• NTLG minutes, December 2013

    Meeting details

    Venue

    Conference rooms 14.11 & 14.12, Level 14

    55 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane

    Date

    12 December 2013

    Start

    9.30am

    Finish

    1.20pm

    Chair

    Chris Jordan

    Secretariat

    Kylie Bell

    Stephanie Caredes

    Contact Phone

    07 314 95712

    02 8223 0059

    Attendees

    Chris Jordan (Chair)

    ATO

    Neil Olesen

    ATO

    Mark Konza

    ATO

    Sue Sinclair

    ATO

    Andrew England

    ATO

    Jonathan Woodger

    ATO

    Peter Coakley

    ATO

    Deepti Paton

    ATO

    Rob Heferen

    Treasury

    Gerry Antioch

    Treasury

    Bob Duncan

    Association of Taxation and Management Accountants

    Mark Morris

    CPA Australia

    Greg Nielsen

    CPA Australia

    Frank Drenth

    Corporate Tax Association

    Michelle de Niese

    Corporate Tax Association

    Michael Croker

    Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia

    Tony Stolarek

    Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia

    Grant Wardell-Johnson

    Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia

    Lance Cunningham

    Institute of Public Accountants

    Mark Friezer

    Law Council of Australia

    Adrian Varrasso

    Law Council of Australia

    Rod Wilson

    National Tax and Accountants Association

    Andrea Slattery

    SMSF Professionals' Association of Australia Limited

    Mark Chapman

    Taxpayers Australia

    Steve Westaway

    The Tax Institute

    Michael Flynn

    The Tax Institute

    Robert Jeremenko

    The Tax Institute

    Apologies

    Andrew O'Bryan

    CPA Australia

    Tony Greco

    Institute of Public Accountants

    Steve Cane

    National Tax and Accountants Association

    Secretariat

    Kylie Bell

    ATO

    Stephanie Caredes

    The Tax Institute

    Agenda items

    Disclaimer

    NTLG 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. These minutes have been formally endorsed by the members.

    Forward Program

    Potential agenda items or focus areas for discussion at future National Tax Liaison Group (NTLG) meetings are listed below.

    • Treasury update - opportunities for engaging the private sector through consultation on costings analysis (refers action item NTLG1309/01).
    • Role of the NTLG

    2014 Proposed Meeting Schedule

    The proposed meeting schedule for 2014 is as follows:

    • Wednesday 5 March
    • Thursday 19 June
    • Thursday 18 September
    • Wednesday 3 December

    1.Meeting open

    The meeting commenced at 9:30am.

    Second Commissioner Neil Olesen (Law Design and Practice) opened the meeting and welcomed all members and participants.

    Welcome new member

    • Mark Chapman, Manager, representing Taxpayers Australia.

    Members stepping down

    • Steve Westaway, President, representing the Tax Institute.

      This is Steve Westaway’s last NTLG meeting as he steps down from the role of president of the Tax Institute. Michael Flynn, currently the vice president, will step into the role of president.

      Steve commenced with the NTLG in March 2012 and has been an active and strong contributor to the NTLG.

    Apologies

    • Andrew O’Bryan, Partner Hall & Wilcox, CPA Australia
    • Tony Greco, Senior Tax Advisor, Institute of Public Accountants
    • Steve Cane, General Manager, National Tax and Accountants Association

    Guest attendees – Professional Association Bodies represented

    • Rod Wilson, Taxation Specialist, National Tax and Accountants Association representative, in attendance on behalf of member Steve Cane.

    ATO guest discussion leaders

    • Michael Cranston, Deputy Commissioner, Private Groups and High Wealth Individuals
    • Debbie Hastings, First Assistant Commissioner, Review and Dispute Resolution
      • Agenda item 4: Audits, Settlements and Alternative Dispute Resolution
       
    • Sue Sinclair, First Assistant Commissioner , ATO Corporate
      • Agenda item 5: Consultation arrangements
       
    • Steve Vesperman, Deputy Commissioner, Small Business / Individual Taxpayers
    • Graham Whyte, Assistant Commissioner, Small Business / Individual Taxpayers
    • Tammy Gardner, Director Co-Design Centre
      • Agenda item 6: Simplifying compliance / ATO Co-Design Centre
       

    ACTION ITEMS

    Record of action items - New

    One new action item was developed as part of the day’s meeting discussion.

