Government appoints outsider Jordan as ATO heads toward a fresh approach

Treasurer Wayne Swan yesterday announced the appointment of Chris Jordan as the Commissioner of Taxation heading up the Australian Taxation Office in a move which has been welcomed by business and tax groups.

Jordan replaces outgoing Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo and has been appointed for seven years commencing in January 2013.

D’Ascenzo was somewhat controversially not asked to complete a further term following the end of his initial seven-year term, in what has been seen as disappointment within the government for the shortcomings of Operation Wickenby and D’Ascenzo’s stoushes with inaugural Taxation Inspector-General David Vos.

The Federal Government will be hoping for a less eventful term for Jordan who is currently Chair of the Board of Taxation. He headed Swan’s Business Tax Working Group and was previously chair of accounting giant KPMG in New South Wales.

In a press release yesterday, Swan congratulated Jordan on his appointment.

“Mr Jordan brings a broad range of experience, including industry and public policy experience under both Labor and Coalition governments,” he said.

CPA Australia head of policy Paul Drum told SmartCompany “it’s a big job” but Jordan is an appropriate appointment.

“We think he has a good balance of experience and he can play both major sides of politics. His work with the Board of Tax is quite invaluable in looking at policy matters rather than just administration. He will bring a fresh approach to the organisation,” Drum says.

“He will have some challenges managing an organisation of 24,000 plus people but surrounded by good second commissioners I think he will deal with that with aplomb.”

Drum’s comments were echoed by Ken Schurgott, president of the Tax Institute, who welcomed what he called “a fresh injection of private sector experience” to the helm of the ATO.

“We hope this appointment will strengthen existing ties with the private sector throughout the many ATO functions, including taxpayer and tax agent services, tax policy and development and consultation,” Schurgott said.

“We hope Chris Jordan’s appointment will import significant private sector management learnings into ATO operations.”

Schurgott cryptically said the Tax Institute would “note with interest” how Jordan’s appointment will fit in with “the ATO leadership and governance puzzle”.

It’s a puzzle that Drum describes as resulting from a history of “promoting their own” within the ATO, which he warns “does present some challenges but has changed in recent times”.

“They are an organisation in metamorphosis in that regard and that sends a strong message about what a new tax administration should be about, which is looking for the best of the best,” he says.

Perhaps there is some indication of the fresh approach that Jordan is likely to bring in an interview Jordan gave to BRW while he was head of KPMG and presided over an innovative and challenging new design for KPMG’s offices in Sydney.

“Change is very threatening to people, even though, in my mind, it was positive,” he said.

“People are very used to what they have got. If you ask them what they want, they want it better, but the same as it is now.”

 

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