include:

    • collection of gross tax of almost $500 billion and refunds of just over $102 billion. Net tax collections were almost $397 billion, up $37.4 billion (10.4%) over the previous year, with the biggest driver being growth in company collections, up $16 billion on 2016–17.
    • audit yield of $11.8 billion, representing an increase of $1.6 billion on the previous year. This includes results from our taskforce activity – more than $2.8 billion in tax liabilities raised, with over $1.3 billion from multinationals and public groups and over $1.1 billion from wealthy individuals and associated groups, including trusts and aggressive tax planning.
    • release of tax gap estimates for superannuation guarantee, large corporate income tax, and tobacco duty – making transparent the performance and workings of aspects of the tax and superannuation systems and giving us new insights about taxpayer behaviour. We also progressed research and analysis for the gaps related to large and small superannuation funds, and income tax for individuals not in business. (These three gaps have since been released in the first few months of 2018–19.)
    • expansion of our work-related expenses program – to interact with over one million taxpayers in relation to their claims. We used real-time analytics to send ‘nudge’ messages to approximately 230,000 taxpayers (or nearly 7% of myTax users) while they were preparing their return in myTax, asking them to review specific items. As a result, lodgers made adjustments estimated to have saved almost $24 million in revenue.
    • increased take up of myTax, up 9% on 2017, with over 3.5 million lodgments received from self-preparers representing 20% of the 17.4 million electronic lodgments received.
    • faster refunds than previous years with 73% of total refunds issued within 5 days of lodgment and 95% within 12 days. A great result.
    • introduction of the first phase of STP for employers with 20 or more employees – providing regular payroll data to the ATO and giving employees visibility of superannuation payments their employer has made on their behalf.
    • transition of all tax return types to the PLS, which is on a new, interactive, Standard Business Reporting (SBR) enabled platform with a wider range of interactive services for tax and BAS agents through their practice management software.
    • introduction of a second cloud-based service for our digital platforms, providing more resilience, performance and capacity – with our systems having increased availability – ranging from 98.68% to 99.67%.
    • earlier resolution of objection disputes, with approximately two-thirds of all objections being resolved within three weeks.
    • progress of the government’s Superannuation Reform agenda; implementing event based reporting and transitioning the Small Business Clearing House from Department of Human Services to the ATO. We also introduced two new online services – the Member Account Attribute Service and the Member Account Transaction Service.
    • celebrated the 30th year of our Tax Help program – with ATO-trained and accredited volunteers – that have helped more than 1.5 million low income Australians lodge their returns over the life of the program.
    • achieved our best ever staff engagement results, reduced unplanned leave again and reduced Comcare premium for the fourth year running.

    Looking forward

    We are all working in a dynamic and challenging environment – the continual and rapid pace of communications and technology advances, changing expectations of the community and stakeholders, and wavering levels of trust and confidence in institutions and organisations.

    While I am pleased with our performance, our results can be better. I am committed to listening, empathising and understanding what and how we can improve our performance – particularly in terms of how the community and stakeholders perceive us; our services, efficiency, effectiveness and integrity.

    We will continue to learn from experience, from our measures and feedback, and particularly from putting ourselves in the shoes of taxpayers. We will build on our achievements, learn from successes and mistakes, and direct our resources to what matters most.

    We have recently launched our new Corporate plan – Towards 2024 – it retains our purpose and vision and describes our intent and focus for the next six years. In particular, our aspirations to 2024 are:

    • to build trust and confidence in the tax and superannuation systems
    • to be an integrated, streamlined and data driven organisation.

    My Executive team and I are proud of our people and the services we offer Australians. We have been able to achieve positive results and progress together in 2017–18 and we look forward to 2018–19 and beyond.

    Chris Jordan AO
    Commissioner of Taxation
    Registrar of the Australian Business Register

      Last modified: 26 Oct 2018QC 57053