Individual Taxpayer Liaison Group Minutes, 26 March 2014

Meeting details

Venue: ATO, 21 Genge St Canberra ACT, Skybridge Conference Room Level 8

Date: 26 March 2014

Start: 9.30am

Finish: 12.55pm

Chair: Steve Vesperman

Contact and Secretariat: Kerry Ryan

Contact phone: (02) 9374 5781




Hamidullah Nida


Dr Barry Ritchie

Association of Independent Retirees

Edward Patching

Australian Shareholders Association

Carmel Franklin

Financial Counselling Australia

Michael O’Neill

National Seniors

Therese Sands

People with Disability

Mark Chapman

Taxpayers Australia

Rob Donelly

The Treasury



Steve Vesperman

Deputy Commissioner, Small Business/Individual Taxpayers

Robyn Clayton

Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Small Business/Individual Taxpayers

John Shepherd

Assistant Commissioner, Superannuation

Karen Anstis

Assistant Commissioner, Small Business/Individual Taxpayers



Jonathon Thorpe

Senior Director, Customer Services and Solutions

Mark Burt

Senior Director, Small Business/Individual Taxpayers (by phone)

Mark Nixon

Director, Small Business/Individual Taxpayers




Tanya von Ahlefeldt

Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia

Frank Brass

H&R Block

Eun Ju Kim-Baker

Youth representative


Individual Taxpayer Liaison Group agendas, minutes and related papers are not binding on the ATO or any of the other bodies referred to in these papers. While every effort is made to accurately record the views expressed, the wording necessarily represents a summary of statements of general position only, and care should be taken in interpreting those statements. These papers reflect the position at the date of release (unless otherwise noted) and readers should note that the position on any issue may subsequently change.

Agenda items

1. Welcome and introductions

Steve Vesperman, Deputy Commissioner Small Business/Individual Taxpayers (Chair) welcomed attendees to the inaugural meeting of the Individual Taxpayer Liaison Group.

The following ATO representatives also attended the meeting:

Robyn Clayton

Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Small Business/Individual Taxpayers

John Shepherd

Assistant Commissioner, Superannuation

Karen Anstis

Assistant Commissioner, Small Business/Individual Taxpayers

Treasury was represented by Rob Donelly, Chief Adviser, Personal and Retirement Income Division.

Attendees introduced themselves around the table and provided a brief overview of the organizations/roles they represented at the meeting.

Apologies were noted as per the agenda.

Endorsement of 1 August 2013 meeting minutes

The minutes of the final meeting of the Individual Taxpayer Advisory Forum meeting on 1 August 2013 were endorsed without change.

Open action items

There was one open action item from the above meeting which was addressed in the meeting minutes.

2. Opening remarks

In opening the meeting, Chair Steve Vesperman commented that the ATO is embarking on an exciting journey towards 2020 that will be quite significant and require the ATO to incrementally keep pace with change.

Reflecting on the considerable change in the tax and superannuation systems over the past ten years, and although it is difficult to imagine what those systems will look like in 2020, it is important that the ATO keep pace with change to ensure Australia has strong tax and superannuation systems that contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of Australians.

The ATO is in the process of developing a vision and plan for the next seven to ten years, and further opportunities may be identified through the government’s White Paper on taxation.

In the next year or so, the ATO will be focusing on how it can improve its administration to make it easier for people to meet their obligations - for example, simplifying its internal processes and greater use of technology. It is also keen to hear members’ views about possible legislative amendments that might be considered.

Given this context, the meeting agenda is forward focused, and the ATO will share and engage on the 2020 vision at future meetings.

Meeting discussion

Treasury also noted it was keen to hear representatives’ views on current irritants and concerns, particularly those that might be addressed through minor ‘tweaks’ to the law. However the need to maintain the revenue constrains policy responses.

Feedback was provided that community organisations find it difficult to distinguish between the responsibilities of the ATO and Treasury. Clarification was sought about the Treasury role on the Group with the Treasury representative confirming ongoing standing membership of the group.

3. Update about the ATO consultation and engagement framework

Karen Anstis (ATO) provided an update about changes to the ATO’s consultation arrangements that have been implemented progressively since 1 July 2013.

The many consultative forums previously operated by the ATO have been streamlined and simplified, and additional support arrangements have been put in place.

