November this year marks the end of my second term as Inspector-General of Taxation (IGT). It is a role that has enabled me to drive significant change to our tax system, improve its administration, champion taxpayer rights and assist taxpayers including the most vulnerable in our community. I have given the role my all for the past 10 years and feel privileged to have had such an opportunity. However, all good things must come to an end. After much deliberation, I have decided that it is time to pass the baton to another who will see the agency into the future. I will therefore not be seeking reappointment for a third term.
When I took the reins in 2008, the agency was still very young and the concept of a specialist, independent scrutineer was not well-appreciated. Since that time, the IGT has become a mainstay in the tax landscape, both domestically and internationally, and has played a major role in delivering improvements and reshaping the administration of the Australian tax system. The office has grown over four times in size and the role has become that of an ombudsman with respect to tax administration.
During my tenure, we have completed over 30 reviews canvassing a broad range of issues including Australian Taxation Office (ATO) ‘U-turns’, debt collection, tax disputes, rulings, audits, transfer pricing, services and support for tax practitioners, alternative dispute resolution, penalties and taxpayer rights. Even now, a further three are in the pipeline including those relating to fraud control management, the future of the tax profession and garnishee notices.
For the past three years, we have also served the community through a dedicated tax complaints handling service. To date, we have handled over 7,000 complaints. In the 2017-18 financial year, the number of complaints increased by 7 per cent and 12 per cent compared with the prior two financial years. Notwithstanding such increase, we continue to acknowledge the vast majority of complaints within two business days and finalise them within 15 business days. The community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We have consistently achieved a satisfaction rating of 80 per cent - a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team of tax specialists.
The above would not have been possible without the support and assistance of many people.
First and foremost, my thanks to parliamentarians, governments and ministers with whom I have served the Australian public. I have had great support from all sides of Parliament. In particular, I am grateful to the Hon Chris Bowen MP for appointing me all those years ago and the Hon David Bradbury who subsequently reappointed me some years later. I wish to also thank the Hon Joe Hockey for entrusting me with a significantly expanded role and increased budget to provide specialised assistance and a single port of call for taxpayers and tax professionals requiring assistance in their dealings with the ATO and Tax Practitioners Board (TPB).
Secondly, my thanks to the many taxpayers, tax practitioners, professional bodies, industry associations, academics as well as international counterparts and organisations who have generously shared their time and expertise. Much of our achievements would simply not have been possible without their support and confidence in the office.
Thirdly, I thank the different government agencies with whom we have engaged over the years on a range of initiatives including the ATO and TPB. I am pleased to say that, whilst we have not always agreed on all issues, the working relationship has been productive and led to significant and lasting improvements to the tax system benefiting all Australians.
Last, but most certainly not least, I thank my team. Leaders and CEOs often say their teams are the best, most agile and most diligent — in my case, it is absolutely true. It has been widely acknowledged that our achievements well-exceed expectations of an agency of our size. We have been recognised as leaders in public service innovation and maintain a very low level of unscheduled absence. Internationally, we have also put the IGT well and truly on the map. I am very proud of my team and grateful for their support, hard work and dedication even in the face of significant challenges over the years. I wish them well and have no doubt that they will one day be strong leaders in their own right. In the meantime, we still have much more to achieve together in my remaining four months.
As I launch into the next chapter of my career, I wish my successor well in the role and hope that they find the job as rewarding as I have.