by Rebecca Merrett

Tax office CIO outlines plan for delivering ‘digital by default’

May 03, 20133 mins
Financial Services IndustryGovernmentMobile

A revamped online presence for the Australian Tax Office will help the government agency deliver “digital by default”, according to ATO CIO Bill Gibson.

The ATO is planning to launch the new website on 1 July, offering more self-help and business services online.

Some ATO services currently require the user to have to make a phone call or fill in a form. “Part of the reason for having to do it today that way is because of our paranoia with identity. So as long as we get that identity right then there is no reason why you can’t do it online yourself,” Gibson said.

Speaking at the Optus Vision 2013 event in Sydney, Gibson said the new website will include a user system that will let the agency tailor services to individuals’ needs.

“The thing about new is that instead of it being structured the way the previous one had been, we are trying to get across the idea of content within which you’re operating,” he said.

“If you are an individual and you go in there and you have identified yourself as an individual, we should be tailoring that page so that the things that are on there are the things you need to access the most.

“Not basically a table of contents with a whole tax system which is a lot of what the current looks like.”

The ATO is employing responsive design for the new site, so it can adapt to devices with different form factors, such as smartphones and tablets.

“We are looking to have our channel strategy be agnostic about the device, the time that you consume it and how you consume it,” Gibson said.

Gibson said the ATO spends about $770 million per year on technology investments, with 32 per cent of its total budget ($250 billion) being spent of “projects of change”. He pointed out there is high user demand for online services, which drove the need to improve its website.

“About 30 million of individual tax returns are lodged electronically which is about 91 per cent.

“Our .gov site receives about 60 million page visits per annum, and that doesn’t include superannuation, ABR, or portal visits because we run two portals – tax agent and business. During the year we have about 23 million tax agent logins.”

A connected government

Gibson said that government agencies need to work collaboratively to build cross-government systems so users don’t have to provide the same information to different organisations multiple times.

“Government today is pretty well siloed… They tend to be isolated experiences. So there is a substantial momentum building up internally within government to make this a connected government and offer a one stop shop type of access,” Gibson said.

Gibson said that there are challenges in interoperability when integrating databases and systems.

“There are a whole lot of ruptures that we have got to work through,” he said.

“We hold in the tax office your residential address, your business address, your mailing address and a whole range of other things that we would call address. But in other areas of government operations they might not. Centrelink might probably call it your home address, for example… So we have got to harmonise that so it makes sense.”

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