Andrew Mills: Tax Office improving dispute resolution process

The Tax Office hasn’t always gotten its dispute resolution process right in the past, the ATO’s second commissioner admits — but they’re working on reaching resolutions faster and cheaper.

I’d like to share with you some of the recent changes and developments at the Australian Tax Office. It is now almost a year since I took up my role as second commissioner responsible for the ATO’s law design and practice. It has been a steep learning curve for me, but it’s also an exciting time as the ATO undergoes transformational change, a fundamental shift to supporting those who do the right thing — putting the taxpayer at the front and centre of our thinking.

Of course this does not mean that we will let up on our compliance activities. We will continue to target those who fail to do the right thing, be they large multinationals or local small businesses. But our focus will be on supporting those who unfailingly comply with their tax and super obligations year in year out. We will make it as easy as possible for people to comply, and as difficult as possible for those who want to cheat the system.

The process of change, which we call reinventing the ATO, is already well under way. And to channel our energies and maintain our focus, we have categorised the change program into three main streams — transforming the client experience, transforming the staff experience and changing our culture. If we want our clients to have a different experience when they deal with us, we need to change first, and for that to happen, our culture needs to change.

As the late American management guru Peter F Drucker put it: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Another expert, former IBM CEO Louis V Gerstner Jr, is quoted as saying: “The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.”

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