- ATO Second Commissioner Andrew Mills says the ATO has listened to criticisms and is promoting a “culture of fairness” in how it deals with taxpayers, especially SMEs.
- The recently implemented Independent Review for Small Business allows small business owners who have been audited by the ATO to ask for a review of the outcome before the assessment is finalised.
- The ATO has evolved its dispute resolution process to put distance between the assessment and appeals sections within the tax office.
- The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has not only listened to suggestions about how to improve its handling of disputes, it’s implemented almost all of them, the agency’s second commissioner Andrew Mills says. The ATO’s aim now is to promote what he calls a “culture of fairness”.
It’s understandable that Mills would be keen to return fire. The agency has taken some direct hits on the public relations battlefield over the past few years.
There was the Cranston Affair that erupted in May 2017, when the ATO commissioner, Chris Jordan, was on leave and Mills was in the hot seat as acting commissioner. Former ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston faced charges of abusing his office to obtain information after his son, Adam, was allegedly involved in a conspiracy in which subsidiaries of Plutus Payroll were used to skim off millions of dollars owed to the ATO.
There was the ABC Four Corners program in February 2018, titled “Mongrel Bunch of Bastards”, that portrayed the ATO as heartless and aggressive in its dealings with small business.
This all follows the public relations fallout from major IT outages in December 2016 and July 2017.
Mills says that if trust in the tax system falls then so does compliance. He says the level of trust is ultimately determined by the quality of the everyday experiences of people as they interact with the ATO, and that quality can in turn be gauged by their perception of fairness in disputes.