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  • Overall assessment of performance

    Overall self-assessment rating: Good

    As a regulator of the tax and superannuation systems in Australia, we have assessed our overall performance against the Regulator Performance Framework to be good.

    This assessment is based on the outcomes of our metrics and the improvements made for each of the six key performance indicators (KPIs). We have assessed our performance to be good for five of the six KPIs, and satisfactory for the other. Details of our assessment are outlined in the individual KPI summaries.

    Overall, we achieved positive results (improved or met target) for 16 of the 35 ATO-specific metrics, with three broadly stable, five showing a decline, and 11 based on activities (where trend in the metrics does not accurately reflect performance).

    Following is a breakdown of our assessment for each KPI. Some metrics apply to more than one KPI, with results for these metrics included within the summary for all relevant KPIs.

    KPI 1: Regulators do not unnecessarily impede the efficient operation of regulated entities

    Assessment:

    Good

    Summary of metric results:

    Improved or met performance target – 6

    Stable – 0

    Decline – 1

    Activity-based (where trend does not reflect performance) – 1

    Activity-based examples:

    Support for the superannuation system

    Single Touch Payroll implementation

    Payment and debt management

    KPI 2: Communication with regulated entities is clear, targeted and effective

    Assessment:

    Satisfactory

    Summary of metric results:

    Improved or met performance target – 3

    Stable – 1

    Decline – 2

    Activity-based (where trend does not reflect performance) – 5

    Activity-based examples:

    Improve the end-to-end client experience

    Public advice and guidance

    Enhance the digital channel experience

    KPI 3: Actions undertaken by regulators are proportionate to the regulatory risk being managed

    Assessment:

    Good

    Summary of metric results:

    Improved or met performance target – 1

    Stable – 0

    Decline – 1

    Activity-based (where trend does not reflect performance) – 1

    Activity-based examples:

    Tax gap analysis

    Taskforce work to address tax avoidance

    Tailored one-to-one engagements to obtain justified trust

    KPI 4: Compliance and monitoring approaches are streamlined and coordinated

    Assessment:

    Good

    Summary of metric results:

    Improved or met performance target – 4

    Stable – 0

    Decline – 0

    Activity-based (where trend does not reflect performance) – 3

    Activity-based examples:

    Single client accounting system

    Analytics integration

    Automation and artificial intelligence

    KPI 5: Regulators are open and transparent in their dealings with regulated entities

    Assessment:

    Good

    Summary of metric results:

    Improved or met performance target – 2

    Stable – 1

    Decline – 0

    Activity-based (where trend does not reflect performance) – 0

    Activity-based examples:

    Public advice and guidance during COVID-19

    Publishing of service commitments

    Dispute resolution

    KPI 6: Regulators actively contribute to the continuous improvement of regulatory frameworks

    Assessment:

    Good

    Summary of metric results:

    Improved or met performance target – 1

    Stable – 1

    Decline – 0

    Activity-based (where trend does not reflect performance) – 1

    Activity-based examples:

    Online services for tax and BAS agents

    Treasury partnership

    OECD participation

    Progress regarding areas of improvement identified in our 2018–19 report is set out below:

    Areas for improvement identified in 2018–19 report

    Progress in 2019–20

    To build trust and confidence in the tax and superannuation systems

    Partially improved: Client perception results have shown a small improvement across the majority of measures of confidence in the ATO, including how we are working together with our partners. There was a slight decline in clients’ perceptions of fairness in disputes, in relation to the final decision being fair.

    To be an integrated, streamlined and data driven organisation

    Partially improved: Our 2019–20 performance results demonstrate improvements in some elements of our efficiency and our use of data, with other results remaining broadly stable.

    2019–20 presented many new and unexpected challenges, but it also allowed us to demonstrate the vital work we do in serving all Australians and further validate the community’s trust and confidence in our administration.

    We started the year with a clear focus on making the ATO a leading tax and superannuation administration, known for its contemporary service, expertise and integrity. We demonstrated significant capacity in delivering the government’s COVID-19 economic stimulus measures. The ATO’s ability to deliver at such an unprecedented scale was made possible through swift and decisive action in mobilising resources to high demand client-focused work and an upscaling of our IT activities.

    A key change for the ATO as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a shift from a compliance and revenue collection agency to one focused on administering payments. This resulted in a change in some of our pre-COVID-19 practices, including ceasing all face-to-face client interactions, reviewing automated work programs, and remitting certain penalties and interest.

