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  • NESB Community Advisory Group Forum minutes 18 November 2014

    Meeting details


    Cabramatta Bowling Club




    18 November 2014








    Andrew Mills, Second Commissioner, ATO

    Matthew Hay - A/g Deputy Commissioner Customer Service & Solutions, Service Delivery, ATO

    Greg Cox, Assistant Commissioner, ATO Corporate, ATO

    Margo Souden, Acting National Manager of the Multicultural Services Branch, Department of Human Services.

    Michael Ingersoll, Assistant Commissioner, Small Business and Individual Taxpayers, ATO

    Loc Trinh, Director, Access and Diversity Unit, ATO


    Dr Eman Sharobeem, Community Relations Commission of NSW

    Contact and Secretariat:

    Loc Trinh, Director, Access and Diversity Unit, ATO

    Contact phone:

    03 9275 9963


    Randy Ng

    2ac Australian Chinese Radio

    Sandy Luc

    Asian Women At Work Inc.

    Bich Thuy Pham

    Asian Women At Work Inc.

    Hasan Yucel

    Australian Alevi Cultural Centre

    Dona Yucel

    Australian Alevi Cultural Centre

    Adrian Wong

    Australian Chinese Community Association

    Saw Bready Aye

    Australian Karen Organisation Inc.

    Saw Tamla Gaw

    Australian Karen Organisation Inc.

    Ilija Bicanic

    Bicanic Income Tax Services

    Ravy Heng

    Cambodian-Australian Welfare Council of NSW INC (CAWC)

    Tam Tran

    Canley Heights Community Centre

    Nu Tran

    Canley Heights Community Centre

    Ernest Yung

    Chinese Australian Services Society

    Marta Faggiano

    Community Action Services Australia (CASA)

    Eman Sharobeem

    Community Relations Commission of NSW

    Maria Kobas

    Community Relations Commission of NSW

    Thinh Huynh

    DAN VIET (The Vietnamese Tribune Newspaper)

    Anita Bogdanovski

    Department of Human Services (DHS)

    Margo Souden

    Department of Human Services (DHS)

    Neneth Costa

    Education and Information Services - NSW Fair Trading

    Nhan Tran

    Fairfield City Council

    Joe Khoury OAM

    Future Arabic Newspaper

    Naganathan Ramalingam

    Granville Tamil Welfare Society Inc

    Omar Iturrieta

    Hispanoamerican Newspaper

    Jimmy Mella

    Hispanoamerican Newspaper

    Semen Pinchuk

    Horizon Newspaper

    Faina Polonskaya

    Horizon Newspaper

    Sophea Jones

    Khmer Community of NSW

    Hye Jin Park

    Korean Herald

    Evelyn Burton


    Alison MacLeod


    Michael Cox

    Navitas English

    Vijay D'Mello

    Navitas English

    Cornelia Ramsay

    Navitas English

    Jay Borthwick


    Saleh Saqqaf

    SBS Radio

    Inkwon Hur

    The Hoju Dong-A Korean Daily Newspaper

    Mamdouh Sukkariah

    The World Observer

    Xiu Liu

    TVBA - Chinese TV

    Vladimir Kuzmin

    Unification Newspaper

    Hoang (Kim)Nguyen

    Vietface Television

    Phung Loan Nguyen

    Vietface Television

    Trung Hien Nguyen

    Vietface Television

    Vinh Binh Lieu

    Vietnamese - Australian Medical Association (V-AMA)

    Vuong Nguyen

    Vietnamese Community in Australia NSW Chapter Inc

    Phong Le

    Vietnamese Community in Wollongong

    Teresa Tran

    Vietnamese Community in Wollongong

    Thanh Lam

    Vietnamese Media

    Courtney Nguyen

    Vietnamese Women's Association in NSW Inc

    Andrew Mills


    Michael Ingersoll


    Matthew Hay


    Greg Cox


    Loc Trinh


    Peter Bargholz


    David Ngo


    Joe Kaplan


    Ada Ly


    Wendy Vuong


    Eva Jolly


    Jagjit Singh


    Tania Chow


    Agenda items


    The Non-English speaking background (NESB) Advisory Groups Forum agendas, minutes and related papers are not binding on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or any of the other bodies referred to in these papers. While every effort is made to accurately record views expressed, the wording necessarily represents a summary of statements of general position only, and care should be taken in interpreting those statements. These papers reflect the position at the date of release (unless otherwise noted) and readers should note that the position on any issue may subsequently change.