Although the number of formal consultation groups has been reduced, the Commissioner expects senior ATO leaders to more actively engage with the community through a range of engagement touch points.

The ATO consults in many ways including:

  • formal stewardship committees such as the Individual Taxpayer Liaison Group
  • focus groups
  • research
  • user testing.

An ATO consultation protocol outlines some key principles and highlights the responsibilities of all parties involved in ATO consultation activities. A copy of the Protocol was provided at the meeting (a link was previously circulated by email). The guidelines support the ATO to engage earlier and to consult about sensitive or confidential matters.

The ATO opened up the discussion to members about their expectations of the Group.

There was positive feedback about including sufficient time for consultation as part of the Protocol. This was seen as facilitating more meaningful consultation since community organisations need more time to obtain their members views on issues.

Further feedback indicated that successful consultation requires early and genuine engagement. Treasury agreed but noted that circumstances may impose constraints on consultation, for example when Budget measures need to be implemented quickly, or consultation relates to the implementation of a specific measure.

The ATO encouraged members to become actively involved in setting the agenda for meetings of the Group by raising forward agenda items and identifying any irritants, concerns or worries. Where there is enough lead time, the ATO may be able to do some initial work on the topics raised and bring this to next meeting for discussion.

The following issues were raised for consideration as future agenda topics:

  • Simplifying access to support and services to help new arrivals to Australia to understand and meet their tax obligations. The ATO commented it is keen to improve these services and welcomed any suggestions.
  • How people with disabilities access services, and the provision of targeted information about the implications of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
  • Making it easier for people with outstanding obligations to bring these up to date.

4 myGov for individuals

Jonathon Thorpe from the ATO’s Customer Services and Solutions business line attended the meeting to provide an overview of myGov. Mark Burt from the ATO’s Small Business/Individual Taxpayer area joined the meeting by phone for this agenda item.

Previously, accessing government online services required a separate account with each agency and different password for each. Several years ago work was initiated to provide users with access to many agencies via a single account. This work is being led by the Department of Human Services.

The myGov website was launched in May 2013 to replace the account service. It is a fast and simple way to use government services online. One secure myGov account gives access to a range of Australian government services via Link

Since going live in 2013, 1.7 million accounts have been registered with myGov.

The following federal government agencies are part of myGov:

  • Medicare
  • The personally controlled eHealth Record System
  • Centrelink
  • Child Support
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Creating a myGov account is relatively simple and takes only a few minutes. It requires a unique email address and setting up some secret questions. Users can choose which services are relevant for them and link these to their account.

Over time myGov will expand across Australian government agencies and jurisdictions. The ATO will be joining myGov shortly and from Tax Time 2014, e-tax will authenticate using myGov for pre-fill and lodgment.

New services coming shortly include access to myGov via the ATO’s smart phone app, and digital mail (such as notices of assessment, which will eliminate the need to phone the ATO to obtain copies). The ATO encouraged members to provide further suggestions for how the ATO can take advantage of myGov.

There are benefits in using myGov for both users and government agencies, however the ATO is mindful that some people do not have online access.

Meeting discussion

The myGov user name is randomly allocated and not very user friendly - if people decide to record it so they can remember it, there may be a security risk.

The ability to use an email address or mobile phone number as the myGov user name will be offered in a future release.

MyGov complies with government accessibility standards and renders according to the device it is being used on.

There was some concern that people may disengage during registration if they find the process too difficult or they need to locate additional information to register. It was recommended that up front advice is provided about the information needed to register.

Concerns were raised about complexities with current online services (and those of other departments) - while myGov looks like it’s heading in the right direction, it may just add another layer.

Action item

ITLG 2014/03-01

ATO to consider including an agenda item at a future meeting about users experiences with the ATO’s website



Due date

Next meeting


Action item

ITLG 2014/03-02

ATO to consider scheduling an out of session teleconference prior to the next meeting to update members about myGov developments



Due date

Next meeting

5. What’s new for Tax Time 2014

Karen Anstis, Assistant Commissioner Small Business /Individual Taxpayers and Mark Nixon, Director, Small Business/Individual Taxpayers, attended the meeting to provide an overview of Tax Time 2014 changes and how the ATO will be communicating these to the community.

