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Joe (Chase Them To The Grave) Hockey confuses CSA with ATO

In his Press Club address on the 2013 Budget, Joe Hockey launched a scathing attack on the ATO.

Interestingly, his comments and arguments regarding the ATO fit the CSA perfectly - simply replace "ATO" with "CSA" and "Taxpayer" with "Paying Parent"…

Joe Hockey said
Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has launched a fierce attack on the Australian Taxation Office, accusing it of having had an insular and inward looking culture for too long and raising the spectre of possibly breaking it up.

Hockey, delivering his post-budget address to the National Press Club, said a Coalition government would immediately set up a parliamentary committee to oversee tax administration.

The Oversight Committees first task would be to set dates for regular semi-annual public hearings with the Commissioner of Taxation. These would be similar to the public hearings that grill the Reserve Bank Governor.

The committees second task would be an inquiry into the most effective organisational structure for independently handling and resolving formal taxation disputes.

Hockey repeated his earlier-expressed deep reservations about the ATO being both an administrator and prosecutor.

He recognised the new Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan, was endeavouring to put in place a more independent process for resolving disputes, and said there should be a proper evaluation of this approach.

However, if the Oversight Committee believes its necessary, then the Coalition stands ready to break up the Tax Office, so that its policeman functions are separate to its responsibility for administering the tax system.

One measure that would help change the Tax Office culture was to appoint people with business experience to senior posts and Jordan (from the private sector) was a breath of fresh air in this regard.

But for too long the tax office has developed an insular and inward looking culture that has put it at odds with taxpayers, particularly in relation to its overly aggressive interpretations of tax laws.

Taxpayers are not the enemy. They should be respected, Hockey said.

A Coalition government would expand the number of second commissioners of taxation. and reduce the complexity and increase the certainty of tax law.

When dealing with taxpayers, the ATO has everything in its favour, Hockey said.

This year alone, the government had increased the size of the Tax Office by more than 500 employees to more than 22,000 staff in total. The legislated powers all worked in favour of the Tax Office as well.

For example, if a taxpayer is assessed for tax, the only way the amount can be disputed is if the tax is paid in full, with few exceptions. And when there is a dispute over an audit the ATO can often seem to go through the motions rather than objectively reconsidering the taxpayers position.

Asked whether he believed tax evasion was no longer a significant problem, Mr Hockey said that everybody who had a liability should pay their tax and the Tax Office has done a damn fine job in many areas.

There is no argument from us about giving them appropriate additional resources for appropriate operations to crack down on unlawful activity, he said. Mr Hockey said it was where taxpayers feel that they are just constantly under siege from the tax office that there was a problem.

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