    1. Welcome and Introduction – Dr Eman Sharobeem, Community Relations Commission of NSW.

    Dr Sharobeem opened the forum as facilitator by welcoming and thanking the guests for attending. She acknowledged the traditional owners of the land and introduced the panel of speakers. She passed on apologies from Harkan Harman, the intended co-chair of the forum who could not attend due to unforeseen circumstances.

    Dr Sharobeem spoke of changes within the Community Relations Commission of NSW including a change of name to ‘Multicultural NSW’. She said they have a vision for all the people of NSW, to engage, enable and enrich the asset of ‘our cultural diversity’ through Multicultural NSW actions, programs and activities.

    She spoke of Multicultural NSW’s positive engagements with diverse communities, public sector agencies, non-government service providers, and the private sector. She said that Multicultural NSW is the central point for raising and resolving issues that affect community harmony and social cohesion within NSW.

    She then welcomed and introduced the Key note speaker ­ Andrew Mills, Second Commissioner of Taxation.

    2. Key note speaker ­ Andrew Mills, Second Commissioner of Taxation

    Second Commissioner Mills thanked Dr Sharobeem for her introduction and welcomed everyone to the forum. He acknowledged the traditional owners of the land and extended his welcome to the other panel members. He confirmed the purpose of the gathering was to work together to improve the tax and superannuation experience for all Australians, and acknowledged the choice of venue in Cabramatta as appropriate, being one of the most diverse places in Australia.

    Mr Mills spoke of the ATO re-inventing itself; transforming and becoming a more contemporary and service-oriented organisation that puts its clients at the centre of everything it does. He explained that a key driver of the transformation was to make it easier for the vast majority of people who do the right thing to do business with the ATO, and this meant developing a new service-oriented culture, introducing new products and services and providing a stronger focus on connecting to the community.

    He made reference to the diverse workforce of the ATO, and in particular the Access and Diversity Unit and its team’s diverse background. He reiterated the ATO’s commitment to the Agency Multicultural Plan and spoke of how proud he was for the ATO to be recognised as a leading agency in the provision of information and services for multicultural activities by the government-established Access and Equity Panel.

    Mr Mills recognised the forum as a valuable way to discuss new ideas and engage with diverse communities, placing emphasis on the importance of a two-way process.

    He introduced the new educational video ‘New to Australia’ and thanked those in the community that had partnered in its development.

    He concluded by saying that he looked forward to hearing everyone’s observations and suggestions, and to answering questions on the night.

    3. Video – New to Australia

    A short video was played introducing the New to Australia videos. The videos aim to help people new to the country with little or no knowledge of Australia’s tax and super systems. They were developed with input from migrant education and settlement service providers and can be used by providers in their classes.

    4. How far we’ve come – reporting on the ATO’s multicultural Plan Greg Cox, Assistant Commissioner, ATO Corporate, ATO

    Mr Cox thanked all the attendees for joining the event and recognised its importance for shaping the current and future services of the ATO with the community.

    He outlined some statistics of the work the ATO does and the interactions with taxpayers.

    He said the ATO is in the process of reinventing and changing their approach and wanted to work in partnership with the community to co-design systems that deliver services in a timely and convenient way.

    He spoke of improving the capability of ATO employees through a specialised diversity training package for all staff.

    Greg provided a summary of the ATO’s progress against the ATO’s Agency Multicultural Plan commitment that included key achievements and its mix of contemporary services. The ATO has produced more than 160 video products for the NESB audience over the past year and had 411 volunteers speaking more than 70 languages involved in the Tax Help program.

    He said The ATO has been extending its reach using contemporary services and making its website better and easier to use, and explained that the ATO provides updates to multicultural communities through a mix of face to face and online channels including online forums, the Diversity in focus newsletter, community festivals and radio programs. He said the ATO is open and receptive to feedback and intends to improve its best practice approach with the community leaders’ feedback, and measure success in the AMP.

