The head of the ATO admits there's work to do on credibility

The tax case arrests. Image: Australian Federal Police

The Australian Tax Office has work to do to restore its credibility.

However, Chris Jordan greeted an audience at the National Press Club today saying what a great time it was to be the commissioner of taxation

“The Australian tax system is in good shape and overall the tax experience of Australians is quite positive,” he says.

Australia compares well internationally and is performing well, domestically and on the world stage, he says

However, he did acknowledge that the ATO’s credibility has taken a beating with IT issues and with Operation Elbrus, the massive tax fraud case which claimed the scalp of a deputy ATO commissioner.

“I understand only too well that we have ground to make up,” he told the lunch function in Canberra.

“While we may have had some credits and credibility from the positive changes we have made in the last few years; we’ve lost a bit of ground with Elbrus and systems outages.

“There is no getting away from the fact that these two matters have had a negative impact on the ATO’s standing in the community — one questioning our integrity and the other questioning the stability and availability of our systems.”

Among those arrested members of an alleged $130 million tax fraud syndicate was Adam Cranston, the son of Michael Cranston who has since resigned as deputy tax commissioner.

“The involvement of Adam Cranston, son of former Tax Office Deputy Commissioner, Michael Cranston has been difficult to comprehend,” Jordan says.

“The charges against Michael Cranston too, have been equally hard to believe, and at the ATO we are dismayed at the events that have unfolded in this regard.

“The connections with, and alleged actions because of his son have ruined his career and reputation, and have compromised our standing and raised questions about the integrity of others within the ATO.”

However, Jordan emphasises that findings to date show Michael Cranston is not suspected of being involved in the syndicate and its activities of defrauding the Commonwealth.

“Evidence to date shows that at no time did Michael Cranston directly access taxpayer data systems or the audit cases under this investigation,” Jordan says.

“There is no evidence of actual intervention or influence on the audit cases, or of money being refunded, or of tax liability being changed. And no deals were done.”

Jordan says the ATO has an extremely low incidence of fraud by ATO staff.

“It is a very rare thing for there to be any doubt about the honesty of the people in the ATO,” he says.

On tax returns this year, Jordan says the ATO has received lodgements of more than 210,000 returns from individuals without a hitch.

The ATO’s websites and online systems crashed over a number of days in December. Outages continued in to January and February.

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