    No. 1

    Action item No. #

    NTLG1312/01

    Agenda item

    NTLG meeting – 12 December 2013

    Refer agenda item 6

    Agenda topic

    Simplifying compliance

    • Streamlined tax returns

    Action item

    The ATO to establish a special purpose limited life working group to assist in the next phase of this project. Consultation will involve members of the tax profession, individual taxpayers and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

    Responsibility

    ATO

    Background

    Members were advised that the new income tax returns are being taken to the next level and are more targeted to those with simpler tax affairs.

    The ATO agreed to consult with the tax profession, individual taxpayers and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to achieve a ’low touch/no touch’ tax system for individual taxpayers.

    The ATO will form a special purpose limited life working group. The focus of the group will be to bring a range of perspectives and expertise to identify opportunities, and to advise the ATO on how to move toward achieving this outcome.

    Action items register

    Two action items were developed, following discussion at the NTLG 19 September 2013 meeting. One action item is complete, has been closed and removed from the action item register. The other remains open whilst in progress.

    NTLG1309/01: Consultation on costings

    No. 1

    Action item No. #

    NTLG1309/01

    Agenda item

    NTLG meeting – 19 September 2013

    Refer agenda item 4

    Agenda topic

    Strategic direction – tax policy and administration

    Private sector input into ATO data collection, analysis and Treasury costings

    Action item

    The ATO, Treasury and the Professional Association Bodies will collectively work to progress this matter.

    Responsibility

    ATO and Treasury

    Background

    Treasury discussed with members opportunities to consult on costings issues.

    The Professional Association Bodies view this form of consultation as an opportunity to better understand linkages in the market for example section 25-90 or where trust abuse may be occurring.

    A better understanding of these figures will assist with identifying more clearly what the underpinning mischief is.

    Post meeting update

    On 6 December 2013 members were advised:

    On 4 November 2013 Treasury, the ATO and the Tax Institute discussed opportunities for engaging the private sector through consultation on costings analysis.

    Key outcome from this discussion

    There was agreement that consultation can improve the quality of costings, and that a variety of types of consultation may be appropriate depending on the circumstances.

    Next steps

    The Treasury will discuss further with the Treasurer’s office.

    Forward agenda

    This matter will be placed onto the NTLG Forward Agenda in 2014 for an update from the Treasury.

    Status

    Members were advised:

    Status – Open/In-progress

    NTLG1309/02: Administrative concessions and safe harbours

    No. 2

    Action item No. #

    NTLG1309/02

    Agenda item

    NTLG meeting – 19 September 2013

    Refer agenda item 4

    Agenda topic

    Strategic direction – tax policy and administration

    Administration of new Transfer Pricing legislation

    • Administrative concessions and safe harbours

    Action item

    The Professional Association Bodies seek clarity with guidance in the interim on administrative concessions and safe harbours under the new law.

    Feedback is welcomed through to mailbox: ntlg@ato.gov.au by 25 October 2013.

    Responsibility

    Professional Association Bodies

    Background

    The ATO discussed with members administrative concessions and safe harbours, in particular:

    • Taxation Ruling 1999/1
    • Small and medium enterprise taxpayers

    Post meeting update

    On 6 December 2013 members were advised:

    Various comments were received from the NTLG Professional Association Bodies for consideration by the ATO. Comments and matters raised for the ATO to consider include:

    • Advance pricing arrangements – references made to ‘high risk’ taxpayers and transactions.
    • Small and medium enterprise (SME) taxpayers – in terms of the new categorisations used to differentiate between different types of businesses, how are SMEs now defined by the ATO?
    • Administrative concessions and safe harbours for SME taxpayers – Members encourage the ATO to maintain its existing principles of providing simplifying, pragmatic guidance in relation to non-core services and SME's documentation requirements in its proposed documentation guidance.