    5. Department of Human Services – Margo Souden, Acting National Manager Multicultural Branch, DHS

    Ms Margo Souden acknowledged the traditional owners of the land and spoke about what the department is doing to foster self-reliance. She said a strong partnership exists between DHS and the ATO. The two organisations have partnered together to bring the ATO to myGov and simplify the delivery and provision of a range of government services in the one place.

    She said approximately five million people have set up myGov accounts and that 21 language task cards have been developed to help people register for the service.

    She said DHS also has seven apps which have received over three million downloads. She said the DHS website has information in 66 languages, with content divided into Read, Listen, and Watch, making it easier for users to access information.

    She said DHS has a multicultural services branch in Sydney with 70 multicultural service officers, and a multi-lingual phone service which averages 887,000 calls annually in 23 languages. She explained that multicultural training for staff has recently been updated and that DHS has shared and developed this with other government agencies to help them improve their multicultural awareness.

    6. Open Forum – your feedback and suggestions

    Facilitator Dr Eman Sharobeem invited participants to ask questions or raise issues to the panel in an open forum.

    The following feedback and suggestions were provided:

    Question from a representative of the Vietnamese Community in Australia, NSW Chapter

    Congratulations to the ATO for organising this forum and for implementing strategies like the Tax Help program which our community has already benefited from. However, I would like to suggest for the ATO to come out next year and help train our members in the use of the internet to lodge their own tax returns.

    Lastly, thank you to Mr David Ngo for his dedicated service to the community, providing us with tax and superannuation information and always on hand to help answer questions from our staff on behalf of community members. His help is much appreciated and is only possible due to our close relationship with the ATO – thank you.

    Answer: Loc Trinh, ATO

    Thank you for your suggestion. Our aim is to work with the community leaders and volunteers to help build their knowledge which they can then use to support their own communities.

    As Greg mentioned in his address we are now using contemporary methods such as recording seminars and webinars which will allow the community to access the information in their own time and place. We are also looking at presenting more live webinars sessions which will allow participants to ask questions. These methods have a wider reach than the traditional face-to-face seminars, and also broadens our services to other parts of Australia and not limited to just NSW.

    Answer: Michael Ingersoll, ATO

    This feedback is very important for the area I work in which looks at where the ATO is going with individual tax returns and what Tax Help uses, which I believe is myTax. I can safely say that myTax will be better and easier to use next year, and has been far more successful than expected with over one million users so far.

    I will take your feedback back to see how we can tie myTax in with Tax Help, simply for the time saving that can be provided from using the myTax program.

    Question from a representative of the Future Arabic Newspaper

    Who is responsible for <name deleted> tax matters? Can anyone answer that for me?

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    We cannot talk about this, it’s against the law. We are prevented from disclosing information on individual people to ensure that everyone’s information is private.

    Answer: Dr Eman Sharobeem, Multicultural NSW

    I am sure you understand the ATO’s position and I am sure you would not want your private information disclosed if you were in that situation. I would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to stay away from individual cases.

    Question from a representative of Navitas

    I would like to give some feedback on behalf of Navitas English, Cabramatta. We have a great partnership with the ATO but would like to express how important face-to-face discussions are to new migrants. Webinars are good but only for higher level students. There needs to be a mix of methods of getting the ATO information across – thank you.

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    We still recognise the importance of face-to-face engagement. Webinars and webcasts are great new tools but they do not replace, they supplement.

    Question from a representative of SBS Radio – Arabic program

    Andrew and Greg tonight spoke about the reinvention of the ATO which is good, but has the cutting of staff affected the collection of tax? Would this affect the community relations staff in the Access and Diversity Unit as they provide a very important service to new migrants?

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    We are facing challenges in a tight fiscal environment, where all government agencies are under pressure to do business differently and achieve more with less. The ATO has reduced its staffing level in the last year and a half but we are also changing the way we operate; to be more contemporary and work smarter. We are revisiting the way we do things, cutting back on red tape and making better use of technology so that the impact on our services is minimised and we still collect tax revenue for the government.

