A former policeman who once worked in John Howard’s office has been appointed to run the Tax Office, in a rare decision to give the top job to an outsider.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said on Monday that a veteran private-sector tax adviser, Chris Jordan, would replace the departing Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo from January.

Before spending more than two decades at the accounting firm KPMG – where he worked until this June - Mr Jordan began his working life as a policeman in Sydney in the 1970s. He was also seconded to advise Mr Howard on taxation when the future Prime Minister was in Opposition during the 1980s.

But although Mr Jordan still counts Mr Howard as a personal friend, his handling of complex policy issues has earned accolades from the current Labor government.

After several bruising battles with big business, the government was also impressed with Mr Jordan’s private-sector experience.

Mr Jordan this year chaired the panel tasked with cutting company taxes – which failed to reach an agreement with business – and also helped implement the GST for the Howard government.

‘‘Mr Jordan brings a broad range of experience, including industry and public policy experience under both Labor and Coalition Governments,’’ Mr Swan said.

The shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, said the Coalition welcomed Mr Jordan’s ‘‘much-needed’’ private sector experience.

In tax circles, Mr Jordan is also known for this impartiality. But this has not stopped him from criticising business and government alike.

In June, Mr Jordan criticised simplistic calls for business tax cuts dressed up as ‘‘reform.’’
"Is tax reform just a rate cut? That's not really reform, that's just reducing rates," he told BusinessDay.

He also took aim at both sides of politics for their failure to consider raising or widening the GST.

"I think it is a shame that it's something that we just can't even have as a debate, like increasing the tax on consumption was ruled out of the Henry review," he said.

Mr Jordan will take over the ATO at a time when the agency is under pressure from slipping projections for tax receipts, while there are also growing calls from business to consider an increase in the GST.

The appointment of Mr Jordan breaks a long-running tradition of promoting staff from within the ATO to Commissioner – a move that has been welcomed by tax groups.

Until this June, Mr Jordan was the chairman of KPMG in NSW, and he is currently chair of the Board of Taxation.