Karen outlined some of the changes that individual taxpayers can expect in Tax Time 2014, which will affect both electronic and paper lodgers. These pose some significant challenges as different groups of lodgers will need different communications, and some people may find the changes difficult to understand.

To improve and simplify the process for the majority of paper lodgers, the ATO is removing less commonly used labels from the 2014 paper tax return. A small group of paper lodgers will be impacted by this and will need to lodge electronically. The ATO is exploring a range of options to support this group to transition to electronic lodgment.

ATO update

The paper offer for 2014 will mirror the one developed for 2013. A single paper tax return had been proposed which would have removed labels that related to more complex tax affairs. However following analysis of research into the impact on the affected population, this option was not pursued.
Paper instructions and returns can be ordered from the ATO by phone or online, or obtained through ATO shopfronts. Following changes in 2013, paper instructions are no longer available through newsagents. Newsagents will have a postcard to give to customers with details on how to order a paper return

Mark Nixon outlined that there will be a strong focus on direct communication for Tax Time 2014, supported by broader communications designed to bring people to the ATO’s website. Additional communication will be targeted at self-preparers, including a personal letter for e-tax and paper lodgers.

The ATO is trying to strike the right balance between generic and tailored messaging and is keen to incorporate any feedback from members about its approaches or letters. It offered to arrange a teleconference with interested members to explore their views.

It also offered to provide content for member organisations’ newsletters and other communication channels for those who would find this useful.

Reflecting on some of the changes implemented by the ATO in Tax Time 2013, feedback was provided that it was important that the ATO engage early and exercise care in the language used to communicate about changes.

A concern was raised that as a consequence of the question in tax returns about future lodgment intentions, the ATO may potentially be getting around 165,000 returns from people over 65 years old that are not required because people are fearful they may be fined for non-lodgment. The ATO undertook to further explore this out of session.

Action item

ITLG 2014/03-03

ATO to arrange out of session consultation with interested members to discuss Tax Time 2014 communications including letters to paper lodgers



Due date

May 2014


Action item

ITLG 2014/03-04

ATO to explore issues relating to the future lodgment intentions question on individual income tax returns out of session with the relevant member/s



Due date

Next meeting

6. Member organisation update/General business

Steve Vesperman introduced this item as a standing agenda item where members provide an update on any topical tax and superannuation issues from their organisations and/or identify any topics for consideration at future meetings.

Issues discussed included:

  • public service budget reductions are impacting on the broader community, for example taxi drivers, the construction industry and contractors to the public service
  • the tax and superannuation implications of the NDIS, including employer obligations and allowable deductions are not clear
  • there are implications from the phasing out of the net medical expenses tax offset for people over 65 years old with a disability who are not eligible for the NDIS
  • new arrivals to Australia often lack an understanding of taxation issues, including:
  • lack of awareness/unfamiliarity with the ATO’s website and how to locate information on it
  • consequences of not lodging tax returns
  • small business taxation issues, for example taxable vs. non-taxable items
  • record keeping requirements (including receipts) and allowable deductions
  • availability of education programs about tax and super for people such as university students joining the workforce
  • policy intentions regarding tax deductions. Treasury commented about the need to balance administrative cost and financial benefit and for broad consultation about policy changes
  • self-funded retirees and the introduction of SuperStream. The ATO advised that from 1 July 2014 large and medium employers will progressively start to make contributions under the SuperStream standard. The implementation will be phased in progressively for all employers. The ATO recently conducted a mail out which included self-managed super funds.

An update will be provided with the meeting minutes and a superannuation item included on the agenda for the next meeting.

Action item

ITLG 2014/03-05

ATO to organise an out of session discussion about employer obligations under NDIS with Therese Sands (PwDA) and Carmel Franklin (Financial Counselling Australia) members



Due date

30 June 2014


Action item

ITLG 2014/03-06

ATO to include an agenda item about superannuation at the next meeting



Due date

Next meeting


Action item

ITLG 2014/03-07

ATO to consider including an agenda item about community irritants relating to tax and superannuation at a future meeting



Due date

Future meeting

7. Wrap up and close

Steve Vesperman noted the ATO’s appreciation of the valuable feedback provided at the meeting and thanked members for their contributions.

The next meeting will be held on 31 July 2014.

    Last modified: 13 May 2015QC 40833