    Answer: Matthew Hay, ATO

    As part of reinvention we are looking at how we can use technology to deliver services. With the introduction of myGov and myTax this financial year, it has enabled the community to do so much more in a sophisticated self-service environment. In saying that we are looking at ways to help the community transition to digital through our Tax Help program; not just in helping people fill in their tax returns but digital services provided across government. We are very conscious of the need to support community access to government services, and face-to-face will continue to be a part of that.

    Answer: Greg Cox, ATO

    There has been no change in the Access and Diversity Unit’s resources in the last few months, so would not expect any now.

    Question from a representative of the Vietnamese Community in Wollongong

    Thank you for this opportunity, I have 3 issues to raise.

    Firstly, face-to face is extremely important for NESB communities as it allows them to ask questions on areas of tax they are unfamiliar with. I have been trying to organise a seminar for my community who are mainly small business owners but have been unsuccessful, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr David Ngo for coming out and talking to us about tax and super in his own time. People work very long hours and the last thing they want to do is go to the website and listen to a digital service, they want to be able to ask questions face-to-face.

    Secondly, about the ATO benchmark ratios. How is this benchmark fair when it is not looking at individual communities separately? How can a small bakery be compared to say Bakers Delight? Small family businesses have told me that they have no way to meet these benchmarks.

    Finally, why are tax audits in Wollongong not conducted by local tax officers that understand the local area and local people? Staff from other offices do not understand the local knowledge or regional areas. The costs of doing business in regional areas are much higher than in big cities and we have found that audit staff from Sydney and Melbourne have no compassion or understanding of these higher costs.

    Answer: Michael Ingersoll, ATO

    Starting with benchmarks, they are an important tool to help with our compliance work. I will definitely take your feedback back to see if they are right for those industries mentioned.

    We are introducing a cultural change to the way we do audits but this will take some time. We are reinforcing in our audit staff the need to understand commercial reality, be there to assist and help people get it right, and to be informative and transparent on why they are being audited. We are telling them they have to listen.

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    In terms of resources and where they come from, that is decided by audit teams but we do try to work on a national basis as much as possible. Your suggestion to tap into the local knowledge is very important; we will definitely take that up.

    Question from a representative of the Vietnamese - Australian Medical Association

    Can the ATO provide more information to new migrants on how important it is for them to have superannuation; that the money is a saving for the future and not to be accessed whenever they want?

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    It is a problem faced by the wider community, with people trying to access their super before they are eligible.

    Answer: Loc Trinh, ATO

    My team is currently working on a strategy with the Superannuation line on how we can better educate and provide information to diverse audiences on the benefits of superannuation.

    Question from the Vietnamese community worker for Asian women

    I work with ‘working women’ from a range of different industries and also work with intermediary organisations such as NAVITAS. I make sure the rights for working women are upheld. I have received feedback from newly arrived women in Australia who work for minimum wage. They work in the factories, farms, and restaurants and want to pay tax and they want to get the right pay.

    The problem is that they get paid cash in hand. The boss says they will only give these workers cash in hand and the workers are too scared to argue. But they want to be able to pay tax and do the right thing. How does the ATO support these people to do the right thing?

    These people work long hours- but they don’t get paid properly.

    A woman I know- only works 15 hours and after that gets cash in hand so she can still get Centrelink benefits even though she is working.

    Is there a hotline for the Cash economy?

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    Yes there is a hotline. The cash economy is a big issue. Recently we visited 170 restaurants in the Chinatown area. We did this because we know that some workers are not on the books, and therefore they don’t get paid the right rate and they don’t pay tax. They are not entitled to workers compensation. The information that is supposed to be reported to DHS isn’t being reported. Businesses that are doing the right thing are disadvantaged.

    We also have Town hall style meetings for educating businesses. We have access to all types of data—including data matching of credit card and EFTPOS data. We want to focus on the 95% of people who are doing the right thing but we also need to educate the other 5% and give them a chance to get it right.

    Questions from Asian women at work

    First question

    This question is directed to DHS—there are some women who do not receive their child support payments, yet their Centrelink payment is still being affected. What sort of actions or strategies can be used to target that issue?

    Answer: Margo Souden, Acting National Manager of the Multicultural Services Branch, Department of Human Services

    I’m not an expert in child support, but there is a current inquiry on the issues you have raised.

