Redesigning tax advice and guidance

The way we provide advice and guidance to taxpayers and their advisers is being redesigned, with an emphasis on tailoring information according to their level of knowledge and the complexity of their questions.

This involves providing new ways of navigating information so taxpayers can drill down as required – from a simple explanation, to examples and detailed reasoning, to ATO rulings and other advice for tax professionals, and ultimately the legislation.

At the simplest level, this approach has involved a new website virtual assistant ('Alex') to answer a growing range of general tax enquiries. Alex went live in March 2016, following public testing on the ATO Beta website, and by 30 June had held over 270,000 conversations, averaging a first contact resolution rate of 75%.

We are partnering with academics and tax professionals in reviewing more than 2,000 public advice and guidance products. Over time, these products will be revised, consolidated or withdrawn as appropriate with 921 rulings having been reviewed already. In addition, we have separately withdrawn 226 obsolete annual rulings and 45 ATO interpretative decisions.

The delivery of new and innovative ways in developing advice and guidance products will support simpler principles-based legislative drafting and provide practical solutions for taxpayers. For example, law companion guidelines are a type of public ruling that give the ATO view on how recently enacted law applies. Another new product type is the practical compliance guidelines. These provide broad law administration guidance, addressing the practical implications of tax laws and outlining our administrative approach. We are also analysing all our 'one-to-one' advice to identify opportunities to provide better public advice (one-to-many approach) so the community can self-service on simple topics.