In 2013, with new leader Commissioner Chris Jordan at the helm, the ATO took on the enormous task of reviewing its consultation framework. The former framework involved an extensive network of 68 committees and working groups, all with the mandate to consult.
A comprehensive review was undertaken and input was sought from relevant stakeholders. The Tax Institute provided constructive feedback to the review to ensure that the new structure following the review would promote open and collaborative consultation.
The result of the restructure is the current framework, consisting of eight main stewardship and liaison groups and a number of other forums geared for consultation on specific areas. The ATO also established the “Hub”, a new portal through which the broader community could raise issues of strategic importance for consultation, and a register of stakeholders with expertise in certain areas of tax law and administration — a highly useful resource for the ATO to draw on for expertise.
This structure is much simpler than the former, and provides greater flexibility for consultation on areas affecting the stewardship of our tax and superannuation systems.
The Tax Institute welcomed a refreshed consultation framework and has ensured that our members are represented in the relevant peak forums (the National Tax Liaison Group, the ATO Tax Practitioners Advisory Group and the Consultation Steering Group) and other important working groups.
With any new initiative, there are always creases to be ironed out and The Tax Institute has sought to provide constructive feedback to ensure that the new framework works as intended.
It is now well over 18 months since the framework was officially implemented on 1 July 2013 and it has been in full swing for some time — long enough for us to have a good sense of what is working well and what creases still need to be ironed out. So it is timely that a formal post-implementation review is being undertaken by the ATO to ensure that the framework holds us all, the ATO and stakeholders alike, in good stead for open and robust consultation in the future.
We have drawn on our members’ experiences with the new framework to feed into the review. While some experiences have been more positive than others, this is not unexpected, given the radical structural changes the ATO has made to its framework to which all stakeholders needed to adjust. We anticipate the outcome of the review later this month or in June, but we are encouraged by the consultative process of assessment being undertaken.
Stephen Healey CTA is President of the National Council at The Tax Institute.