    I’ll take the child support question as a question on notice - I will gather more details and get back to you.

    Second question

    Directed at the ATO—I know of some tax agents that have made a mistake or given the wrong advice— and now some their clients have to pay back money, but it was the tax agents mistake. Is there an avenue for people to complain?

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    If you would like to pursue a compliant, there is an agency called the Tax Practitioner Board. They are a separate agency to us— and you can contact the Tax Practitioner Board - they have a website and they have a complaints service.

    Question from a Russian newspaper representative

    I’ve been here for 65 years and this is not the first time I’m here at the forum. I’m happy at the changes the ATO has made. I used to fill out lots of forms to lodge my tax return and now I do it for these past two years on e-tax. It’s much easier for me. It’s really great. What’s good about it is that when you have a question, there are some useful answers within e-tax, but the problem is that the language isn’t very simple. Can we make it simpler?

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    We do have a facility for small business called ‘click to chat’ online. So it’s good for those small businesses to talk to someone online. We hope to roll this out to individuals in the future. At the moment ‘self-service’ is our aim and we also aim to ensure all of our products are in simple English, easily understandable and not technical. We are working towards all these goals.

    Answer: Matthew Hay, ATO

    There is much tax technical information content on the website that is hard to understand. We are rewriting the content on our website to make it easier to understand and also we are working hard to improve the search engine. This will take some time to do. Over the next six months there will be some significant changes to the website and search engine. Hopefully these changes will flow into myTax and e-tax products.

    Question from NSW Fair Trading- education co-ordinator

    Part of my role is to run seminars targeting CALD and emerging communities. This year, we’ve run two successful seminars with the ATO which targeted emerging community groups in both Blacktown and Fairfield. I just want to let you know that communities, especially emerging groups require face to face communication.

    Educating service providers and community workers is also important. Therefore the Diversity in Focus newsletter is a really good resource. Perhaps we can provide ‘real stories’ in this newsletter to make it more engaging. For example, at the moment there is a scam for emerging communities to withdraw their superannuation funds illegally and buy property with them. They do not understand the process and procedures involved with superannuation. It is very important to educate established and emergent communities about this issue.

    Answer: Greg Cox, ATO

    We would be happy to take up this suggestion for Diversity in Focus as it would easily fit into the newsletter.

    Questions from a representative from a CALD intermediary voluntary organisation in Sydney

    First question

    How can not-for-profit organisations get tax exemptions and benefits?

    Answer: Andrew Mills, ATO

    For tax exemptions, not-for-profit organisations need to be registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. If not-for-profit organisations want to get tax benefits and exemptions they need to make sure they follow the procedures and are registered.

    Question two

    Why not get some voluntary organisations intermediaries in one room and tell them what you are doing and spread the word?

    Answer: Loc Trinh, ATO

    Last year and earlier this year we worked very closely with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to create some in-language material: this is available through their website. They have also run seminars as well. Broad seminars have not been conducted by the ATO

    7. Official thank you and close – Loc Trinh, Director, ATO

    Loc Trinh thanked everyone for their time and valuable feedback. He said there was more work ahead for the ATO to improve services, and more initiatives to introduce. He said the community representatives have a role in helping the ATO reach more communities and thanked key intermediaries for helping the ATO develop the ‘New to Australia’ video program for those communities.

    Loc also thanked his team, colleagues, the panel members and Dr Eman Sharobeem for facilitating.

    Action items summary

    Action item:

    1. Information to clarify why women whose Centrelink payment is being affected even though they do not receive their child support payments.


    Multicultural Services Branch, Department of Human Services

    Due date

    January 2015


    Action item:

    2. Consider ways to provide training and workshops targeting new and emerging communities.


    Access and Diversity Unit

    Due date

    March 2014


    Action item:

    3. Consider providing ‘real stories’ in Diversity in Focus.


    Access and Diversity Unit

    Due date

    March 2015


    Action item:

    4. Better educate and provide information to diverse audiences on the benefits of superannuation.


    Access and Diversity Unit & Superannuation line

    Due date

    March 2015

      Last modified: 30 Mar 2015QC 44704