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  • GST Stewardship Group minutes 30 May 2019

    Meeting details

    Venue: ATO Offices, Level 12, Room 706, 52 Goulburn Street, Sydney

    Date: 30 May 2019

    Start: 9.30 am Finish: 13.30 pm

    Co-Chairs: Deborah Jenkins & Kevin O'Rourke

    Secretariat: Monique D'Zilva, Small Business; contact phone: 03 9275 2441

    Agenda summary

    • Welcome
    • Update on the ATO CEG Realignment
    • Role of the GST Stewardship Group
    • Public Advice and Guidance
    • ATO processes and how we undertake our audits
    • Justified Trust including GST analytic tool
    • Other business and close

    Discussion summary

    Welcome - Deborah Jenkins

    Deborah Jenkins opened the meeting and welcomed all attendees and apologies were noted.

    This is the first meeting with Deborah as the Chair.

    Update on the ATO CEG Realignment - Jeremy Hirschhorn

    Second Commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn presented this agenda item.

    The realignment of the ATO’s Client Engagement Group includes moving GST to sit across the client experiences and retaining a central GST centre. The realignment is designed to help us take a more holistic view of our clients and their interactions across our tax and superannuation system, enabling us to achieve a better client experience. Integrated Compliance is a referral area for complex cases.

    Our teams will focus on all tax issues affecting clients in their market segment. Our staff are positive about the realignment and we are expanding our skilling to ensure all staff have a broad understanding of GST. This will lead to increased business knowledge and more staff working on GST issues.

    Role of the GST Stewardship Group – Led by Deborah Jenkins (All)

    Deborah discussed the importance of this group to the ATO. It is a channel for members to raise their concerns about any aspects relating to GST administration. This group is well placed to understand businesses and to work together to shape how we are administer the GST system.

    Overall our key objective as a group is to identify opportunities to improve the tax and super system to make it easy to get things right and hard not to and gain insights into issues clients face with meeting their GST obligation.

    We will be undertaking a review of the membership including developing a new Charter document to outline the expectations of the group.

    Public Advice and Guidance – Andrew Orme

    Andrew Orme led a discussion on the ATO’s approach to public advice and guidance including some of the matters we take into account in deciding whether to invest in new public advice and guidance.

    These include:

    • data sources that demonstrate demand from the community – e.g. analysing requests for private advice and guidance to determine emerging trends and issues
    • analysis of the use of ATO systems such as the ATO Help Desk and ‘Alex’ our virtual assistant for general tax enquiries
    • identification of trends in the environment
    • changes in the law or its interpretation by the Courts that may drive need for new public advice and guidance

    These lenses assist us in identifying where there is uncertainty or other issues that need to be clarified.

    In recent years we have introduced Law Companion Rulings, which are designed to complement new legislation by providing ATO guidance around the time the law is enacted or comes into effect.

    Another key change has been the introduction of practical compliance guidelines. These typically set out the ATO position in relation to tax law compliance issues and how the Commissioner will administer the law.

    The group discussed how the ATO takes into account a wide-range of stakeholder needs and views when setting public advice and guidance and how the ATO strikes the right balance when it comes to consultation.

    Members expressed concerns about the time it takes to issue rulings and the consultation process.

    The ATO will conduct a deep dive with members into public advice and guidance.

    ATO processes and how we undertake our audits – Kelly Canavan & Mike Howard

    An update on ATO Performance measures and operational efficiency was provided, including:

    • our approach to information gathering
    • the different audit types including the case cycle times
    • how we manage GST disputes

    The ATO will be consulting with the group to review draft questions included in a business profile questionnaire used during the GST Refund verification activities where carrying on an enterprise risk has been identified.

    Justified Trust including GST analytic tool – Judy Morris, Jenny Spiliotopoulos, and Karen Price

    The GST justified trust program is in its second year and the ATO is currently finalising and issuing GST Streamlined Tax Assurance Reports.

    In the assurance reviews to date, we have observed a positive trend of engagement and collaboration and an increase in the engagement of external advisors to assist in self-assessment of the design of the tax control framework.

    The main risks identified to date relate to GST correct reporting risks, particularly data integrity issues and incorrectly treating significant transactions such as mergers and acquisitions.

    We are expanding our GST justified trust program for large businesses. Over the next four years the ATO will obtain GST coverage of the Top 100 population and broad coverage of the Top 1000 population of large public and multinational groups, including a focus on the Top 320 private groups population.

    We are developing, refining and testing a GST Analytical Tool (GAT). It is a strategic, top down tool to help us better understand the variances between economic and tax performance (the fourth focus area in our justified trust methodology). By understanding variances between financial and GST performance, we can have greater confidence we are asking the right questions. It is one of the tools the ATO uses to obtain assurance / identify risk and is not intended to be used in isolation.

    Business representatives expressed concern about the effort required to undertake the analysis and the utility of the conclusions. The ATO took on board the feedback, noting it will share the outcomes of practical application testing of the GAT with members and continue to consult widely.

    Other business and close - Tim Dyce

    Members were invited to put forward topics for future meetings.

    The ATO will distribute a GST key contact list.

    Deborah thanked members for their contributions at the meeting.

    The meeting concluded at 13.30.

    The next meeting will be held on 14 August 2019 in Melbourne.




    Deborah Jenkins

    Deputy Commissioner, Small Business, ATO (co-chair)

    Kelly Canavan

    Assistant Commissioner, Small Business, GST Centre, ATO

    Gordon Brysland

    Assistant Commissioner, Tax Counsel Network, ATO
    (via telephone)

    Giles Wilmer

    Director, Commonwealth Taxes Unit,
    Queensland Treasury

    Bastian Gasser

    The Tax Institute

    Chris Plakias

    Head of Tax, GST and Technology Westpac,
    Member Australian Bankers’ Association

    Andrew Sommer

    Partner, Clayton Utz,
    Member Law Council of Australia

    Andrew Howe

    Director, Greenwoods and Freehills Pty Ltd,
    Member Property Council of Australia

    Susan Bultitude

    Indirect Tax and Not for Profit Unit,
    The Treasury

    Kevin O'Rourke

    Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

    Prof Michael Walpole

    Professor and Associate Head of School (Research),
    School of Taxation & Business Law, University of NSW

    Ken Fehily

    Principal, Fehily Advisory, Member CPA Australia
    (via telephone)

    Guest attendees



    Jeremy Hirschhorn

    Acting Second Commissioner, ATO

    Adam Johnston

    Acting Assistant Commissioner, Small Business, ATO

    Andrew Orme

    Deputy Chief Tax Counsel, Tax Counsel Network, ATO

    Hoa Wood

    Acting Deputy Chief Tax Counsel, Tax Counsel Network, ATO
    (via telephone)

    Judy Morris

    Assistant Commissioner, Public Groups & International, ATO

    Jenny Spiliotopoulos

    Acting Assistant Commissioner, Public Groups & International, ATO

    Karen Price

    Program Director, Public Groups & International, ATO

    Michael Howard

    Director, Small Business, ATO
    (via telephone)




    Coles Finance

    George Nikolaou

    Corporate Tax Association

    Paul Suppree

      Last modified: 12 Jul 2019QC 59653