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06 Oct 11 Ombudsman says the Tax Commissioner has agreed to overhaul language

In a media release issued on 5 October 2011, the Taxation Ombudsman, Allan Asher, referred to his speech at the Tax Forum that day in which he welcomed Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo’s agreement to work with him on simplifying the language of tax.

"My office’s investigation work provides me with a unique insight into the delivery of services and administrative practices associated with Australia’s tax system, and it’s clear that tax reform is long overdue. Complaints to my office indicate that what is required is a simpler, more accessible system, along with more streamlined and better resourced external scrutiny of tax administration," Mr Asher said.

In 2010-11, complaints about the ATO represented 13% of all complaints received by the Ombudsman.

Common issues raised by complainants included:

  • not understanding the actions taken by the ATO or what has happened to them
  • having to provide the same documents multiple times
  • multiple interactions and navigation of multiple areas of the ATO as well as other agencies to resolve problems
  • difficulty locating all the information required by the ATO, or struggling to understand or interpret the ATO’s requirements
  • delays, causing significant financial, social and emotional problems
  • correspondence that is vague, not clearly explained and laden with jargon.

The Ombudsman has identified the following priorities for further work:

  • improving the language of government – more than one third of tax complaints are resolved through provision of a better explanation by the ATO or the Ombudsman
  • providing greater access to services – people access services and information in different ways, no-one should be excluded
  • improving complaint handling – addressing the issues raised through a complaint, not just fixing an individual’s complaint.


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