Mr Jordan broadly welcomed the IGOT’s findings, which point to issues in the ATO’s Adelaide office with debt recovery practice as opposed to broader, systemic issues.
“I am pleased to see that the independent external scrutineer of the ATO has made it crystal clear that there were no revenue targets for our debt staff at any time, and no ‘cash grab,’” Mr Jordan said.
“It is pleasing to see that the Inspector-General found absolutely no evidence of a culture of antagonism against small businesses or any other type of taxpayer. In their review, they found professional, hard-working people following our processes and attempting to do their often-difficult job as well as possible,” he said.
However, the report is clear that ATO staff were not appropriately exercising power in all occasions.
“There were certainly small business people who were disaffected as a result of the garnishee notices being inappropriately used,” Mr McLouglin said.
“While it is a relatively small group as compared to the number of garnishee notices issued, it is very important that the system demonstrates care for disaffected taxpayers,” he said.
The report also made a series of recommendations to tighten up debt recovery practices at the ATO, including:
• to have contingency plans for major assumptions used to estimate staffing resources needed for collection activities, to minimise the impact should the assumptions not hold;
• to improve the automated models which select garnishee cases for ATO staff to review and refine these models with feedback from staff, to remove taxpayers who are less likely to warrant garnishee action;
• to facilitate consistency of communications between ATO staff at all levels, for critical or complex messages where major changes to work focus occur; and
• improve support for the ATO’s Early Intervention debt staff by providing those staff with direct feedback on cases they work on, and by incorporating role-playing exercises into training sessions, both of which support better staff decision-making.