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Former UK tax commissioner named next IGTO


Ruth Owen will replace outgoing tax ombudsman Karen Payne on 15 July.

By Christine Chen 11 minute read

Ruth Owen, veteran public servant and former UK tax commissioner, has been appointed the next inspector-general of taxation and taxation ombudsman for a five-year term.

She would replace outgoing tax ombudsman Karen Payne on 15 July 2024, the government said in a statement on Friday.

Owen has been the deputy secretary of the NSW Premier’s Department since August 2023 where she led its Strategic Implementation Group focused on public service reform.


Stephen Jones, Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, said Owen’s extensive experience would strengthen the IGTO’s role in providing independent oversight and investigation of the ATO and TPB’s administrative practices.

“Ms Owen brings a wealth of experience in tax, public sector reform, complaints management and dispute resolution, having spent more than 30 years in various senior leadership positions across the public sector in Australia and the United Kingdom,” he said.

Owen began her career in 1990 with the Department for Work and Pensions, the UK’s social security office, becoming Jobcentre Plus deputy CEO and chief operating officer in 2008.

From 2012 to 2017, she was a director general and tax commissioner of His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, where she oversaw the agency's transformation into a digital operation and closed 280 offices, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She also led all customer-facing operations and advised ministers on all customer service delivery matters, it said.

She then served as EY Sydney's human services lead partner from 2017 to 2020 before moving to the NSW government.

Jones said Owen’s appointment also continued the government’s “strong record” of appointing high‑performing women for senior public sector roles.

He praised the outgoing Payne for holding the ATO and TPB’s administrative actions to account, improving the overall administration of the tax and superannuation systems “for the benefit of the Australian community”.

“The government would also like to thank the outgoing IGT, Ms Karen Payne, for her service and contribution leading the IGTO over the past five years,” he said.

As IGTO, Payne launched a number of investigations into the ATO's powers and processes including its communication with taxpayers, general powers of administration and management of objections.

This year, she also spoke out against the ATO’s on-hold debts campaign, criticised its client-agent linking protocol and released an investigation into its handling of tax identity fraud.

Christine Chen

Christine Chen


Christine Chen is a graduate journalist at Accountants Daily and Accounting Times, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting sector.

Previously, Christine has written for City Hub, the South Sydney Herald and Honi Soit. She has also produced online content for LegalVision and completed internships at EY and Deloitte.

Christine has a commerce degree from the University of Western Australia and is studying a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Sydney. 

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