Under its 2020 Vision, the ATO will develop an ICT Support Plan, rethink the way it captures client data and develop new ICT systems in order to create a “contemporary service” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue was told by Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan on 28 February 2014. The ATO would “reinvent itself” with a “much more modern digital sort of communication process”, said Jordan.
The development of the ATO’s 2020 Vision was first flagged in October 2013 by Jordan who outlined a new long term strategy which included:
- Improved modern services and technology to match contemporary expectations;
- A change in the way it connects with the community; and
- A reduction of red tape for small businesses as well as a reduction in interactions required for individuals.
The Vision follows the 2013 Capability Review into the ATO which recommended “A top-down, longer-term, enterprise-wide strategy is needed to take the ATO forward to achieve its vision.”
In line with the 2020 Vision, Geoff Leeper, the Second Commissioner of Taxation, told the Standing Committee that the ATO was working to develop an ICT Support Plan to find a way to lift its IT group and “to put more effort into changing and improving systems”.
The majority of this improvement revolves around the simplification of the ATO’s online tax system, e-tax. Leeper said, “If you use e-tax at the moment and you are the most simple taxpayer possible, you still have to navigate your way through 140 screens and, if you are 25 years of age, it is still going to ask you the question about the seniors tax offset.”
In order to improve the system, the ATO is aiming to enhance its Standard Business Reporting software. Leeper explains it as using “the data that an organisation or an entity keeps for its own purposes to run its own business and use that to generate a tax return.” For example, the ATO will be able to use company’s payroll data to automate tax return processes.
The Inquiry Committee estimates that 1.4 million individuals have simple tax returns that could be completed by simply answering three to four questions about their reductions. Leeper compares the desired Standard Business Reporting software to Medicare’s system that extracts data from a doctor’s payment system to submit a Medicare claim.
Jordan said, “We have information on salary and wages, interest, dividends, Centrelink payments and health. We already have that, so how do we use that?”
The ATO has already made moves to improve the way it deals with client information and tax returns.
Accenture is currently working on a single processing capability for all Tax Product forms and payments under a $40.2 millioncontract with the ATO. The MR4 Client Register Project will see a number of the Agency’s client register systems merged into one. It will also integrate with the ATO’s Integrated Core Processing (ICP) system which has been responsible for the processing of individual tax returns since 2012.
The ATO will be working towards its 2020 Vision with a significantly reduced workforce. In November, the ATO advised Senate Estimates that it would reduce staff by 900 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) by June 2014. Leeper told the Inquiry that the Agency has already received 500 expressions of interest from staff for voluntary redundancy. The ATO will be looking at “back office functions” to find potential efficiencies and areas of improvement to cope with a reduced workforce.
Leeper conceded that it had to be careful not to allow the workforce to diminish by too much. “If you cut down to a certain level, it is inevitable that at some point either customer service standards and/or revenue collections would be impacted on,” he said.
The ATO’s 2020 Vision is due to be launched in March 2014.
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