GST voluntary compliance program – research phase 4 (2014)

In 2011 the ATO commissioned independent research company, TNS Social Research, to undertake a yearly program of research over a five year period to:

  • understand and track the attitudes and behaviours driving compliance (or non-compliance) with GST obligations
  • support the GST voluntary compliance program, which aims to deter fraud and evasion, and help people understand the heightened risks which accompany deliberate non-compliance.

In 2014, as part of phase four of the research program, TNS undertook research focusing on two components:

  • qualitative product and message testing
  • quantitative research required to test against benchmark indicators and to evaluate drivers of behavioural and attitudinal change in taxpayers.

Key insights

Compliance behaviour:

  • the majority of businesses continue to be confident about meeting their GST obligations, with a gradual strengthening of confidence observed over time,
  • engagement in GST minimisation approaches is extremely low
  • unintentional non-compliant activity is more widely prevalent than deliberate, due to challenges in recording and reporting, business pressures, unintentional errors and uncertainty. However, some positive trends have been observed in relation to these issues
  • on-time lodgment of BAS remains one of the biggest challenges for business in terms of GST compliance.

Attitudes and beliefs underpinning compliance behaviour

Overall, there remains a high level of perceived legitimacy and morality towards GST compliance; however there remains a fairly common belief that mistakes are inevitable and compliance may be challenged by burden and pressure, business situations, cash-flow management and transactions ‘under the radar’ in the cash economy.

Drivers of GST compliance:

  • morality and legitimacy attached to GST compliance has become more strongly embedded over time
  • GST compliance does appear to be influenced by a fear of repercussion or penalties
  • beliefs around the administrative benefits of compliance to the business appear to outweigh the perceived benefits of non-compliance
  • having established systems and processes in place to support compliance has resulted in businesses consistently reporting their confidence in meeting their GST obligations.

Barriers to GST compliance

The perceived burden of GST compliance continues to be major barrier reported for many businesses, although it is decreasing over time.

Role of Intermediaries:

  • many taxpayers rely on intermediaries to a large extent to ensure compliance, with both tax agents and BAS agents taking an increasing role in preparation and lodgment over time
  • intermediaries views about compliance attitudes and behaviours broadly reflect those self-reported by business
  • a very high proportion of intermediaries continue to believe that acting as a trusted advisor is core to their role in influencing business compliance with GST.

How the research has been used

We continue to deliver a range of strategies and activities that seek to deal with issues covered in the findings and observations from the research. Those strategies cover initiatives aimed at correct registration, on-time lodgment, correct reporting and payment of GST obligations.

The insights provided by the research into the attitudinal, perceptual and behavioural changes of businesses, tax and BAS agents towards the GST system has helped us to track and evaluate our compliance effectiveness measures and the progress of the program against the benchmarks established at the beginning of the research, in 2011.

The findings are also being used to guide and inform our communication activities to support the GST voluntary compliance program.

For example, the research has assisted in the refinement of our messaging, video scripts and public relations activities, so we create more useable and relevant products to assist small business people.


    Last modified: 14 Jul 2015QC 44620