Whinge! – The Australian Taxation Office Complaint Handling Process

We have all no doubt seen the Bill Gates quote that your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

It is within that context that the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has recently released a very interesting report into the complaint and feedback handling process of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The ATO is responsible for administering Australia’s taxation and superannuation systems. In 2012–13, the ATO collected $311.7 billion in net cash from taxpayers, incurred operating expenses of $3.5 billion, and had around 25 000 staff.

The ATO has processed around 36 000 complaints, on average, annually for the past five years.

The report notes:

The ATO reported that the main reasons for complaints in recent years were: audit and review activities, in particular concerning the Income Tax Return Integrity Program; refund delays; delays in processing; and access issues, in particular the length of wait times.  The three most common issues for complainants in 2012–13 were: registrations (23 per cent of complaints); form processing (19 per cent); and account management (16 per cent).

The value in this report is that it provides a checklist for any customer facing organisation to determine the effectiveness of their complaint handling process.  As the ANAO observes:

While complaints represent a client’s expression of dissatisfaction with an agency’s administration, effective complaints handling can help to restore good relations with the client and inform processes to strengthen administration and reduce costs

The report found

The ATO’s complaints handling framework is well-designed and its management arrangements are generally sound … Nevertheless, opportunities remain to more fully address the principles of fairness, accessibility, responsiveness, integration and efficiency:

improve reporting against complaints handling timeliness measures, and to develop other performance measures;

implement a more coherent agency-wide quality assurance framework for complaints and other feedback; and

limit sensitive information about named officer complaints from being included in records on the ATO’s client relationship management computer system, and implement measures to periodically check that ATO officers have not accessed these records inappropriately.

Finally the report raises the issues of root cause analysis – a particular focus of the work that McLeod Governance undertakes.  It notes:

In addition, while there have been instances where the ATO has used complaints intelligence to address systemic issues that give rise to complaints, there is scope for it to better use intelligence from client feedback to more actively inform service delivery and improve efficiency. This includes developing strategies to minimise complaints occurring in the first place and better managing taxpayer’s expectations by keeping them informed throughout their dealings with the ATO.

The next time a customer complains – thank them because they have given you an insight that is invaluable.


Download PDF

Subscribe to Receive Our Email Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.