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Published 13 August 2012 11:47, Updated 15 August 2012 05:56
The man who audits the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) wants the public and businesses to tell him the issues he should focus on over the coming year.
There has been a rocky relationship between the ATO and business in recent years, with various reviews pointing out problems in the way the ATO classifies taxpayer risk and a string of lost court battles against companies.
The Inspector -General of Taxation, Ali Noroozi, has released his work program for the year but instead of listing the issues he wants to focus on, he’s called for input.
While the Ombudsman handles individual taxpayer complaints, the inspector-general’s office handles systematic failures and gets “unrestricted access to the Tax Office’s internal system, records and personnel”.
“This consultation process is a valuable opportunity for the community to come forward and raise systemic tax administration issues that are of concern,” Noroozi says. “By necessity, the ATO is a monopoly service provider to the Australian community. As such it is imperative that effective governance and scrutineering functions are engaged to address concerns.”
Noroozi says there’s been “enduring improvements to tax administration” in the 10 years that the IGT has been around. He points to major reviews that found problems in the way the ATO manages the SME market and what has been labelled “u-turns” on a plethora of issues, including trusts and other areas of tax law. In many cases, he says the Tax Office has agreed and implemented most of his recommendations.
Noroozi says any reports of problems with the ATO will be treated with the “strictest confidence”. “Where applicable, legal professional privilege is also maintained in relation to any matters raised ” he says.
Over the past year some issues raised with Noroozi as potential review topics include how the Tax Office rates risk, its compliance approach to micro enterprises and individuals and its administration of penalties. Many of these issues impact on Australia’s SME market, which has become a focus for the Tax Office, in addition to Australia’s biggest companies.
He also pointed to problems with the ATO’s use of client feedback questionnaires, which are often found to show that people are satisfied, but then the Inspector-General’s reviews find they are not.
Other potential topics identified, that impact big business, include the ATO’s administration of the general anti-avoidance provisions; its compliance approach to transfer pricing; its test case litigation program and Project Wickenby.
“I urge taxpayers, tax practitioners and their representative bodies to comment on the suitability of the above as review topics as well as raising any other topics arising out of their interactions with the ATO,” Noroozi says.
The public can make submissions by September 28 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org