Tax Office staff’s work critical for all Australians

The CPSU says its members employed in the Australian Taxation Office work professionally and conscientiously to serve our community by ensuring all businesses and individuals pay their correct share of tax, and that all taxpayers are treated fairly.

The union says details of a small number of problematic claims aired on last night’s edition of ABC’s 4 Corners program are not representative of the ATO’s culture and paint a misleadingly negative picture of the agency.

CPSU members in the ATO have told their union they feel dismayed and hurt at the use of unbalanced language such as “evil”, “malevolent” and “mongrel bunch of bastards”.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Tax Office staff take their jobs very seriously and our members are committed to doing good work and doing it fairly. Simply put, without their efforts there wouldn’t be the money to build schools, roads and hospitals or provide the critical public services such as Medicare and Centrelink that all Australians rely upon.”

“Last night’s 4 Corners, and accompanying reports by the ABC and Fairfax, detailed some fairly disturbing decisions by the Tax Office, but the reports have also been incredibly one-sided in giving an entirely false and unfair impression that such problems are current and commonplace. The reality is that our members work very hard to make sure our tax system is fair.”

“We’ve sought feedback from our members on this 4 Corners report and they’ve told us that many improvements have been made since these cases emerged, to better assist and engage with small businesses to avoid debts being incurred at all.”

“Our members say their workplace culture is respectful and ethical and aims to produce fair outcomes, though it’s fair to say that like many Commonwealth agencies the ATO is under pressure. The Turnbull Government has slashed thousands of jobs in the Tax Office, rather than giving it the additional resources required to tackle the growing problems of profit shifting and other aggressive tax minimisation strategies employed by multinational companies.” 

“Our members in the ATO know that the vast, vast majority of cases result in people paying only what they should, but they strongly support the Tax Office getting it right the first time and every time. They also recognise that transparency and accountability are a critical part of working in a public sector agency. We note that the Council of Small Business and others have previously acknowledged that overall the Tax Office does an excellent job.”

“Part of the reason the Tax Office has such sweeping powers is that they’re taking on multinational companies and other mega-rich organisations and individuals that go to extraordinary steps to minimise their tax. The big end of town would be rubbing their hands together with glee at any suggestion to water down the Tax Office’s powers. Any changes to the Tax Office’s structure, powers or operations must be carefully calibrated to ensure they do not inadvertently create opportunities for big corporations and the very rich to further avoid paying tax.”

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