    The ATO will consider matters raised and respond directly with the respective Professional Association Bodies as appropriate.

    Some of these matters will also be considered as part of the work-program of the Division 815 Technical Working Group, which is convening its first meeting on 17 December 2013 with representative of the professional associations. For further details, click here

    Status

    Members were advised:

    Status – Closed/Complete

    2.Commissioner’s opening remarks

    Commissioner Chris Jordan spoke about developments in the ATO since September (last NTLG meeting).

    As part of the changes to the ATO’s consultation arrangements and in keeping with the NTLG’s role as the ATO’s peak consultative forum, the Commissioner noted the changes in NTLG management arrangements for this meeting and into the future, as follows:

    • Second Commissioner Neil Olesen, Law Design and Practice Group will act as Deputy Chair
    • First Assistant Commissioner Sue Sinclair, ATO Corporate will manage the operation of this forum, and the NTLG's links with the ATO and the rest of the ATO's consultation arrangements
    • Assistant Commissioner Peter Coakley, ATO Corporate will be responsible for the forum's work program, agenda setting and progress of action items
    • Director Deepti Paton, ATO Consultation Hub will maintain effective communication between external NTLG members, the ATO and the Consultation Hub

    The Commissioner also provided updates in relation to:

    • The incoming government’s drive for productivity and efficiency with the National Commission of Audit and Red Tape Reduction efforts. All agencies in the Treasury portfolio are expected to have a program that contributes to the overall goal of reducing red tape for the Australian community by at least $1billion.
    • Initiatives in the ATO’s submission to the Commission of Audit, for example streamlining business requirements, one touch payroll and investing in electronic systems (prefill).
    • The Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer and the Small Business Minister are looking to the Commissioner to drive change in the ATO that includes cultural shifts, efficiencies and delivery of our commitments in terms of revenue.
    • The Treasurer has specifically requested the Assistant Treasurer to report back on a program of cultural reform in the ATO. The Commissioner acknowledged that cultural change takes time and an effective program is multi-dimensional. A 2020 program office has been set up to drive the cultural change to align with and support the mission and vision that the ATO has already articulated.
    • On workforce matters, the ATO is facing a reduction of around 900 staff by the end of the year. Natural attrition will be part of that and redundancies are likely to be needed elsewhere in the ATO. Every effort will be made to reduce duplication and ‘back-office’ functions rather than frontline staff.
    • The ATO’s response to the APSC independent capability review. The review confirms that the changes the ATO are bringing in are necessary and appropriate. With the ATO’s new senior leadership team on board the ATO will be looking to officially launch its new strategic directions and accompanying program of change in March 2014.
    • The initial development and further consultation in relation to a proposal to provide certain taxpayers with an option to undergo External Compliance Assurance Processes. The Commissioner reflected on the learnings shared by the head of the Inland Revenue Authority in Singapore on a similar project embarked upon in that jurisdiction.

    Treasury also commented on their response to the independent capability review, with more work to be done with greater engagement outside of the agency and changes within the organisation underway.

    3.Tax policy and administration

    Executive Director Rob Heferen (Treasury) and First Assistant Commissioner Andrew England (Integrated Tax Design) led these discussions.

    The purpose of this item:

    • Discuss Treasury’s status update on consultation in relation to announced but un-enacted tax and superannuation measures (Emerging law design).
    • Discuss views on Commissioner’s discretion and a proposed plan of action.
    • Update members on the ATO’s Integrated Tax Design (ITD) function.
    • Discuss capacity for member input into ITD activities.

    Emerging law design

    Executive Director Rob Heferen, Treasury led a discussion about the backlog of announced but un-enacted tax measures.

    • The Government identified a total of 96 tax measures announced but un-enacted suggesting that something is wrong with the system and this needs to be looked at. The Treasurer will consider what needs to be done to reduce the probability of this happening again. In summary:
      • The Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer will make a decision on what measures to proceed with.
      • These will be reflected in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) for the 2013-14 financial year which will be available on 17 December 2013.
       

