At the end of the nineteenth century each of the six Australian colonies had their own tax systems, which were almost entirely reliant on customs and excise duties. The design of these tax systems was largely driven by administrative concerns, rather than principles of equity or efficiency.
Australia's earliest national taxes were customs and excise duties, which the states gave up in order to secure interstate free trade and ensure adequate protection for Australian industry. Customs duties were also designed to act as trade barriers between the colonies. One of the significant results of Federation in 1901 was the removal of all duties on goods traded between Australian states.
The Australian Taxation Office has its roots in the Land Tax Act 1910, when a Commissioner of Land Taxation was appointed to administer the legislation and an office under the direction of the Commissioner was created as a branch of Treasury. This office has had several names during its history including Federal Taxation Office, Commonwealth Taxation Office and now the Australian Taxation Office.
For a detailed history of the ATO see:
- Working for all Australians 1910-2010: a brief history of the Australian Taxation Office.