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Part 2: About the agency

The ATO is the government's principal revenue collection agency and administers a wide range of tax legislation. It has an important role in various other economic and social policies as a large payer of government funds, administrator of major elements of the superannuation system, custodian of the
Australian Business Register and provider of valuation services through the Australian Valuation Office. The work of the ATO touches the lives of all Australians. Revenue collected supports most publically funded services and plays a vital role in ensuring Australia's prosperity.

Every day the ATO connects with a substantial number of Australians. Last year the ATO's client contact services answered more than 8 million telephone calls, received 5.5 million pieces of correspondence and assisted more than 486 000 people who visited its shop fronts.

The ATO relies on information and communication technology (ICT) to conduct much of its business and in 2012–13 anticipates an ICT spend of approximately $759 million.

In 2011–12, the ATO:

  • had an operating budget of $3.4 billion
  • had 24 740 employees
  • had 262 members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) with an average tenure of 23 years in the ATO
  • collected $301 billion in net tax, including $215 billion income tax, $46.2 billion in goods and services tax and $25.5 billion in excise
  • raised $11.4 billion through compliance activities
  • was the custodian of $323 million in superannuation guarantee charge
  • paid almost $8.4 billion in transfers and payments
  • re-united more than 1 million people with $5.5 billion in lost superannuation.

The ATO's strategic statement 2010–15 sets out the organisation's vision, strategic themes and values. The vision is that 'Australians value their tax and superannuation systems as community assets, where willing participation is recognised as good citizenship.' The ATO considers that by administering
the tax and superannuation systems in a fair and equitable manner, it encourages willing participation and community confidence in its administration. It aims to do this by helping people understand and meet their rights and obligations, assisting with access to benefits, managing non-compliance with
the law and striving to enhance its capabilities to better support and protect taxpayers.

The ATO has a strong focus on meeting commitments to government and is responsible for delivering a range of initiatives. For example, last year the ATO put in place administrative arrangements to progress or give effect to more than 30 government measures including the Stronger Super measures
and new resource rent taxation arrangements. Continuing confidence in the ATO's delivery capability is illustrated by the range of major government initiatives it has been given responsibility for, such as the household stimulus package, the flood levy and the package of superannuation reforms.

The ATO currently manages its work under four functions called sub-plans. These sub-plans cover the roles of:

  • Corporate Services and Law, which is to interpret legislation, provide advice to the Treasury on policy implementation, manage stakeholder relationships and undertake corporate functions including finance, people management and governance.
  • Compliance, which is to help taxpayers to comply and undertake targeted compliance activities.
  • Operations, which is to provide a link with the community through contact centres, debt collection and processing.
  • Enterprise Solutions and Technology, which is to design, build, test and maintain systems and infrastructure.

The ATO is re-structuring its organisational arrangements and Second Commissioners' subplan responsibilities. Corporate Services and Law will be renamed Law Design and Practice and the corporate services functions will be part of an enlarged sub-plan centred on operations and infrastructure. The ATO
has a large, decentralised workforce with a presence in 46 sites across all states and territories.

Figure 2 provides the number of staff and percentage of male and female staff by state and territory. In June 2012, 24 740 people worked at the ATO, which represents approximately 14 per cent of the Australian Public Service (APS). Over the past five years the ATO has recruited and trained 1372 people
as part of its graduate program and last year 259 graduates participated in this well-regarded program. The ATO's agency exit rate in 2011–12[1] was 5.4 per cent, lower than the APS average of 9 per cent. Remarkably, more than 20 per cent of the ATO's people had more than 20 years of service in the organisation.

Figure 2

The typical ATO employee is a 44-year-old female working at the APS 6 level with a university-acquired accounting degree and is in the auditing work function. It is likely that she was recruited for tax reform in 2000 and so currently has approximately 13 years of tenure.

The ATO has a strong relationship with other tax administrations internationally and engages extensively with global partners in forums such as the Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The ATO is part of the Treasury portfolio and works with the Treasury to contribute administrative experience to policy development and implementation. The ATO also works closely with other government departments, actively collaborating in cross-agency taskforces, projects and committees, such as Project

One of the ATO's values is 'being consultative, collaborative and willing to co-design'. Accordingly, the ATO makes a significant investment in consulting the community, including through an elaborate network of consultative forums, which it uses to engage with stakeholders, including industry representatives,
tax professionals, software developers and business representatives.

[1] The agency exit rate includes promotions and transfers to other APS agencies as well as separations from the APS.

[2] Project Wickenby is a cross-agency taskforce established in 2006 to detect and deal with the relatively few Australian taxpayers hiding considerable sums of money overseas to avoid paying tax.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018