TAX WORD with Mike Bannon

LAST WEEK I was shown another email from a scammer claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office. But this email had an extraordinary twist that relies on the fear most people have of the ATO.

The email purported that the ATO had ''discovered'' the person was due a tax refund. The person was asked to provide their bank account details.

The twist was the threatening statement that ''deliberate wrong inputs [bank account details] are criminally pursued and prosecuted''.

The plain fact is the ATO does not contact people by email notifying them of tax refunds and does not seek bank account information by emails. The best course of action when in receipt of such emails is to delete them, along with emails from so-called wealthy Africans or advice of overseas lottery wins. Any person who has inadvertently responded to the scammers should contact the ATO and their bank.

Also last week, the new Commissioner of Taxation was appointed after the government did not reappoint current commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo. Reports D'Ascenzo had resigned are wrong. The new commissioner is Chris Jordan, currently chairman of the Board of Taxation and a former partner of a big-four accounting firm.

Jordan has a monumental task collecting sufficient tax to enable the government to report a budget surplus this year. He will have to establish the respect and loyalty that D'Ascenzo successfully built over his seven-year term. ATO officers are reeling over the decision not to reappoint him and this will be a significant hurdle for Jordan.


The ATO has one commissioner and three second commissioners. Two second commissioners - David Butler and Jennie Grainger - have left in the past six months. Butler's replacement came from outside the ATO and Grainger has not been replaced.

With D'Ascenzo leaving in December, only one of the four - Bruce Quigley - has a strong ATO background and he is expected to retire next year. If Grainger and Quigley are not replaced by internal personnel, the ATO's function will be impeded.

The ATO is a complex organisation of 23,000 people who administer 9000 pages of complex tax and superannuation laws. At the most senior levels, an in-depth understanding of those laws and their history is imperative. The government should be very careful about the backgrounds of the next two appointees.

Michael Bannon is a tax consulting partner at Duesburys Nexia, Canberra