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  • Individuals Stewardship Group key messages 6 November 2019

    Tax Time 2019

    Members were provided an overview of the outcomes from Tax Time 2019 which included:

    • 1.5 million new links to the ATO via myGov which takes the total to 9.5 million links
    • 11.4 million tax returns were lodged, with 4.2 million lodged through myTax and over 7 million lodged through a tax agent
    • 87.9 million records were made available as pre-filled data
    • 8.8 million refunds issued collectively worth $24.2 billion
    • 65,000 ‘push’ assessments sent to eligible taxpayers so they didn’t need to lodge a return only to claim their refund of franking credit
    • 90% satisfaction rating for myTax and 54% of taxpayers who used myTax took less than 30 minutes to complete their return.

    These outcomes were supported by:

    • 3.2 million telephone calls from taxpayers
    • 567,000 calls from tax agents
    • 217,100 webchats
    • 615 Tax Help centres
    • a range of support material sent to taxpayers, tax agents and made available on our website including occupation posters and tax time toolkits.

    Better As Usual program

    Jeremy Hirschhorn, Acting Second Commissioner, spoke about the Better As Usual program which is aimed at making continuous, systemic and sustained improvements to the ATO’s end to end processes and using the insights into the system to make the client and staff experiences better. There are four focus areas under this program:

    • Highest client impact actions. We want to ensure we have the right safeguards (cultural and procedural) in place for the decisions and actions that can have significant client impacts. We need to get better not just at asking 'if we can' perform an action, but also 'if we should'.
    • Complex issue and case program. We need to identify those cases early, give them the priority they need, and take action with empathy to deliver the best outcome for the ATO and the community.
    • Quality improvement. Using insights and data from past cases, complaints and the other sources, we need to better distinguish between when things are getting off track – either from the client side or due to our actions – and move to a mindset that drives continuous, incremental improvement across the system.
    • Pipeline reviews. The 'Pipeline' is the series of interactions a client has with us that forms their end-to-end experience, from when they join, to when they exit the system (and all of the interactions in between). The pipeline will help us to understand the downstream impacts of the things we do, and don't do, to provide actionable insights that will improve the client and staff experience.

    Data acquisition

    Members were given an overview of the ATO’s data acquisition program. The ATO continues to see an increase in the volume of data received and makes available as pre-fill. The largest datasets are new in the last two years which include Single Touch Payroll, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), shares and units transactions and Superannuation Member Account Transactions. The speed of the sharing of data is also increasing to daily, weekly or monthly. The ATO also now receives data from a number of cryptocurrency designated service providers. Members discussed the benefits of waiting a few weeks to lodge their return when the majority of pre-fill data becomes available.

    The ATO has a program of work to reduce the individuals not in business tax gap by maximising the use of data, information and insights to increase pre-fill, make it easier for taxpayers to comply, reduce errors and make informed decisions.

    ATO impersonation scams

    The ATO takes scamming very seriously noting that this is a global issue which requires coordinated and multi-faceted responses. There are several organisations and agencies which support the ATO with scam prevention including Scamwatch (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), Australian Communications and Media Authority, Australian Cyber Security Centre, AUSTRAC, financial institutions, Apple and Google.

    The ATO has three main reporting channels for use by the Australian public:

    • a dedicated phone line 1800 008 540
    • mailbox for email and SMS scams
    • an online reporting form for non-victims only.

    The ATO considers a number of factors to address scams ranging from community awareness, disruption, prevention and technical solutions. This includes:

    • regular updates on our website about new scam alerts and how to verify or report a scam
    • media releases
    • participating in cross government agency campaigns such as Stay Smart Online, Scam Awareness Week and Privacy Awareness Week
    • working extensively with retailers such as Coles, Woolworths and Target to implement point of sale signage at Apple and Google Play voucher displays to warn of ATO impersonation scam, staff awareness training and messaging on sales receipts.

    Members talked about how they can assist in raising awareness in the community, particularly for vulnerable groups.

    Deceased estates – and individuals perspective

    The ATO highlighted work we are doing with stakeholders to identify areas for improvement that help executors and tax agents finalise estate matters. The focus is initially on fixing two of the most pressing issues which include:

    • providing digital access for tax agents and trustees to a deceased client’s tax information in our new Online Services for Agents
    • automated letter to the Legal Personal Representative or Executor, providing all the useful information that they may need in respect to the deceased’s tax affairs.

    They walked members through a case study of an executor and their experience in finalising an estate. Members shared their experiences and provided suggestions to make the process easier for executors such as factsheets/kits that provide information across other government agencies, superannuation funds and banks.

    Superannuation – update on Protecting Your Super package

    As part of the ‘Protecting Your Super’ initiative which became law earlier this year, the ATO now has the ability to proactively reunite inactive low balance accounts and unclaimed ATO held super to an eligible active super account. The changes will benefit those individuals who may have multiple super accounts and one or more is inactive, by allowing the ATO to proactively reunite their super without them having to do anything. Inactive low-balance accounts are generally where:

    • no contribution or rollover has been received in the last 16 months
    • the account balance is below $6,000
    • there is no insurance on the account
    • the account is not a defined benefit account
    • the member has not satisfied any of the conditions of release
    • the account is not held in a self managed super fund (SMSF) or small Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) fund.

    In addition to reuniting inactive super accounts to an active one, from this morning, direct payments of super are being made into an individual’s bank account if they are 65 years and over or the amount is less than $200. Individuals will receive notification when the ATO has rolled over the amount into an eligible active super account or paid directly to them.

    Members were asked to engage with their stakeholders to encourage them to set up a myGov account and link it to the ATO, and to view their super fund information, including any lost super that is held by a super fund or unclaimed super held by the ATO.

    The dates for the 2020 meetings will be provided to members out of session.

      Last modified: 09 Dec 2019QC 60869