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Tuesday, 11 April 2000
Page: 15746

Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 February 2000:

(1) Has his attention been drawn to an article in the Australian Financial Review on 24 January 2000 reporting that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is promising to deliver responses to all non-policy queries within 5 days, down from 28 days under the current Taxpayers Charter.

(2) Will the ATO change its Taxpayers Charter to reflect the change.

(3) Have other business lines had staff cuts in order to fund the service.

(4) For how long will the Information Response Service run.

(5) Does the 1999-2000 Portfolio Budget Statement for the ATO state that the ATO will achieve a drop in staff costs of $117 702 000 by 2002-2003 whilst increasing staff for the GST; if so, has funding of the service been accounted for in the forecast reduction of staffing costs.

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

(1) The five day response period is being promoted to provide a fast and accurate response to client requests for technical (law) advice in relation to the Australian Business Number (ABN), Pay as you go (PAYG), Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) as it relates to the Activity Statement for Business and Individuals. The five day standard recognises that businesses have, to date, been relatively late to action reform and are now requiring a responsive advice service to ensure they are ready for commencement.

(2) The ATO is presently reviewing The Taxpayers' Charter standards to address changed and new work practices as a result of reform initiatives and ATO service improvements. The Replyin5 five day response standard will be reflected in The Taxpayers' Charter.

(3) ATO officers in the Replyin5 workforce are primarily existing GST officers. A number of officers from other business lines are utilised to provide knowledge support for ABN, PAYG and FBT. The Replyin5 Service is not a `new' service but rather a change in work practices and culture with corresponding technological support to enable more timely address of requests for technical advice.

(4) The Replyin5 Service has, at present, no defined period for operation. The intention is to provide a reliable, fast avenue of advice for taxpayers to prepare for the commencement of the new taxing arrangements. The ATO will review Replyin5 in the course of normal governance and accountability processes. It is not unreasonable to consider that with the expediency of changed work practices and technological support that taxpayer service expectations will rise. This, of itself, will provide some impetus for the ATO to continue Replyin5 arrangements as part of normal business operations.

(5) The funding of the Replyin5 Service is within the ATO forecast.