    Commissioner’s discretion

    First Assistant Commissioner Andrew England, Integrated Tax Design led a discussion with members on the possibility of recommending that a discretion be inserted into the law to allow the Commissioner to relax the law where the law leads to anomalous or unintended outcomes or disproportionate compliance burdens. Discussion included:

    • The ATO is interested in discussing the efficacy of an express power for the Commissioner to provide quicker resolution of technical defects in the law where:
      • the policy intent is not realised; or
      • the law imposes unnecessary compliance costs on taxpayers.
       
    • This matter was also recently discussed at the first meeting of the Consultation Steering Committee on 29 November 2013.
    • It was agreed at the Consultation Steering Group meeting by Treasury, the ATO and representatives of the Professional Association Bodies to establish a tripartite limited-life working group to explore the feasibility of such a power.

    Integrated Tax Design

    • First Assistant Commissioner Andrew England, Integrated Tax Design discussed with members:
    • Since 1 July 2013 the new Integrated Tax Design business line includes a new Policy Integration Team to lead that policy input with ATO business lines. This team also maintains the ATO’s strong focus on implementing Government policy through governance and practice arrangements and brings together our core expertise in law design, revenue costing and forecasting, and design services generally.
    • The key change is to improve the quality of the ATO’s input to Government tax and superannuation policy formulation and better use integrated tax design approaches in formulating and implementing policy.
    • Treasury remains responsible for tax and superannuation policy advice to Government. A key aim of these new arrangements is to better support Treasury to perform that role.
    • The ATO’s new approach to assist Treasury with policy development is to better prioritise issues to raise with Treasury and to develop comprehensive action briefs with a solution based approach. This framework includes:
      • Improved processes to identify issues that may require Government policy responses by tapping into a range of intelligence sources across the ATO.
      • Risk assessing those issues to understand their importance to the health of the tax and superannuation systems and then prioritising them.
      • Feeding intelligence to Treasury about the risks the ATO is seeing in those systems.
      • On prioritised issues, preparing comprehensive action briefs for Treasury consideration.
       
    • Where appropriate, Integrated Tax Design will consult with the private sector in the execution of its function. However, consultation on issues the ATO raises with Treasury remains a matter for Treasury and Government.
    • The new Consultation Steering Group can be used to facilitate such consultation.

    4.Audits, Settlements and Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston (Private Groups and High Wealth Individuals), First Assistant Commissioner Debbie Hastings (Review and Dispute Resolution) and Acting Chief Tax Counsel Jonathan Woodger (Tax Counsel Network) led these discussions.

    The purpose of this item:

    • Discuss the current ATO’s approach to alternative dispute resolution and settlements in the large, private groups, high wealth individuals and small business market sectors.
    • Discuss appropriateness of the current approach and potential improvements/tailoring.
    • Provide an update on ATO experience of the Transforming Tax Technical Decision Making project.

    The ATO’s approach to alternative dispute resolution and settlements

    First Assistant Commissioner Debbie Hastings, Review and Dispute Resolution and Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston, Private Groups and High Wealth Individuals led a discussion with members about cultural change, moving towards a resolution culture and facilitating outcomes in disputes that saves time, money and builds relationships.

    • There is a significant focus on alternative dispute resolution.
    • There are a number of business processes in place.
    • A key driver is the Inspector General of Taxation review into the Australian Taxation Office’s use of early and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and implementation of the recommendations. In response to recommendations, the ATO undertook a pilot that confirmed in-house facilitation is an effective tool in resolving disputes and that early, direct contact and communication is effective in resolving disputes. Many disputes were resolved following initial contact - without the need for a facilitation process.
    • A lot of work has been done with the large market and the use of judges on complex cases. The independent review of large market income tax audits was introduced to assist in resolving areas of disagreement with taxpayers as early and co-operatively as possible. Five reviews have been finalised with a further six cases currently being reviewed.
    • Settlements are working well with the middle market, including direction setting and cultural shifts.

