From 1 May 2015, the Inspector-General of Taxation (IGT) will be able to consider and assist taxpayers with their complaints about the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Tax Practitioners Board (TPB). The transfer of this function from the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the IGT was announced in last year's Federal Budget and the relevant legislation was enacted earlier this year.
Since 2003, the IGT has been delivering improvements to tax administration through its investigations of systemic issues and recommendations for change. The integration of the complaint handling function with the IGT's existing role will provide a single port of call for all taxpayers and tax practitioners for their complaints or broader concerns about the tax system as administered by the ATO or TPB.
"As an independent and dedicated scrutineer of the ATO for the past twelve years, my office with its specialist tax staff, is well-placed to help taxpayers and tax practitioners address their individual issues with the ATO or TPB," said Mr Noroozi.
The integration of the complaints function and IGT's traditional investigations of systemic issues is consistent with recommendations he has previously made to the Government. The benefits of such integration include enabling the IGT to be more proactive to emerging issues in tax administration.
"Handling single complaints will provide my office with real-time insight into emerging problems and potentially head them off before they become systemic," he said.
As the ATO, TPB and IGT operate independently of each other, the IGT cannot compel the TPB or the ATO to take a particular course of action – that is the role of the courts or tribunals. The IGT's role has been likened to a safety valve that can re-establish communication and achieve procedural fairness.
"We will consider all complaints, from the simple to the complex, including those arising during audits, objections and litigation. Our goal is to ensure that taxpayers and tax practitioners are treated with fairness and respect," Mr Noroozi said.
Last year, the Ombudsman reported that his office had received 1,369 complaints about the ATO. The IGT has worked with the Ombudsman to ensure that the transfer of the function is smooth and services to the community are not unduly disrupted. The IGT has also been working with the ATO and the TPB, including their internal complaints handling areas, to ensure that any matters are addressed expeditiously and effectively.
Further information regarding the IGT's new functions and how complaints may be lodged, including the use of an electronic complaints form, will be available on the IGT's website.
23 April 2015