ATO awards recognise the ‘best of’ its staff, and a schoolyard rap video

By The Mandarin

Monday December 9, 2019

Taxation Commissioner Chris Jordan.

The Australian Taxation Office has handed out its annual internal awards to outstanding staff and invited a group of schoolkids in to receive their own awards at the same time, for creative ideas on how to convey the importance of taxation and superannuation.

The ATO’s Best of the Best Awards recognise shining examples of achievement and innovation from among its 18,000 staff, who work in a huge range of jobs at 22 locations around the country.

Commissioner Chris Jordan presented nine commendations to tax officials who have “gone above and beyond the call of duty to do truly outstanding work” on Wednesday, the ATO informs us.

The Seven Network’s finance commentator David Koch, of Sunrise fame, was brought in to host the proceedings, which were combined with presentation of awards to a group of primary and secondary school students for their creative efforts to explain the benefits of tax and superannuation as part of the Tax, Super + You competition.

One talented winning entry made impressive use of claymation, and we’re sure the winner of the senior high school category, Ryan Carter from Geraldton in Western Australia, has a bright future ahead.

ATO chief operating officer Jacqui Curtis says the common thread between the different skills and roles of the agency’s staff is their shared purpose.

“The winners all do such different work at the ATO, but what links them is the impact they have had on the lives of taxpayers,” she told The Mandarin by email.

Curtis, the ATO’s former human resources chief who was recently made the head of the HR profession for the whole of the Australian Public Service, says internal awards programs like this are a valuable way of improving organisational culture.

“Recognising the value, effort and contributions of others helps us to create a better and more rewarding workplace culture. Each of the award winners made a true difference to the lives of taxpayers, whether it was through their interactions with clients or the way they improved how the ATO operates.

“Our focus is on improving the day-to-day lives of taxpayers.

David Koch

“For example this year we’ve seen Australia face some pretty severe weather events, including droughts and bushfires, and some of our clients have been doing it tough. It’s been really rewarding for me to see our officers make a real impact on those taxpayers’ lives by acting with empathy and kindness.”

The ATO set up a dedicated disaster hotline and it extended help to Australians who are doing it tough by approving 175,000 tax return lodgment deferrals and 37,000 payment plans. “By reassuring these clients that tax can wait, we were able to clear one thing off their plates and make a genuine difference to their situation,” a spokesperson said.

Tax office employee Deborah Howard earned a Best of the Best award for innovation in service delivery after she implemented a system of real-time alerts so ATO customer service staff could tell right away when they were speaking to someone affected by a natural disaster. “As a result, our staff are primed not just to offer the practical support measures we have implemented, but the empathy and comfort that makes all the difference,” said the ATO statement.

Tamara Colosimo was also recognised with a Best of the Best award for excellence in client service. We’re told she consistently displays compassion and goes above and beyond her normal duties to solve complex issues. “For example, she recently assisted taxpayers whose circumstances included outstanding lodgements, sudden illness in the family, and potential bankruptcy. Her caring and empathetic approach was invaluable to the taxpayer’s experience with us.”

A “new tool capable of managing and analysing large volumes of Single Touch Payroll (STP) data” also won an award. “To date, this system has analysed over 50 million individual transactions, working to enhance employers’ experience as they transition to STP reporting.”

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