Addressing attendees at the 2015 IPA National Congress, Mr Walker acknowledged that while very few taxpayers deal directly with the tax office, a majority of ATO actions and communications have ignored the role of the tax agent.
“I think that’s a difficult thing my organisation has to come to grips with, and although we are responding to it, the reality is there has to be a lot more emphasis placed on what we do for you rather than what we do against you,” Mr Walker said.
Systems implemented by the ATO have negatively impacted tax agents, he said, despite the ATO's belief that the changes were made at “the right time” – specifically to the myGov inbox and client correspondence lists.
Mr Walker also vented his own frustrations at the tax office's past failures, claiming the organisation has accomplished very little in "the portal space".
“I was annoyed because everything that we had done last year to try to build relationships and get people to understand that we are in partnership seemed to be flying out the door because everything we did in the portal space went wrong,” he told attendees.
Alongside a failure to implement certain operations, Mr Walker noted that communication from the ATO was often contradictory and conflicting.
“One of the things that annoys me is that I go out there and sell a message but people in our organisation often forget that message and tunnel it back into ‘let’s supply the taxpayer’,” he noted.
“They don’t get that the vast majority of taxpayers don’t deal with us directly.”
Mr Walker added that the relationship between the ATO and tax agents will in the foreseeable future see an “extensive amount of change”.
“The strength and speed of change over the last 5 or 6 years has been phenomenal,” he said.
“You either see it as an opportunity or you see it as something that’s going to cause you great pain. There’s the opportunity to do something different but at the same time continue to add value – it’s fantastic,” he said.