While the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) follows an integrity framework that guides its work, external oversight is required to ensure that it is truly a fair and accountable organisation
Several government-appointed entities, also referred to as “scrutineers”, examine aspects of the ATO’s administration of Australia’s tax, superannuation and business registration systems.
The ATO explains who these scrutineers are and what role they play in reviewing, auditing and investigating the ATO.
Who scrutinises the ATO?
The ATO’s scrutineers include the Australian National Audit Office, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman, and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
Australian National Audit Office
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) examines public sector entities’ performance by conducting audits in the areas of operations, resources, information systems, performance measures, monitoring systems, legal and other compliance and corporate governance processes.
For the ATO, this means that the ANAO conducts performance audits that examine the efficiency and effectiveness of its administration.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman safeguards the community in their dealings with Australian government agencies. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office handles complaints, conducts investigations, performs audits and inspections, encourages good administration, and carries out specialist oversight tasks.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman helps to ensure that the ATO’s administration is fair, transparent, sensitive, responsive and adaptive to the interests of members of the public.
The Ombudsman also receives complaints concerning Public Interest Disclosures or Freedom of Information issues about the ATO or Tax Practitioners Board.
Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO)
The Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO) helps to ensure that Australian taxation administration laws are operating effectively and consistently with community expectations. They provide independent advice and assurance to the community and receive general tax complaints.
The IGTO also provides independent advice to government agencies including the ATO to improve the administration of the tax laws for the benefit of the community. Potential topics that the IGTO may review with the ATO may be identified from engagement with stakeholders, themes raised in complaint cases and representations made to the IGTO’s office.
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) advises the Australian government and agencies such as the ATO on information policy and management practice.
The OAIC also protects the Australian community by:
- Protecting the privacy of individuals through ensuring proper handling of personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 and other legislation.
- Promoting awareness of the public’s right of access, under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, to documents held by the Australian government.
The OAIC also receive complaints and conducts investigations. If the OAIC receives a complaint about the ATO, it may investigate the ATO and provide advice on the matter.
What impact do the ATO’s scrutineers have?
Scrutineers make recommendations which help the ATO to improve its administration.
This also benefits both the Australian community and government by ensuring that they have confidence in the ATO’s administration.
The ATO is scrutinised by several external government-appointed entities to help improve its administration of Australia’s tax, superannuation and business registration systems. This gives the Australian community and government greater confidence in the ATO’s administration.