ATO Fudging the Numbers to Make Their Performance Look Better? Surely Not

4 April 2024

1.6 MINS

It turns out the ATO have been fudging numbers and selectively reporting on their performance. Wow! Someone report them to the Tax Office!

Oh, wait a minute.

The Australian Tax Office is determined to reduce average call wait times, and publicly reports on its progress.

In 2021-22, the ATO met its performance target of general inbound callers waiting less than 10 minutes on average to speak to someone. Yay.

But in 2022-23, that wait time blew out to 10 minutes and 49 seconds. Whoa!

Lowering Standards

What did they do?

They revised the “performance target” to “less than 15 minutes”.

You have to love that. If you don’t meet your target, set a new, easier one and when you meet it, celebrate as if you made actual progress. Presumably, senior executives get a bonus to boot.

Kill me now!

But it’s not enough to continually set new, easier-to-meet targets and call that customer service. No, no… the ATO are even tricker than that. (They clearly have a very good accountant)

In order to keep wait times low, the ATO actively hang up on callers — one in four, as it turns out.

Figures published in The Age show that 26 per cent of callers to the Tax Office are connected, only to have their calls immediately rejected. And without the option of joining the queue or agreeing to a callback.

More than 1 million calls to the ATO have been rejected already this financial year.


And here’s the kicker. The ATO acknowledged it was hanging up on people so as to make the average wait on other calls appear more reasonable.

Remember, this is in addition to already lowering their performance target for 2023-24.

In a statement published yesterday, the ATO admitted that 26 per cent of general inbound calls had been “blocked” this year as a “demand management tool”.

Those blocked calls were not factored into the average wait times.

The ATO said:

“Call blocking is used reservedly and intermittently to maintain client wait times at acceptable levels that ensures all calls in queue could be answered by the end of each day.”

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, it gave me an idea…

Any chance I can defer reporting 26 per cent of my income in order to maintain the amount of tax I pay at an acceptable level?

Asking for a friend.


Originally published at The James Macpherson Report.

Subscribe to his Substack here for daily witty commentary.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.


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One Comment

  1. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 5 April 2024 at 1:38 am - Reply

    Crazy , logic straight out of ” Alice in Wonderland “. Fudging performance figures by the ATO is nothing new as a former Insider (me who was dubbed “The Enemy Within”—I successfully sued in 1984 my employer , the ATO ) can attest. I was too honest for the Public Service. Time that the person ( s ) responsible for this policy are made accountable/ punished by an official Enquiry. Heads at the top should roll, but, Australia is now too corrupt to reform. It is a DISGRACE to treat taxpayers with such contempt . Overpaid Public Servants .

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