    For the small business market various initiatives implemented over the past few years have improved settlements and the ATO’s capability to resolve disputes via settlement negotiations, for example.

    • Several dispute resolution initiatives targeted at this market have seen positive results. This focus has increased the number of settlements (from 16 in 2011-12 to 87 in 2012-13). We have seen them occur at earlier stages of a dispute with 51% of settlements happening during audit in 2012-13, compared to 25% during audit in 2010-11.
    • To engage better with the community and industry, the ATO released the 2012 publication 'Small-to-medium enterprises and wealthy individuals: Our compliance approach‘. This initiative has resulted in improvements numbers of settlements and our staff’s capability to resolve disputes using settlements.
    • Also available on the ATO website is the ‘
    • ATO plain English guide to alternative dispute resolution
    • ’ that outlines in simple language:
      • dispute resolution
      • ADR
      • the types of ADR processes that are used in tax and superannuation disputes
       
    • Recently established is the Dispute Resolution Working Group. The purpose of this group is to consult on key issues in dispute resolution and ADR.
    • The ATO conducted a pilot to assess the utility and effectiveness of ATO officers acting as in-house facilitators to assist in resolving smaller, less complex disputes. The pilot found these facilitators were effective in resolving these disputes and advisors were comfortable with the process. It also demonstrated the benefits of early engagement.
    • The ATO is currently exploring how the benefits seen in the facilitation pilot can be used to resolve disputes in the $0 to $2m small business market. The ATO would like to consult with the Dispute Resolution Forum Working Group and Small to Medium Enterprise sector representatives from the professional associations early in 2014.
    • There is still more work to be done in this area around improved strategies and greater communication.

    Independent review update

    • Five independent review cases have now been finalised and the ATO is looking to finalise a further six by the end of January 2014.
    • Each case has been different allowing for lessons to be learned and factored into future processes.
    • Feedback on the review to date has been well received and positive. As part of the end process the ATO will look to also provide the opportunity for feedback from the taxpayer’s experience, together with the taxpayer’s adviser.

    Update on the Transforming Tax Technical Decision Making project

    Acting Chief Tax Counsel Jonathan Woodger, Tax Counsel Network provided members with an update.

    The Transforming Tax Technical Decision Making (TTTDM) project officially closed on 30 June 2013.

    • The TTTDM Post Implementation Review (PIR) commenced in July 2013. The review is in progress with a currently expected completion date of March 2014.
    • The PIR is being coordinated by the Tax Counsel Network (TCN), Practice Management. There are no preliminary findings of the PIR to report as yet, but anecdotal feedback in relation to this project has been positive.
    • It was noted that all staff movements had now occurred so that TCN operated as a whole, allowing for a balance between specialisation and flexibility. The previous Centres of Expertise no longer exist. Some of the Centre staff have been moved into TCN. Others have been moved from Law to Compliance to enhance the latter’s technical capability.
    • One relevant change made by the TTTDM project was to allow precedential decisions that are rated as ‘low risk’ to be made by appropriate staff in Compliance. Previously, all such decisions had to be ‘escalated’ to Law regardless of risk or complexity. ATO Interpretative Decisions (ATOIDs) can still be made by business and service lines (BSL) staff in such cases. But if TCN has been involved, the issue is ‘high risk’ by definition so it is now a requirement that in these cases views by published by way of a binding public ruling product rather than an ATOID.
    • The TCN Practice Management area does a regular (typically six monthly) ‘sweep’ of ATOIDs to review which issues should be published as a ruling or determination.

    5.Consultation arrangements

    First Assistant Commissioner Sue Sinclair (ATO Corporate) provided an update and led discussion on the ATO’s consultation arrangements.

    The purpose of this item:

    • Further discussion about the ATO’s consultation arrangements, including key statistics, major outcomes in recent months, health and status of the current arrangements and significant matters for consultation.
    • Discuss the opportunity for a workshop in 2014 to consider the role and operation of the NTLG in order to maximise effectiveness of this peak forum.

