Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer
26 November 2001 - 17 July 2004
29 May 2002
A NEW TAX ADVOCATE
The Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Senator Helen
Coonan, today released a consultation paper outlining proposals for a new taxpayers'
advocate to act as a key independent adviser to Government on tax administration
The Inspector-General of Taxation will be established as a statutory
authority in the Treasury portfolio, with wide investigative powers to examine
the operation of the current tax administration system and improve fairness,
efficiency and integrity for taxpayers.
Senator Coonan said the establishment of an Inspector-General
of Taxation was a key Coalition election commitment, and for good reason.
"It is apparent to me that Australian taxpayers have some
legitimate concerns arising from their dealings with the Australian Taxation
Office," Senator Coonan said.
"Taxpayers have continually raised concerns about matters
such as delays in processing, the provision of inconsistent advice and the lack
of certainty surrounding their taxation obligations.
"I believe there is scope to improve the responsiveness of
the tax administration system to the needs of taxpayers, and the Inspector-General
of Taxation will have an important part to play in achieving a fairer system.
The Inspector-General will also be expected to conduct reviews
of systemic problems in the tax administration system and could consider matters
- The operation of the self-assessment system, the compliance obligations it places on taxpayers and the clarity of the information provided to taxpayers about the system.
- The ATO's processing of tax returns including the efficiency of the system and compliance costs;
- The system of public, private and oral rulings how the system can be improved;
- The administration of penalty and interest provisions including remission criteria; and
- The appropriateness of ATO audit guidelines, their application and timeliness.
Senator Coonan said she was keen to see a system in place where genuine problems
could be identified and addressed quickly, resulting in an improved operating
environment and a win-win situation for the ATO and taxpayers.
"Where taxpayers feel that their tax affairs have not been dealt with
fairly, there needs to be appropriate mechanisms to resolve those concerns within
a reasonable timeframe," Senator Coonan said.
The Inspector-General will not replace existing points of review but rather
will fill gaps that currently exist and help guide further improvements to them.
The objective is to enable the Commissioner of Taxation to continue to independently
administer the tax laws, while strengthening the framework for reviewing systemic
issues arising from tax administration. It is also a means of improving the
way the Commissioner interacts with, and is perceived to interact with, taxpayers.
In making inquiries the Inspector-General will be able to respond to requests
from the Treasury Ministers or act on his or her own volition.
In establishing a program of priorities the Government would expect the Inspector-General
to consult the community and consider requests that come in from other sources
including Parliamentary inquiries, the Commissioner of Taxation or taxpayers.
"The Inspector-General will be responsive to the community and when deciding
which matters deserve his or her attention, I would expect priority to be given
to those issues that, potentially, would have a positive impact on the largest
group of taxpayers," Senator Coonan said.
"To ensure the new Inspector-General can operate effectively he or she
will require broad investigative powers, although it is obviously vital that
confidentiality is observed in respect to any taxpayer information obtained
in the course of an investigation.
"The Inspector-General will be an advocate for taxpayers but individual
complaints will continue to be dealt with by the Ombudsman."
The consultation paper will be presented to the Board of Taxation to undertake
public consultation on the final form of the Inspector-General before the Government's
model is finalised.
"It is important that taxpayers with an interest in this take the opportunity
to provide some input and let the Government know what is right or wrong with
the model and how it might be improved," Senator Coonan said.
"Consultation on such matters is vital in ensuring that the Government taps into the wealth of experience and knowledge in the community, and that we get it right in the beginning."
The Inspector-General of Taxation Consultation Paper is available on the Board of Taxation website at www.taxboard.gov.au/consultation.html