13 Aug 10 ATO accountability - where is it?MEMBER 245 writes:
"Dear Taxation Institute
I started as a young graduate tax accountant with a Big 5 (as it was then) accounting firm in Sydney in 1995 and have been an Australian tax practitioner, either in public practice or in industry, continuously since then. In my humble opinion, the ATO's relationship with the profession, and the community more generally, has never been lower during my fifteen odd years of practice as it is now. Conversely, the ATO seems to be less accountable to the community than it has ever been.
When I started work in 1995, the ATO under Commissioner Michael Carmody was there to do a job. You could disagree with positions that the ATO took on specific matters, or how they went about the job generally, but at the end of the day the ATO personnel did their job, we did our's and our taxpayer clients were generally happy.
Fast forward to 2010 and the ATO of today has been transformed into an agency that is strident about its successes and wholly defensive about its failures. Commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo has plenty of time to draft press releases on how much revenue Project Wickenby has generated for the public coffers, meanwhile we are told that the ATO is generally "satisfied" with its IT Change program despite widespread delay in processing of refunds and returns. Millions have been spent on the Change project, far more than initiatives like Wickenby have raised, and questions have been asked about why it has been implemented so poorly, but as far as I'm aware not a single senior hand has been seriously slapped - God forbid that heads should roll.
We are about to go to a Federal election where each member of Parliament and each political party is accountable to the Australian people. Yet as uncertain as the outcome of that election is right now, we can be certain that whoever is Federal Treasurer on Monday 23 August will continue to be served by Commissioner D'Ascenzo and his senior management team, with no end in sight. How is it that the management of the ATO can be so much less accountable than their political masters?
Keep up the good work."