    Overview of the ‘health of the system’

    • The consultation system is now broadly up and running. The ATO appreciates the input from NTLG members that have worked closely with the ATO to get to this stage
    • Feedback has been sought on a number of issues including matters for the consultation register before it went live and the necessity for certain special purpose forums.
    • Improvements will continue to be made on a range of matters ensuring over time for a more dynamic project-like consultation, with the right people, at the right time, on specific issues.
    • The ATO Consultation Hub and Treasury are making a joint submission to the Board of Taxation in relation to the operation of the Tax Issues Entry System.

    Stewardship forums

    • As the ATO’s peak consultative forum the NTLG will receive reports from all seven stewardship committees as to membership, agenda items and discussions. This is so that NTLG members can consider issues holistically and with full information.
    • Since 1 July 2013 most stewardship forums have met.
    • Some work is still required to ensure all members are actively engaging in productive discussions and that the forum is a worthwhile investment for all. The Consultation Hub will work with each forum towards this goal.

    Register of ‘matters for consultation’

    • On 29 November 2013 the first version of this list was published on the ATO website. The ATO will further investigate potential improvements.

    Register of stakeholders

    • This is a reasonably healthy looking list at 195 registrants.
    • Stakeholders have a range of expertise in a range of technical areas such as superannuation, international taxation and GST and cover a broad range of industries such as banking and finance, mining and resources, retail and the not-for-profit sector.
    • Further work is to be done to ensure the list is well categorised and easy to use.
    • The ATO is investigating whether the stakeholder registration list can be disclosed to the Consultation Steering Group.

    Post-implementation review

    • This review will be done in June 2014.
    • An independent reviewer will undertake a comprehensive post-implementation review of the consultation arrangements.

    The NTLG and its role

    • The NTLG will discuss matters of strategic importance to the taxation and superannuation systems and will receive reports from the stewardship forums, the Consultation Steering Group and the ATO Consultation Hub.
    • Members will consider how much, and what type of information is needed/sufficient in order to prevent information overload.
    • With establishment of the Consultation Steering Group and introduction of the new ATO NTLG management team, it is a timely opportunity to review the role of the NTLG with its purpose and function in going forward.
    • For the first meeting in March 2014 a workshop will be held to consider and address these matters.

    6.Simplifying compliance / ATO Co-Design Centre tour

    Deputy Commissioner Steve Vesperman, Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte (Small Business / Individual Taxpayers) and ATO Co-Design Centre Director Tammy Gardner (Integrated Tax Design) led these discussions.

    The purpose of this item:

    • Discuss ways in which the ATO can work with members to implement a proposal to pre-prepare tax returns for taxpayers with simple tax affairs – including consultation to obtain insights and expertise from members’ national and international networks.
    • Discuss the ATO’s goals of transforming the customer experience consistent with the ATO’s 2020 vision.
    • Demonstrate usability testing of the Streamlined Individual Income Return process through the Co-Design Centre.

    Streamlined tax returns

    • From July 2014, the ATO will introduce a new online substantially pre-prepared tax return that delivers a significantly improved and contemporary service for compliant individual taxpayers.
    • This approach substantially reduces the effort required by a taxpayer to complete and lodge their annual income tax return.
    • The ATO will ‘push out’ messages regarding the availability of the new tax return to eligible self preparing taxpayers via email and SMS. Taxpayers will be directed to login through my.gov.auExternal Link to the secure ATO website where the return will be available for their review and finalisation.
    • The ATO will advise eligible taxpayers that, for most, a substantially pre-prepared return will be available in late July. If they prefer not to wait for the pre-prepared return they will be able to use the new online tax return from 1 July.
    • Taxpayers with more complex affairs including investment properties, capital gains and losses and foreign income, and non-residents, will not be eligible to use the new service. These taxpayers can lodge electronically using our existing e-tax service or may choose to use a tax agent.
    • The new return will use the information the ATO already receives from third party sources (e.g. employers and financial institutions) and will not result in any additional burden on these data providers.
    • The new return will have some key differences to the current e-tax service, including:
      • Fully online rather than requiring a software download and installation
      • Available on mobile devices such as tablet and smart phones
      • Automatic pre-filling of the return
      • Substantially less screens to complete
      • Targeted to those with simpler tax affair
       
    • In 2014 the return will be specifically marketed to 1.4 million taxpayers who currently prepare their own return however the number of taxpayers who will be able to take advantage of this new approach will be expanded in later years.
    • The ATO will establish a special purpose limited life working group to assist in the next phase of this project. Consultation will involve members of the tax profession, individual taxpayers and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
    • A number of ‘You Tube’ programs will be developed to assist in the rollout of this new initiative.

