While 2020 has definitely been a busy year for the ATO, they’ve recently released a list of statistics on the year that was.
ATO debt grows to more than $53 billion
Debt owed by Australians to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has hit another record amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The ATO will face renewed pressure to recoup this revenue with figures showing the ATO’s total debt book has grown to more than $53 billion.
The figure, contained in the ATO’s annual report for 2019-20, includes debt owed across all taxpayer categories including collectable debt, insolvency debt and debt subject to objection or appeal.
Collectable debt — that is debt owed by individuals, businesses and super funds to the ATO — has now reached a record $34.1 billion from $26.6 billion it reported the year before.
The majority of “collectable debt” is owed by small business — $21.4 billion for small business, up from $16.5 billion the year before.
Chris Jordan’s remuneration
The ATO employs more than 21,000 staff and has an operating budget of about $3.6 billion. Its boss, Chris Jordan — who was appointed in January 2013 and whose term runs until February 2024 — was paid $929,027 in total remuneration for the year.
ATO Compliance revenue
The ATO said all its compliance activities for the year resulted in a total revenue gain of $13.7 billion, against a target of $15 billion. The main reason cited by the ATO for not meeting its target was it had to change its compliance approach to assist taxpayers impacted by natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid the pandemic, the number of working holidaymaker tax returns processed dramatically dropped from 96,298 in 2018-19 to 1,876 in 2019-20. A working holiday makers average taxable income fell from $23,075 to $17,262 and their average income tax assessed as payable dropped from $3,920 to $2,650.
Tax refunds rise while tax collections fall
Each year, 14 million Australians lodge tax returns resulting in more than 10.8 million refunds. In 2019–20, the ATO issued income tax refunds with a total value of $55.3 billion and also issued activity statement refunds with a total value of $76.9 billion.
This meant total tax refunds were $132.3 billion, up 23.4 per cent from 2018–19. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in net tax collections in 2019–20 dipping by $21.2 billion (about 5 per cent) to $404.7 billion. The figure was $33.9 billion (7.7 per cent) below the amount expected at the time of the budget 2019–20.
Taxpayer objections and complaints
There were 38.9 million returns lodged in 2019-20, and 467,884 adjustments arising from audits.
Of 22,290 objection cases resolved in 2019-20, it said it had made private binding rulings for just 4,126 of them.
There were 455 applications for review or appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) or other courts in 2019–20, with 153 decisions made either in relation to these applications or applications made in earlier years.
The ATO also receives complaints from taxpayers about various issues ranging from questions about reporting obligations to more serious issues such as the handling of audits and reviews. The agency received 24,778 complaints in 2019-20 (inclusive of 1,382 complaints made to the tax ombudsman, the inspector-general of taxation Karen Payne), the majority of which related to income tax.