In an address to the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia National Small Business Summit, ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan announced the launch of “Better as Usual”, a new program at work aimed at improving interaction with the tax system.
“A taxpayer may see many faces of the ATO, and we know it is frustrating to feel you have to start again when dealing with a new area or different people,” Mr Jordan said.
The program will be led by Second Commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn, covering four work programs to improve client experience with the ATO.
“We’re committed to ensuring that every time a client deals with us, we understand the end-to-end experience they have with us: from lodgement to disputes and debt management, and perhaps most importantly, to their lodgement again next year,” Mr Jordan added.
Further, the ATO will seek to improve its feedback loops to better understand if a small business is undergoing a difficult time or is simply being purposefully reckless.
It will also create a dedicated team to work on complex cases so that it will have “people who are used to dealing with people who are trying not to do the right thing”.
“In a number of objections or complaints, there is a story; there is something that has gone a little bit off track rather than any purposeful recklessness,” Mr Jordan said.
“We know that by better understanding and documenting our past experience, we can make better decisions in the future. We have to better distinguish between things getting off track and reckless indifference or blatant evasion.
“[With those who have gone off track,] we have to give more empathy, exercise more discretion versus someone who has been recklessly indifferent or [is committing] blatant evasion, because we will come down hard there.”
Mr Jordan also stressed that the ATO would implement a series of procedural and cultural safeguards to reduce and ultimately eliminate any cases where then agency’s mistakes could have a severe impact on the client.
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.