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    Introduction from the Commissioner


    Our annual report is an important part of us being an open and accountable organisation.

    For the ATO, it is an opportunity to not only talk about what we did well to achieve our outcome for the government, and for the community, but also an opportunity to discuss the areas we can and are working to improve.

    This year our report reflects on our significant highlights, delivering on our commitments to government, including state and territory governments in relation to GST.

    2010-11 was again a year in which we worked in and with the community to achieve many results. We partnered with the community to help around 58,000 taxpayers through our Tax Help program and provided communication and public education programs to make our services accessible to diverse audiences.

    We helped to reunite 1.2 million people with their superannuation.

    The work we did to help people and communities affected by the devastating natural disasters that struck parts of the country in 2011 was something we, as an organisation, are proud of.

    We supported the whole-of-government approach, providing trained staff to assist in Centrelink offices. We also offered support visits to thousands of businesses in those in areas affected by natural disasters.

    We maintained our empathetic approach to viable small businesses and individuals experiencing short-term difficulties. At the same time we took prompt action with business that were unviable to protect others from unfair competition.

    Through our Small Business Assistance Program we provided support to 85,000 new and existing businesses. We are there to help business right from the start, as we are there for new migrants and young Australians entering into the tax system for the first time.

    We also developed a dedicated youth website covering all things tax and superannuation for young people. And for the first time we sponsored National Youth Week.

    Of course, we faced many challenges during the year - a year which was affected by weaker than expected economic conditions and natural disasters, placing strain on some people in coping with their tax and superannuation obligations - this required us to be flexible and empathetic.

    Our annual report also features our centenary events, which gave us the opportunity to reflect on our past achievements, and to look to the future. I am confident our vision, values and our people will continue to serve the Australian community well in this new financial year and in the years ahead.

    I encourage all of you to read our annual report and learn about the work we do as an organisation, our achievements and the challenges we face.

    Helping during natural disasters

    During the natural disasters of early 2011 a whole range of areas came together to support our people, the ATO, and the community.

    We recognised our staff internally and what we had to do to support them, but what we recognised the current community, and I think more than we've ever been in any other disaster, we were so much more proactive.

    We had a team of volunteers from the ATO that went up to Queensland to make a difference to a community in Ipswich. They were very surprised to have Tax Officers rolling in mud, as opposed to trying to take some money off them.

    Well I came down this way and the flood waters came up to just around here [demonstrating]. All that area down there [demonstrating] was covered by water.

    Well this is an area which was a shopping centre and we saw the devastation of all the records being held in the car park, which was under water for a period of time.

    The water came up around here [demonstrating]. That business went under water, and this whole area was flooded through. We had garbage bins floating down the street.

    Just as important as building roads, or fixing houses, is returning a community back to normality.

    We had over 40 staff that volunteered under these extreme conditions. We managed to go and visit over 3,000 small businesses.

    I went from Ayr, right up to Cardwell, which was the major focus of the cyclone, so it was good to actually get out and talk to various groups.

    Seeing the shock on some of the people's faces when we initially went to their businesses.

    They asked where I was from, I said I was from Debt, and they looked in horror. And we explained that, you know we're here to help, we're here to assist.

    One lady was actually sitting down preparing her BAS, or attempting to prepare her BAS, and I walked in and I explained the initiatives that the Commissioner had put forward, and she almost burst into tears. She said, "I didn't have the money this month. I couldn't pay. I didn't know what I was going to do."

    And for a small business battling in a really tough economy, taking a week's worth of business out from a month's worth of trading had a huge impact. So again, the fact that we were able to offer that to them was really positive.

    I think it was recognised that the ATO was out there actually assisting them. The staff were just amazing - amazing the way they pulled together.

    That camaraderie in the office, we felt we were doing something positive.

    The Townsville site, the Tax Office, is left with a feeling that we've worked as a team.

    Being out there and having that contact with small businesses.

    When we explained the Commissioner's initiatives to people, they were just stunned, surprised, pleased, and happy, all rolled into one. Every single person we visited had pretty much the same reaction.

    You know, I think we actually humanised the organisation.

    Commemorating our centenary

    David Diment, First Assistant Commissioner - ATO People:
    I think it was a really important time for the ATO to pause, if you like, and reflect on the huge contribution that we've made to the growth of Australia over the last 200 years.

