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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14972

Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 13 February 2002:

(1) For how many of its staff has the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) provided GST training.

(2) How many of those staff have subsequently left the ATO, and how many of them left within six weeks of completing the training course.

(3) How many staff left the ATO in (a) 1998-99, (b) 1999-2000 and (c) 2000-2001.

(4) What will be the impact of these departures on the time taken to process taxation returns.

(5) Have staff been transferred out of the Large Business and International business line; if so, how many.

(6) What has been the cost of outsourcing the information technology function to EDS in each financial year since this first occurred.

(7) What percentage of the ATO budget was allocated to information technology in (a) 2000-2001, (b) 1999-2000, (c) 1998-99, (d) 1997-98 and (e) 1996-97.

(8) Has the ATO given incorrect GST registration numbers to businesses registering for the GST; if so, (a) on how many occasions, (b) what was the reason for incorrect registration numbers being issued and (c) will businesses in this situation who have printed letterheads, replied to questionnaires and who will incur significant expense in rectifying these errors be offered compensation by the ATO or the Government for expenses incurred as a result.

Mr Costello (Treasurer) —The Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) All staff recruited to GST have received induction and technical training appropriate to their job. Development and training programs continue to be provided to GST staff on an on-going basis. Other staff in the ATO receive GST training on a “needs” basis to assist them in performing their work.

(2) The number of staff who left immediately following their induction and technical training would form a small proportion of GST's overall low staff turnover rate of approximately 4%. The number of staff recruited to GST who left the ATO during 1999-2000 was 133, 2000-2001 was 183 and 2001-2002 was 346.

(3) (a) 1,225, (b) 869, (c) 755

(4) The ATO does not expect these departures to have an impact on the time taken to process taxation returns. The ATO has arrangements in place to ensure that sufficient staff are available to process taxation returns within the service standards set out in the Taxpayers' Charter.

(5) There are always movements between business lines to meet work flow demands and staff preferences.

(6) EDS Australia assumed responsibility for providing the ATO with information technology and telecommunications services from 24 June 1999. The ATO has outlaid the following amounts to EDS for the provision of information technology and telecommunications services for the financial years shown:

· $142.7 million for the period 1 July 1999 to 30 June 2000;

· $197.7 million for the period 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001;

· $176 million for the period 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002;

· $85 million for the period 1 July 2002 to 30 December 2002.

(7) The budget allocation to information technology as a percentage of the total ATO budget for:

(a) the financial year 2000-2001 was 15.49%;

(b) the financial year 1999-2000 was 15%;

(c) the financial year 1998-99 was 15.7%;

The above figures for 2000-01, 1999-00 and 1998-99 were influenced by preparation for A New Tax System.

(d) the financial year 1997-98 was 11.7%; and

(e) the financial year 1996-97 was 9%, of the ATO budget.

In relation to (7), the information technology funding allocation includes applications development, support and maintenance; EDS-supplied services; and other functions that were retained in-house, such as Data Capture, IT Architecture, IT Security and IT Training. The percentages do not include IT-related functions performed outside the ATO Technology Line, such as other Business Line-developed applications.

(8) (a) The number of incorrect Australian Business Numbers (ABN) issued was 8,557 as at 10 February 2003. This is 0.2% of a total of 4.3 million ABNs issued - with 4.08 million ABNs active at the end of February 2003. Of the incorrect ABNs, only 1,791 were brought to the attention of the ATO by businesses. All others were identified through quality activities conducted by the ATO to ensure the integrity of the register.

(b) Incorrect numbers issued as a result of discrepancies between data held by the ATO and the Australian Securities and Investments Commissioner (ASIC) for the companies concerned. These discrepancies were caused by:

· businesses quoting incorrect Australian Company Number (ACN) information to the ATO at the time of registering, eg valid ACN of one company quoted for another, or numbers transposed that still qualified as a valid ACN; and

· incorrect data held by the ATO.

(c) The ATO administers a compensation scheme under the Taxpayers' Charter which offers compensation to entities that incur additional costs as a result of acting on incorrect advice provided by the ATO. Measures have been taken to advise all affected clients of their rights for compensation by incorporating this advice in the Notifications that issued with the replaced ABNs.