Taxpayer perceptions of fairness research

Taxpayer perceptions of fair treatment by the ATO are fundamental to creating a more positive client experience. In our blueprint for reinvention, this is a central focus in transforming our relationship with the community. We take our obligation to be fair and respectful of taxpayers seriously.

This research aims to measure overall fairness in our interactions with taxpayers. We also define what factors matter most to taxpayers when creating fairer interactions. This allows us to identify where we need to make improvements to ensure a fairer tax and superannuation system for all taxpayers.

The research involves a voluntary telephone survey of a sample of taxpayers who completed/finalised an audit, advice, debt or dispute interaction.

We have undertaken seven quarterly waves of research since September 2014. We will continue to conduct quarterly research, as it is an important part of our corporate measures of effectiveness.

The research addresses two broad questions:

  1. Did the ATO treat the taxpayer fairly during the interaction?
  2. Was the outcome of the interaction with the ATO perceived as fair?

Measuring fairness

Fairness is about treating people with dignity and respect, listening and explaining processes and decisions, and ensuring decisions are appropriate and don’t create unfair advantages or disadvantages.

There are five dimensions to our model of fairness:

  • Distributive fairness – perception of the outcome and the decisions we made
  • Procedural fairness – perception of the processes and procedures used
  • Interpersonal fairness – perception of how the ATO officer treats the taxpayer in terms of courtesy, dignity and respect
  • Informational fairness – perception of the accuracy, relevance, ease of understanding and timeliness of information
  • Appropriate consequences – perception of the fairness of penalties and interest.

How we use the research

In response to key findings, we have made significant investment across work areas engaged in audit, advice, debt and dispute resolution activities to enhance taxpayer perceptions of fairness.

A program of work is underway to develop a comprehensive organisational strategy to address perceptions of fairness, in line with our reinvention strategy.

Our strategies to improve taxpayer perceptions of fairness draw on insights gained through research, and focus on improved, productive engagement with taxpayers.


You can access the results of our quarterly research here:





For more information, contact the Corporate Research Centre.

    Last modified: 30 Sep 2016QC 46564