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The ATO Annual Report for 2010-2011

Posted by Tax Advisor on 15 September, 2011

First and foremost we at TaxPack would like to congratulate all Australians on making it through another tax season. It’s always nice to breath a sigh of relief on November 1st knowing that you won’t have to deal with the ATO again until July of the next year.

We would like to thank everyone who lodged their taxes with us. It means a lot that you trusted TaxPack to take care of this unavoidable part of your financial life. And for those of you who didn’t lodge with us, we’d love you to consider TaxPack when the 2012 season rolls around.

For those of you already suffering from tax withdrawal, here’s a final end-of-season ATO fix. The agency recently released its Annual Report 2010-2011 to parliament on its website and you can check it out to see how they did for the financial year.

The annual report helps keep the ATO accountable to the Australian people and that’s a good thing. It also gives an idea of the direction the agency will be heading in the years to come.

The annual report is officially submitted by the Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D’Ascenzo to update parliament on ATO performance. But any member of the general public can access the document and assess the ATO for themselves.

Commisioner D’Ascenzo writes of the ATO’s mission:

We see our role as contributing to the development of a society which believes in and supports civic and legal responsibilities, which in turn underpins citizenship and the tenets of our democracy. Within this wider context we see our mission as being to nurture an environment that fosters high levels of proper participation in Australia’s tax and superannuation systems.

It’s refreshing that the ATO sees its responsibilities in such civic terms and has a vision of itself as more than a purely administrative agency, and I think most Australians would agree. It is a crucial link between citizens and the public goods and services that are essential to so many Australians. It’s rewarding to know the ATO takes its duties so seriously.

That being said, lodging taxes can still be a hassle, and the administration of any bureaucracy, especially one that deals with people’s money, is going to run into a few hurdles along the way. As such, self-assessment is an essential first step on the road to improvement.

Before addressing issues that require finetuning, the ATO identified several areas in which it performed well. Highlights for the 2010-2011 fiscal year included meeting a wide range of commitments to the government, including the “level playing field” initiative, new laws such as the flood levies, and commitments to the states and territories as mandated by the GST Administration Performance Agreement.

The ATO also improved performance against service standards, meeting 22 of 27 commitments to the community. This represents a significant improvement over the previous year.

In addition, the agency reunited 1.2 million Australians with their superannuation, provided up-to-date addresses for over 500,000 lost members, and contacted over 650,000 people with lost superannuation or money.

Still, despite the clear advances the ATO made over the 2010-2011 year it also has faced its share of challenges. Weak economic conditions, combined with the natural disasters early in the year, meant that many people had trouble meeting their tax or superannuation obligations.

2010-2011 also saw a rise in opportunistic non-compliance and attempts to cheat the tax system, the ATO reported.

Despite these obstacles, it was a busy year for the ATO. It collected a total of $273 billion, an almost $20 billion increase over the previous year and the first increase since the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Also, as many of you may have noted, complaints were high early in the 2010-2011 year. The ATO brought them under control by meeting two service standards on a monthly basis by April 2011. By the end of June, complaints had returned to a normal level.

The report also focuses on the future of the agency. As of 30 June 2011, the ATO had 50 announced measures on its plate waiting for implementation. One of the agency’s major focuses for the next year will be its delivery of customer service, which is welcome given the issues of the last two years. It hopes to improve call handling, the processing of returns and payments, and the management of taxpayer accounts.

Given the uptick in evasion, it’s also not surprising that the ATO plans to work to improve compliance, with an increased focus on the fragility of the business tax system, tax fraud detection, offshore avoidance and tax evasion, the cash economy, employer obligations, especially with respect to superannuation guarantee charge requirements, and organized crime.

There’s plenty more included in the report and I encourage anyone interested in Australian tax policy and the ATO’s progress to check it out. Thanks again for lodging with ELodge.com and congratulations on another tax season successfully completed.

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