Australian Taxation Office

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is an Australian statutory agency and the principal revenue collection body for the Australian Government. The ATO has responsibility for administering the Australian federal taxation system, superannuation legislation, and other associated matters. Responsibility for the operations of the ATO are within the portfolio of the Treasurer of Australia and the Treasury.

Australian Taxation Office
Agency overview
Formed11 November 1910 (1910-11-11)
Preceding agencies
  • Commonwealth Taxation Office
  • Federal Taxation Office
JurisdictionAustralian Government
HeadquartersCanberra, Australian Capital Territory
Employees20,384 (June 2016)[1]
Annual budgetIncrease A$3.57 billion[2]
Minister responsible
Deputy Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Rob Heferen, Commissioner of Taxation
Parent departmentThe Treasury
Key document

As the Australian government's principal revenue collection body, the ATO collects income tax, goods and services tax (GST) and other federal taxes. The ATO also has responsibility for managing the Australian Business Register, delivering the Higher Education Loan Program, delivering many Australian government payments and administering key components of Australia's superannuation system.[3]



During the colonial period of the 1800s, a number of landholders had secured large tracts of arable land in Australia. After the states federated in 1901 to form the Commonwealth of Australia, the Commonwealth's main source of revenue was derived from indirect customs and the excise on duties on locally manufactured and imported goods. The Labor Andrew Fisher government was elected at the 1910 federal election and was concerned about large swathes of the country being under-utilised. The government introduced the first federal tax laws – the Bank Notes Tax Act 1910, the Land Tax Act 1910 and the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910 – to break up the large estates.[4]

George McKay was appointed the first Commissioner of Land Taxation on 11 November 1910.[4] The first tax return forms were issued on 10 January 1911 so that landholders could be assessed for their land tax liabilities.[4] The tax was not popular, but a High Court of Australia challenge to the land tax found the law to be constitutional.[4] The associated land valuations were contentious with more than 1,800 appeals and objections received by the middle of 1913.[4]

In his first year, commissioner McKay had underneath him 105 tax officers, assessed approximately 15,000 land tax returns and collected £1.3 million to £1.4 million. Over the next decade, the government introduced several new taxes, mainly to cope with the massive cost of Australia's collecting revenue to fund participation in World War I. By the end of the decade, the department employed 1,565 people and collected approximately £10.45 million in taxes.[4]

According to its 2013–14 Annual Plan, the ATO employs an average of 22,022 people.[5] In the 2012–13 financial year, the ATO collected revenues totalling $313.082 billion in individual income tax, company income tax, goods and services (GST) tax, excise and others.[6]

Former employee Richard Boyle has alleged that there was a culture within the ATO to increase the use of garnishee notices, which allow the ATO to access funds in the bank accounts of taxpayers.[7] This was investigated by the Inspector-General of taxation, Ali Noroozi.[8] Noroozi's findings included concerns that small businesses were not given enough time to react to a garnishee notice before having their funds seized.[9] The ATO was criticised for attempting to suppress Boyle's revelations with a non-disclosure agreement and accusing him of 66 offences related to breach of privacy.[10]

The ATO was the first Australian Government agency to introduce a virtual assistant using artificial intelligence on its website (see Artificial intelligence in government).[11]



Rob Heferen was appointed Commissioner of Taxation and Registrar of the Australian Business Register on 1 March 2024.[12]

The Australian Taxation Office has been headed by thirteen Commissioners of Taxation:

  • George McKay – 1910–16
  • Robert Ewing – 1917–39
  • Lawrence Jackson – 1939–46
  • Patrick McGovern – 1946–61
  • John O'Sullivan – 1961–63
  • Daniel Canavan – 1963–64
  • Edward Cain – 1964–76
  • William (Bill) O'Reilly – 1976–84
  • Trevor Boucher – 1984–93
  • Michael Carmody – 1993–2005
  • Michael D'Ascenzo – 2005–12
  • Chris Jordan – 2013–24
  • Rob Heferen - 2024 - Present

Organisational structure


The Commissioner of Taxation is responsible for the general administration of the tax system and the ATO. The Commissioner of Taxation and three Second Commissioners of Taxation are each appointed for a term of seven years. The Commissioner and Second Commissioners are eligible for re-appointment after each term.[13]

The overall strategic direction of the organisation is set by the ATO Executive Committee, which is composed of the Commissioner, three Second Commissioners, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Service Delivery Officer, and Chief Finance Officer. These roles are currently held by;

  • Rob Heferen, Commissioner of Taxation and Registrar of the Australian Business Registry
  • Jeremy Hirschhorn, Second Commissioner
  • Deb Jenkins, Second Commissioner
  • Matthew Hay, Chief Information Officer
  • Jacqui Curtis, Chief Operating Officer
  • Kirsten Fish, Chief Service Delivery Officer
  • Janine Bristow, Chief Finance Officer

Furthermore, the ATO's operations are managed through five groups which are led by members of the executive. These groups are:

  • Client Engagement, led by Second Commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn.
  • Law Design and Practice, led by Second Commissioner Deb Jenkins.
  • Service Delivery and Business Reporting and Registrations, led by Chief Service Delivery Officer Melinda Smith.
  • Enterprise Solutions and Technology, led by Chief Information Officer Matthew Hay.
  • Enterprise Strategy and Corporate Operations, led by Chief Operating Officer Jacqui Curtis.[14]

Groups are further divided into business and service lines (BSLs) which are responsible for the delivery of group priorities.



The Commissioner of Taxation is required to prepare and release an annual report each financial year. The annual report outlines the ATO's performance and achievements for each financial year.

Table 1.1 ATO net tax collections 2008–09 FY to 2012–13 FY (in $m)[6]

Financial year 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13
Total tax revenue 264,534 253,189 272,976 301,024 313,082



See also



  1. ^ APS Statistical Bulletin 2015-2016 (Report). Australian Public Service Commission. September 2016. Archived from the original on 2 April 2020. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Australian Taxation Office Annual Report". Australian Taxation Office. 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Who are we?". Commonwealth of Australia. 26 May 2008. Archived from the original on 29 June 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Edmonds, Leigh (2010). "The 1910s: Laying the Foundations". A brief history of the Australian Taxation Office (PDF). Australian Taxation Office. pp. 5–22. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  5. ^ "Annual Plan 2013–14" (PDF). Australian Taxation Office. 2013. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Commissioner of Taxation Annual report 20112-13". Australian Taxation Office. 2013. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  7. ^ "'Mongrel bunch of bastards'". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Tax inspector-general to investigate ATO garnishee orders". ABC News. 16 May 2018. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  9. ^ Khadem, Nassim (12 March 2019). "ATO debt collection review finds there was 'no cash grab', but staff need better training". ABC. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  10. ^ Ferguson, Adele (2 March 2019). "ATO whistleblower's case highlights need for reform". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  11. ^ "In Brief | Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector | IPAA (ACT Division)". Archived from the original on 1 January 2019. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Introducing the new Commissioner". Australian Taxation Office. Archived from the original on 2 June 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2024.
  13. ^ "ComLaw Act Compilations – Attachment – Taxation Administration Act 1953". Commonwealth of Australia. n.d. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  14. ^ "Organisational chart". Australian Taxation Office. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2016.

Further reading