    Pre-fill tax returns in other countries

    Lowering compliance costs for taxpayers with straightforward income tax returns through pre-prepared tax returns:

    • Over the last decade or so, revenue bodies in all of the Nordic region countries have been revolutionising their personal tax arrangements through the development of pre-filled tax return systems. A pre-filled tax return is one prepared by the revenue body for the taxpayer using third party information reports and other information at its disposal.
    • By providing completed or largely completed tax returns for many of their taxpayers, these revenue bodies can significantly simplify the process taxpayers must undertake to meet their tax return filing obligations, thereby substantially reducing their compliance costs.

    Transformational change

    The customer experience continuum and the ATO’s 2020 vision:

    • A vision where the administration of the future tax and super systems will be based on mutual trust and transparency of information.
    • A tailored approach will be provided in which openness about tax affairs, voluntary compliance and willing participation in the tax and super systems will be rewarded with streamlined experiences. This will lead to reduced effort for taxpayers in meeting their tax and super obligations, and create certainty about their tax affairs.

    ATO Co-Design Centre tour

    Members were provided the opportunity to view the ATO’s Co-Design Centre (the Centre). The Centre is a design and usability centre located in Brisbane that supports the ATO’s goal of making the tax system easier, cheaper and more personalised for taxpayers. It brings together designers and users of the tax system (both internal and external to the ATO) in the design and evaluation of the ATO’s products, processes and systems.

    Members observed usability testing of the Streamlined Individual Income Tax Return process and usability testing of the Online Tax Return using various devices such as smart phones and tablets.

    Member feedback on the Centre was positive and recognised and appreciated the great value and many benefits that the Centre provides for the benefit of the taxpayer community.

    ACTION ITEM

    No. 1

    Action item No. #

    NTLG1312/01

    Agenda topic

    Simplifying compliance

    • Streamlined tax returns

    Action item

    The ATO to establish a special purpose limited life working group to assist in the next phase of this project. Consultation will involve members of the tax profession, individual taxpayers and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

    Responsibility

    ATO

    Background

    Members were advised that the new income tax returns are being taken to the next level and are more targeted to those with simpler tax affairs.

    The ATO agreed to consult with the tax profession, individual taxpayers and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to achieve a ’low touch/no touch’ tax system for individual taxpayers.

    The ATO will form a special purpose limited life working group. The focus of the group will be to bring a range of perspectives and expertise to identify opportunities, and to advise the ATO on how to move toward achieving this outcome.

    7.Other business / Meeting wrap up

    In closing the meeting, Second Commissioner Neil Olesen (Law Design and Practice) confirmed that the first meeting in March 2014 will be a workshop focussing on the scope, role and operation of the NTLG, including consideration of a forward work program for the forum.

    The following dates were proposed for 2014 with Canberra listed as the proposed location for the meetings:

    • Wednesday 5 March
    • Thursday 19 June
    • Thursday 18 September
    • Wednesday 3 December

    A member advised of concerns about meetings held in Canberra during sitting weeks.

    The ATO agreed to consider other possible options.

    Members were thanked for their contributions during the meeting.

    The meeting closed at 1:20pm.

    POST MEETING UPDATE

    On 20 December 2013 the ATO advised members that the next NTLG meeting will be held on 5 March 2014 in Canberra. The ATO noted concerns about meetings held in Canberra during sitting weeks and is investigating other options for the balance of 2014.

      Last modified: 24 Feb 2014QC 39365