    Quentin Bryce - Governor-General:
    Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm delighted to join you here today at the Australian Taxation Office, to help celebrate your Centenary.

    David Diment:
    How the ATO has grown, and developed, and contributed, is really a reflection on how Australia as a nation commenced, and grew, and contributed to the community.

    Michael D'Ascenzo, Commissioner of Taxation:
    And 100 years is a significant achievement for any organisation in a nation as relatively young Australia.

    David Diment:
    I think it's all about our people. If you read the history that we commissioned for the Centenary, it's a history of change sure, but there's also a part of that history which shows that things that don't change - the same issues that we were focusing on in the first and second decade of the ATO, we're focusing on today.

    Archive News Announcement:
    Preparations have been made to handle speedily the thousands of returns expected in the next few weeks, the aim being to post up to half a million refund cheques by the end of August.

    David Diment:
    I think if we can build a group of people working in the ATO who are committed, are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, that's where our future lies.

    The challenges for the next hundred years are probably at one level the same challenges we faced in the first hundred years, and at the end of the day it all comes down to the quality and the calibre of the people we attract and retain. And the story of the ATO is really the story of the people in the ATO, and I'd suggest to anyone opening the time capsule in 50 years time to really take the time to read that history, because the beauty of history of course is what you learn from it. The first reaction when people open that time capsule will be to look at the fashion, and how we all looked 50 years ago. I'd really suggest that they take the time to sift carefully through the items in that time capsule, look at where we were, look at what we contributed.

    What the Centenary really was about was really pausing to reflect on the huge contribution that the ATO has made to Australia as a country, because when you think about it the history of the ATO pretty much parallels the history of Australia as a nation. Very few countries in the world has a stable tax system as Australia, and if you just look at the contribution that the ATO has made to Australia over those last hundred years, it was a pleasure to be part of those celebrations.

    Our graduate program

    David Diment, First Assistant Commissioner - ATO People:
    The Commissioner has a really great philosophy about the Grad Program, that we recruit for the tax system, not the Tax Office in the long run, and I think that goes to the heart of the success. We attract thousands of people for hundreds of places, and they understand that they're part of one of the largest professional organisations in the country, so it's good for them, but it's also great for us.

    I guess the most attractive thing about the ATO was the chance to work in an organisation that offers such a wide variety of work. We have such a diverse range of work types.

    Being a large national organisation, I knew the ATO would offer me opportunities to work across a number of areas, and within different teams.

    I thought that I could actually use my legal background in order to analyse some of the legislation and things like that, that I didn't have to necessarily work in Court. So I really think it was a good organisation to combine my law background with sort of learning new experiences and actually impacting the society in a good way.

    The entire Graduate Program has been quite rewarding, with the challenges and the opportunities that it has presented. One specific example would be in the Call Centre when I helped out a senior taxpayer with lodging their tax return. Seven months ago I wouldn't have been able to give them that advice, and just being able to put all the learning that we've learnt here in practice has been really rewarding.

    Lots of great networking opportunities in the Grad Program; it's quite a large cohort of Grads, plus you do a number of rotations.

    All the study opportunities and the work rotations have been terrific.

    The advice I would give would probably be to take every opportunity you can. This is a year where you're going to have to meet so many people, and you're going to be involved in so many different areas - just take in as much as you can from the Program.

    Take those opportunities that present themselves, and really step out and not be afraid to make those calls and take those risks.

    David Diment:
    I think it's a great tribute to the ATO and its standing in the community, that we attract so many applicants for the Grad Program, and that we have a very high retention rate for graduates.

    You get out of the program as much as you put in. It's a very challenging Program, but that's what it's there for, to challenge you and to help you develop yourself.

    It's how you respond to those challenges that will sort of define your experiences at the ATO.

    This is just the start of your career, and while you're fresh and new and just out of Uni it's really great to have an organisation that believes in you and really invests time and resources into you, and the ATO definitely does that for their Graduates.

    It's an exciting time to be working with the ATO, you know riding off the back of the global financial crisis. We're in a good era at the moment to sort of set a platform for future years in our role as administering the tax and super system.

    I think at the ATO you can learn a lot of skills and really develop your own personality, and just learn a lot, so it's a good place to be.

      Last modified: 31 Oct 2011QC 28036