Regulators are open and transparent in their dealings with 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.
Ensure risk-based frameworks are publicly available in a format which is clear, understandable and accessible.
Be open and responsive to requests from taxpayers regarding the operation of the tax and superannuation systems, and approaches implemented by the ATO.
Ensure performance measurement results are published in a timely manner to ensure accountability to the public.
Ensure disputes are dealt with in an open and transparent manner.
Self-assessment rating: Good
This assessment is based on the results of the metrics relating to each measure and the examples of how we are open and transparent in our dealings with regulated entities.
Performance improved for two of the three metrics for this KPI and declined for the other.
Community perceptions of confidence in the ATO increased overall. Perceptions of fairness in disputes remained stable with regard to the process but declined with regard to the final decision.
Our governance arrangements support the Commissioner in leading the ATO, setting our strategic direction and ensuring we meet our commitments to government and the community. Arrangements we have in place to assist us in implementing the principles and objectives of corporate governance include:
- sound governance structures
- integrated fraud and risk management
- open and transparent operations
- being accountable to our stakeholders.
We fulfil our corporate governance responsibilities by complying with accountability requirements in legislation and policy and meeting public expectations of good management. We regularly review our corporate governance arrangements and ensure our staff have training and information on how the ATO is governed and how we are all held to account.
Taxpayers’ Charter and management of complaints
Our Taxpayers’ Charter outlines clients’ rights and obligations. It explains what clients can expect from us in administering the tax and superannuation systems and outlines our commitment to dealing with clients in a way that is professional, considers their circumstances, and provides them with relevant information. We are committed to following it in all our dealings. Our performance against the Taxpayers’ Charter in 2020–21 can be considered satisfactory, with a slight improvement in client and community perceptions when compared to 2019–20.
The ATO continues to focus on improving the experience of our clients. Complaints, feedback and compliments provide valuable insights that help us to enhance our services. The ATO’s delivery of the COVID-19 stimulus measures, which benefited millions of Australians, had a flow-on effect to complaints. During 2020–21, we received around 6,300 complaints related to these measures. Across all categories, we received 24,740 complaints in 2020–21; almost equalling the 2019–20 figure of 24,778 (which was also affected by COVID-19).
Complaints continue to represent a very small proportion of our interactions with clients. Of the 19.5 million tax returns lodged annually, about 0.1% of our interactions resulted in complaints. We met our service commitment target, with a complaint finalisation result of 86% resolved in 15 business days or within the date negotiated with the client.
We also received 2,578 items of feedback, which most often related to enhancements to our digital services, as well as our communication products and channels. In addition, we received 2,051 compliments from the community. This recognised our efforts to deliver good client experiences, often relating to positive interactions with our staff, as well as the delivery of stimulus measures and our digital services.
External scrutineers provide independent reviews of the ATO’s operation – either as a result of their own annual program of work, or in response to concerns raised by members of the public and the Australian Parliament. Reviews help us to identify options for improving services to our clients, address potential barriers to willing participation, and ensure the successful delivery of outcomes in our administration of the tax and superannuation systems.
The Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO) released the following reviews and reports in 2020–21:
- Death and Taxes: An investigation into ATO systems and processes for dealing with Deceased Estates (July 2020)
- Aspects of the ATO’s Administration of JobKeeper and Boosting Cash Flow Payments for New Entities (December 2020)
- An investigation and exploration of Undisputed Tax Debts in Australia (June 2021).
The ATO and IGTO have worked together to ensure complaints are directed and escalated through the right channels. This streamlining of processes has contributed to a significant reduction in the number of complaints the ATO received via the IGTO, compared to previous years. In 2020–21, the ATO received 686 complaints via the IGTO (compared to 1,382 in 2019–20). Of these:
- 161 complaints (23.5%) had not previously been lodged with us and were subsequently transferred back to our complaint-handling process
- 525 complaints (76.5%) were referred to us to provide a response to the IGTO for resolution with the client.
IGTO-reported complaints encompass assistance and assurance and are more enquiry-like in nature.
Management of objections and disputes
During 2020–21, we resolved over 29,800 objections. There were 668 applications for Part IVC review or appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) or other courts, with 593 decisions made either in relation to these applications or applications made in earlier years.
This year we prioritised the resolution of stimulus objections that arose from the coronavirus economic response packages to ensure members of the community had certainty on their eligibility and information on alternative support available.
We work with taxpayers to resolve disputes as early as possible. As part of good administration, we regard settlement as an important mechanism for resolving disputes. The Independent Assurance of Settlements (IAS) program reviews and advises on our largest and most significant settlements. This is to provide the Australian community with confidence that our settlements and settlement processes are fair and reasonable, and consistent with legal principles. In 2020–21, 18 settlement cases were reviewed under our Independent Assurance of Settlements Program.