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14 Mar 13 Commissioner's address to The Tax Institute - "Tax, the way ahead"

On 14 March 2013, the Commissioner, Chris Jordan, gave an address entitled "Tax, the way ahead" to The Tax Institute's Tax Institute 28th Annual Convention held in Perth, Western Australia.

In his address, the Commissioner focussed on the following themes:

  • the design of the tax system - the contribution all parties can make together to law design; in terms of new law, changes to existing laws and the interactions between different laws
  • the quicker resolution of technical issues and disputes, and
  • the more effective consultation and engagement.

In relation to the first of these, the Commissioner said:

"For some time the ATO has championed improvements to the tax and super systems to make it easier for taxpayers to do the right thing. However, I think there is an opportunity in the current policy design environment for us to contribute more comprehensively with a 'solution based' approach.

Through our cooperative relationship with Treasury officers and other agencies, we will identify problems, opportunities and solutions for improving the tax system and its administration.

ATO tax technical experts will be involved in all relevant law change. Further, external expert involvement, collaboratively and continuously from inception should produce a better product, deliver more certainty, and reduce the need to continually test and clarify the law."

In relation to the second of these, the Commissioner said:

"One of the recommendations by the Inspector General, which I believe will be of particular interest to Tax Institute members, was for the ATO to pilot the use of specially trained ATO facilitation officers to conduct and process smaller, less complex disputes. The current pilot uses facilitators, not necessarily from our law or compliance areas, for indirect tax objections. For example, we have staff from our HR area leading the facilitations. Feedback has been very positive and most cases have been resolved at or shortly after facilitation."


"Last year we implemented a new large business, internal review process where a taxpayer did not agree with the ATO's final audit position, prior to amended assessments and prior to objection. This followed a recommendation by the Inspector General of Taxation. I support this initiative, but I don't think it went far enough. I want to tackle any perception the review process lacks independence. To ensure a review process that is genuinely independent, and perceived as such, I want to change what we currently do and have the large business pre-assessment review undertaken by a senior technical person in our law area rather than our large business area."

In relation to the third of these, the Commissioner said:

"I want to better focus the consultation process. My aim is not to dilute the process, but to consistently get worthwhile results. Is there an alternative which involves shorter, more tailored and specific consultation on hot topics or issues that are really important at that time?

We are currently reviewing consultative arrangements, drawing on the work done by the Board of Taxation a few years ago.

It may mean the people involved in consultation would vary over time and according to the issue. One group may not necessarily be the right group for every change or every aspect of a change. I want consultation focussed on problem solving with the right people, at the right time, on the right matters.

I envisage a consultative process that is responsive and agile - one that takes a holistic view of the entire interaction with people. We do not want 'consultation for consultation's sake'. It must be dynamic and add value."


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