    The ATO’s focus on our small business clients was clear in all of our interactions throughout 2019–20, but particularly during the second half of the year. Small businesses continue to account for the majority of collectable debt and are a key focus of our payment and debt strategies. We recognise that small businesses may experience cash flow issues for various reasons at any time, and that they have been particularly impacted over the last year by the severity of natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, we granted additional time beyond the original due date for more than 12.9 million lodgments and payments along with 680,000 payment plans tailored to individual circumstances. We also granted lodgment deferrals, provided quicker access to GST refunds and small business taxpayers being audited were given the choice of continuing or pausing the audits.

    In light of these factors and the results of our metrics, we consider that positive outcomes were achieved through 2019–20. As an organisation we:

    • delivered on our government commitments, including through our funded taskforces on corporate tax avoidance, the black economy and serious financial crime
    • completed one of the biggest data migrations ever undertaken in the public or private sector, consolidating data into a single account processing system that provides a whole-of-client account view for around 17 million accounts
    • improved and streamlined businesses’ interactions with government, by enhancing systems like Single Touch Payroll (STP), delivering myGovID and the Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM) for business, and continuing our work on ABN reforms
    • finalised a secure robust data network that allows Australian businesses to seamlessly exchange invoices with suppliers and buyers in over 34 countries
    • supported Australians affected by summer bushfires by facilitating lodgment and payment deferrals, and adjustments to pay as you go (PAYG) instalments to alleviate cash flow pressures.

    Much of this was completed before the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and from February 2020 our priorities and focus shifted. The ATO contributed to the design of several economic stimulus measures, as well as being entrusted to deliver key programs.

    As STP was already being used by the majority of employers across Australia to report salary and wage information, it was key to enabling JobKeeper, and provided a level of integrity across the program. The flexibility and intuitive interfaces of myGovID and RAM also proved critical, enabling businesses and tax and BAS agents to access a range of stimulus measures like JobKeeper and Cash Flow Boost for employers.

    • We upheld our high governance and risk management standards to protect the integrity of the tax and superannuation systems and ensure support went to where it was needed most.
    • Our June 2020 staff engagement survey showed strong improvements in employee engagement, culture and commitment to the ATO.

    The support provided by the ATO extended beyond the design and administration of these vital measures. The ATO helped individuals and businesses through deferrals of some payments, quicker access to GST refunds, and options to enter low-interest payment plans for existing or future tax debts. Taxpayers being audited were given the choice of continuing or pausing the audits. Most of those who chose to pause their audits were individuals and small businesses. Similarly, the ATO gave priority to objections for individuals and small businesses that were more likely to result in a refund, as well as putting a small number of objections on hold at the client’s request.

    The significant tasks of delivering the stimulus measures and supporting people who were suddenly unable to meet their tax and superannuation obligations were met with efficiency, with no additional funding sought from the government during 2019–20. We re-prioritised our resources and activities to meet emerging needs as the government’s response developed.

    Before the emergence of COVID-19, we had already made significant changes to our systems, which made it easier for clients to continue effectively engaging with us during the pandemic:

    • For businesses, we had delivered myGovID and Relationship Authorisation Manager (RAM). These tools provide businesses and tax practitioners with more secure and streamlined access to government online services as they mobilised to a home-based workforce.
    • We had successfully transitioned all tax and BAS agents to our new Online services for agents platform, a substantially more reliable and tailored service they could use working remotely.
    • Our single client accounting system, which went live in December 2019, assisted us in tailoring our approach to each individual’s unique circumstances as we could see their data in one place.
    • Improvements to our systems meant we were well placed to manage the large volumes of transactions arising from the stimulus measures.

    To guide the organisation, the ATO Executive team have set four key themes for the year ahead:

    • responding to COVID-19 – contributing to Australia’s economic recovery while meeting community expectations of fairness in the system and our administration
    • continuing our transformational journey – building our systems and capability so we can deliver for the community when it matters most, and simplifying our processes to drive better outcomes
    • continuing to become more streamlined and integrated – improving the way we collect, manage, share and use data to build confidence and drive actions that maximise value
    • establishing the Commonwealth Business Registry Service – simplifying business registration to make it easier for businesses to interact with government and further unlock the value of business registry data to support economic growth.

    Although we have made some inroads into trust and confidence, we consider further investment in our two areas of focus from 2019–20 is warranted and these remain our aspirations as we head toward 2024. Therefore, we will continue to focus on these two areas for improvements when assessing improved outcomes in our 2020–21 self-assessment report, namely to:

    • build trust and confidence in the tax and superannuation systems
    • be an integrated, streamlined and data driven organisation.
      Last modified: 05 Feb 2021QC 64650