The tax office believes its performance as a regulator remains “good” despite showing a decline in survey-based metrics, led by a substantial fall from the business community.
In its annual self-assessment report for 2017–18, the ATO believes it has achieved a “good” rating over its six key performance indicators, achieving positive results for 14 of the 43 ATO-specific metrics, with 11 remaining relatively stable, eight showing a decline and 10 based on activities (where trend in the metrics does not accurately reflect performance).
The “good” rating is the middle-tiered rating out of five possible ratings, comprising “excellent”, “very good”, “good”, “satisfactory” and “requires development”.
However, in its survey-based metrics — which are based on a representative sample of the overall population, including tax agents and taxpayers — seven results declined significantly (by 3 per cent or more), with only four results improving significantly.
The remaining results were broadly stable, meaning they were within 2 per cent of the 2016–17 result.
Of the negative results, less than half (43 per cent) of the business community believed that the cost of meeting their tax obligations were reasonable, down from 49 per cent in the previous corresponding period.
Community satisfaction with ATO performance also took a hit, dropping to 71 per cent from 75 per cent.
There was also a decline in the perception that it was easy to access ATO services and information, and that it was timely in its service commitment.
“The decline in satisfaction was primarily driven by users of our online systems. We are currently undertaking considerable work on a new tax agent portal and will continue to work hard to improve the online experience for tax professionals, business users and individuals,” the ATO said in a statement.
“In addition, there was a decline in some client perceptions in the period post-April 2018, following the Four Corners investigation into the ATO’s treatment of small business.”
A subsequent report by Channel 9 featured a business owner claiming that the ATO is “killing small business”, while the agency also generated criticism from within Parliament, too.
The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) general manager of technical policy Tony Greco earlier told My Business sister title Accountants Daily that the ATO’s rollout of its new online services for agents was a crucial factor in repairing ratings for the agency.
The gradual public beta rollout of the new online services for agents has been ongoing since January, with a full rollout by March 2019 set by the ATO.
“The ATO has spent a lot of money on retail at the expense of practitioner, so you’d expect they are well suited to the retail end, but more than three-quarters of the population and 95 per cent of businesses go to a tax agent, so you’ve got to also invest in the practitioner support, and maybe the practitioner side of things is dragging the overall percentage down,” Mr Greco said.
“Finally, we’ll get a product that is better suited to the modern age. I call the portal a dinosaur because it hasn’t kept pace with what you’d expect — it is outdated in its functionality and it looks very clunky and old-fashioned, so the new online services will be a major step forward.
“We’re very much looking forward to this new online service, but we’ve been waiting for such a long time since the commissioner first promised us many years back.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.