With Sinclair Davidson
Introduction: The parliament should unequivocally reject any reduction in the level of scrutiny applied to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The ATO lists five separate bodies which it considers as external scrutineers: the Australian National Audit Office, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Inspector-General of Taxation, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, and the Productivity Commission. However, with the transfer of responsibility for individual complaints about taxation from the Commonwealth Ombudsman to the Inspector-General of Taxation, four of these five oversight agencies have oversight of the ATO only insofar as the ATO is a statutory agency, rather than unique oversight of the ATO.
This system of a single dedicated inspector of the Commonwealth revenue collecting agency is the bare minimum one would require for a liberal democratic tax system. There is a strong case for increased monitoring and scrutiny of the ATO. We believe that this inquiry has been established under a dangerous assumption that the most important independent statutory authority in the Australian government should be freed from the current level of external monitoring. However, the inquiry presents parliament with an opportunity to tighten that monitoring. From both a liberal perspective and a democratic perspective, the ATO needs more scrutiny.