ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan has announced the launch of "Better as Usual", a new ATO program aimed at improving the client experience with the tax system. In his opening remarks at the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) National Small Business Summit in Melbourne on 29 August 2019, Mr Jordan said that "Better as Usual" includes the following four parts, to be led by Jeremy Hirschhorn, Second Commissioner of Client Engagement:
- Whole-of-system experience: the series of interactions (or the "pipeline") a client has with the ATO that forms their whole-of-system experience. This aspect seeks to address the frustration felt by some taxpayers who may see many faces of the ATO, and sometimes feel like they have to start all over again when dealing with a new ATO area or different people. Mr Jordan said the ATO is committed to ensuring that every time a client deals with it, the ATO understands the end-to-end experience the client has. This covers lodgment to disputes and debt management, and perhaps most importantly, extends to the particular client's lodgments and interactions in future years.
- Quality of feedback loops: in a number of objections or complaints there is a story – something that has gone a little bit off track or been misunderstood; a mistake rather than purposeful recklessness. By better understanding and documenting past experiences, the ATO believes it can make better decisions in the future. "We have to better distinguish between things getting off track and reckless indifference or blatant evasion", Mr Jordan said.
- Complex cases team: the ATO has created a dedicated team to work on the most complex cases. This team will be able to devote the time and the resources necessary to deal with "prickly and complicated" affairs that fall outside the ATO's normal processes. Businesses that are "just struggling to survive" will be treated with more empathy than those purposefully not doing the right thing, Mr Jordan said.
- Procedural and cultural safeguards: these will be introduced to reduce (and ultimately eliminate) any cases where ATO mistakes could have a severe impact on the client. "We know this is something that is particularly needed in the small business market, and we will focus our initial efforts in this area", Mr Jordan said.