Regulators do not unnecessarily impede the efficient operation of regulated entities
The following table shows the measures of good regulatory performance and the related metrics. The results of the metrics and analysis are outlined in the Appendix.
Demonstrate an understanding of the operating environment of the industry or organisation, or the circumstances of individuals and the current and emerging issues that affect the sector.
Take actions to minimise the potential for unintended negative impacts of ATO activities on taxpayers or affected supplier industries and supply chains.
1, 4, 5, S2
Implement continuous improvement strategies to reduce the costs of compliance for taxpayers.
Self-assessment rating: Good
This assessment is based on the results of the metrics relating to each measure and the examples of how we have reduced impediments to the efficient operation of regulated entities.
Performance either improved or met target for six of the eight metrics for this KPI, one was broadly stable, and one is based on activities.
Positive outcomes were achieved during 2020–21 with respect to improved results for availability of key digital systems, proportion of inbound transactions received digitally for key services, and compliance costs for individuals. We also met our performance target for the reduction in the administrative cost to business and government in dealing with each other. The number of complaints received remained steady.
Making it easy to comply
We aim to improve the experience of our clients by interacting with them at the right time, providing certainty in our communication, and making appropriate adjustments for individual circumstances – including those impacted by COVID-19.
Across all our client groups, we maintained our focus on communicating how to access stimulus measures, tailoring our response to their circumstances, and making it easy for them to comply with their obligations. For example:
- Recognising the pandemic-related restrictions imposed on the community would result in many people working from home for the first time, we made it easier to claim deductions for working from home expenses, extending the ‘shortcut’ method for the 2020–21 income year. We also made dealing with new payment types easier for our clients by pre-filling information relating to JobSeeker into employees’ tax returns, and pre-filling JobKeeper that was passed onto employees by employers – as a part of our regular practice to pre-fill salary and wages.
- We ensured the pre-fill service was able to provide JobSeeker amounts to simplify the return process and increase accuracy of individual income tax returns being lodged (JobKeeper amounts paid to employees by their employer were also pre-filled as a part of our regular practice to pre-fill salary and wages).
- We continued to demonstrate our commitment to supporting small businesses, ensuring clients with in-progress audits were contacted, either directly or through their agents, and offered assistance. Our engagements were tailored and where clients advised us of COVID-19-related impacts, we offered support and additional time in consideration of their circumstances. Our key message was that help is always available to small businesses that need it and are willing to engage with us.
- We committed to swift resolution of disputes that arose from the coronavirus economic response packages by prioritising the resolution of stimulus objections. This ensured members of the community had certainty on their eligibility and information on alternative support available.
- For tax practitioners, we acknowledged the challenges they faced in managing their clients’ lodgment obligations in the context of accessing stimulus payments. We implemented a range of practical support options, including access to a tailored lodgment program, penalty relief for late lodgments, and the ability to assist their clients to enter into flexible payment plans online.
- We streamlined application processes to obtain excise permits and licences for the production of alcohol-based hand sanitiser; relaxed licensing requirements for the sale of takeaway alcoholic beverages; and deferred excise payment by petroleum and alcohol companies, consistent with deferrals of other taxes during COVID-19.
Addressing unintended outcomes in tax and superannuation laws
When the law is not working as intended or is creating disproportionate compliance costs, the Commissioner’s remedial power provides the ability to resolve smaller unforeseen or unintended outcomes in the tax and superannuation law, in limited circumstances. The Commissioner exercised this power twice in 2020–21:
- In December 2020, a modification took effect enabling disabled people access to GST-free supplies of cars and car parts where a current certificate of medical eligibility has been obtained.
- In May 2021, a modification took effect enabling foreign resident employees under the Seasonal Labour Mobility Program (who have held a temporary work visa) to remain liable to a final concessional withholding tax rate of 15%. This modification was made due to COVID-19 restrictions on international travel.
The Commissioner published seven additional issues to the list of when the Commissioner’s remedial power was considered but not exercised in 2020–21.
Changed approaches during COVID-19
We are enhancing our online services to meet the growing demand for digital interactions and expanding self-serve options that enable the community to easily manage their interactions at a time that suits them. This year, we redesigned some of our work and diverted resources to assist clients through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing payment and debt management options with quicker access to refunds, deferral of lodgments and payments, and providing low-interest payment plans.
We also adjusted our debt collection approaches in three phases to enable clients to get back on track:
- Help and assist – focusing our interactions on understanding the client’s circumstances and providing the appropriate support.
- Advice about future action – gradually reintroducing messages about potential future action for clients who continue not to engage.
- Additional action – recommencing firmer and stronger actions where appropriate, having regard to the client’s circumstances.
Improving digital services
Our Optimising interactions through self-service channels strategic initiative is focused on creating better services and making self-service (digital/online) channels the preferred option for the majority of our clients and their agents. This year, we invested in optimising our online self-help content to make it easier to access via search engines and worked with Services Australia to encourage the use of ATO self-service channels. This included:
- promoting the ATO’s online calculators via the myGov digital assistant
- directing clients to the ATO website and online tools from the Services Australia website
- ensuring tools and calculators are easily visible on the ATO website.
We continued to invest in myGovID to enhance the security of digital and online services by providing online users with an easy and secure method of proving their identity online and helping them to better protect their identity and data. We expanded client access to myGovID by including Australian citizenship certificates and ImmiCards as accepted identity documents, enabling clients to achieve a greater online identity strength. Other improvements included renewing the myGovID credential and making accessibility improvements to support screen readers in iOS and Android.
The Digital Identity program has been a critical enabler to support individuals and businesses to access a range of government online services and stimulus measures. By the end of 2020–21, there were:
- 3.5 million downloads of myGovID
- 2.7 million myGovID accounts created
- 1.3 million unique Australian business numbers (ABNs) linked in RAM
- 1.9 million ABN authorisations established in RAM.
Support for the superannuation system
We supported the superannuation system by:
- delivering the Superannuation Guarantee Amnesty project, which ran from 24 May 2018 to 7 September 2020, providing employers with a one-off chance to catch up on unpaid superannuation
- publishing data on lost and unclaimed superannuation for greater transparency of the information we hold and to help people locate superannuation money they may have lost track of
- working closely with stakeholders, including businesses, professional tax associations and the superannuation industry, to implement a range of new superannuation rates and thresholds, including the superannuation guarantee rate, transfer balance cap threshold, and contribution caps.