The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has set out an ambitious new corporate plan as part of Commissioner Jordan’s reinvention of the ATO. The plan outlines out the ATO strategies for the next four  years, with an emphasis on cultural change, maximising automation and being better connected to the wider community. There is also an emphasis on having a more holistic approach to tax law design, enhancing the way in which data is used, and reshaping the ATO workforce to improve capability, performance and leadership.

The ATO appears to be elevating its administrative role from one that has a major emphasis on compliance and internal processes to one that is more strategic and long term focussed. The ATO’s intent is to be more relevant and valuable  to the Australian community, in which it wants to build further trust and respect for the way it will improve the tax and superannuation experience.

The new ATO leadership team is dominated by external appointments largely from professional services firms evidencing a big focus on cultural change. The ATO recognises that the expectation of government and the Australian community has changed, and more will be demanded in the areas of service delivery, reducing red tape and creating a level tax playing field while still performing the traditional and core function of revenue collection.

One of the ATO’s primary goals is to ensure the tax system is easy for people to participate in. The future design of tax and superannuation systems will be focussed on the majority who do the right thing, rather than the few who do not comply voluntarily. This will shift the compliance process more toward open communication. We also expect to see approaches based on risk and transparency; using data to improve decisions, services and compliance. To use the ATO’s words, it is a shift from “protector to facilitator”.

To succeed with these goals, the ATO recognises that it must have a greater connection with, and understanding of, the needs and expectations of the community, government and other stakeholders. It has changed the way stakeholder consultation occurs, focussing more on flexibility and responsiveness so that it is consulting with the right people, on the right issues, at the right time.

The ATO also recognises that delivering its ambitious change agenda will require a more professional and productive organisation that is committed to backing its words with action. The change agenda is being led by the new senior leadership team that is charged with developing the vision and building the future workforce.

PwC is engaged at many levels with the ATO, from representing our clients where they seek the ATO view of the law or where the ATO undertakes its own compliance activities, through involvement on consultation committees and processes, and finally to co-designing new processes and approaches. We have started to see many of the changes already take shape and are waiting with anticipation to see how the momentum for change continues to pick up  over the coming years. We agree that the ATO needs to be seen as a more respected and trusted organisation that supports government priorities for the good of all Australians.