Specialist Teams

Our specialist teams are integrated across the SRO where they can best apply their expert skills to significant projects of major legislative and operational reform.

Each plays a major role to uphold our commitment to customer service to deliver benefits to all Victorians.

Fire Services Property Levy (FSPL)

Firemen posing in front of firetruck

With the levy’s introduction on 1 July 2013, our FSPL experts shifted their efforts from overseeing its implementation and educating the state’s 79 councils, to an ongoing administrative and support role.

A major part of this was upskilling staff in our Customer Contact Centre to enable us to meet the anticipated increase in queries from ratepayers, and from councils as we oversaw a centralised upgrade of their IT systems.

This commitment to information sharing wholly supports an ongoing state-wide communications strategy to inform all Victorians of the changes to how their fire services are funded.

Working side by side with local councils, our FSPL experts continue to build strong relationships across the state via face-to-face meetings, email and telephone enquiries, formal presentations to council groups and the production of information manuals.

Legal

Our legal specialists resolved more than two-thirds of the 117 matters completed this year without the need for litigation

  • Where the remaining matters could only be resolved by substantive hearing (including matters on appeal), almost three-quarters were decided in our favour (Appendix 7).

Each year we assess and process hundreds of thousands of transactions, including applications for exemptions and grants.

The vast majority of these decisions are undisputed however a small percentage is objected to by customers who question whether a particular situation attracts a tax liability, or their eligibility for a concession/exemption.

In these circumstances where we are unable to reach an internal resolution, customers may seek to have their matter determined by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or the Supreme Court. In 2013-14, we received 147 requests seeking referral of their matter to VCAT or the courts (including appeals by either party).

Policy and Legislation

The multitude of new and amended Acts of Parliament we administer each year requires that robust policies be developed to support them.

Picture of Victorian Parliament

Our policy and legislation specialists accomplish this, and then undertake significant effort to liaise heavily with key industry stakeholders and experts, such as the Victorian Law Foundation.

This team’s highly visible and valued relationship is also essential to the Department of Treasury and Finance, and the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, when our specialists often assist in the development of legislation administered by the SRO.

During 2013-14, their notable legislative work included the introduction of:

  • The State Taxation and Financial Legislation Amendment Act 2013, which included:
    • The Duties Act 2000 and the Taxation Administration Act 1997 (TAA) were amended in preparation for an electronic lodgement network for land transfers.
    • The Land Tax 2005 (LTA) provisions relating to the PPR exemption were amended for people with a disability and others requiring care in certain circumstances.
  • The State Taxation Legislation Amendment Act 2014, which included:
    • The Congestion Levy Act 2005 was amended to expand the congestion levy boundary to include various inner-Melbourne suburbs.
  • The Building a Better Victoria (State Tax and Other Legislation Amendment) Act 2014, which included:
    • The Duties Act 2000 was amended to increase the motor vehicle duty rate and abolish duty of life insurance policies.
    • The Payroll Tax Act 2007 was amended to reduce the rate from 4.9 per cent to 4.85 per cent.
    • The Planning and Environment Act 1987 was amended to introduce a metropolitan planning levy to support the Metropolitan Planning Authority.
    • The LTA was amended to align the definition of “greater Melbourne” with the urban growth boundary; and to reduce red tape for taxpayers by removing the need to lodge a notice of acquisition if they use PEXA.

Technical Advice and Review (TARB)

Our specialists in this multi-functional team issue private rulings to taxpayers and review written objections to assessments, decisions on tax liabilities and FHOG applications.

Private rulings may be issued in response to specific customer requests for an exemption or refund, requests for advice on the application of legislative provisions, or in the context of ensuring that payroll tax decisions are harmonised across jurisdictions.

In 2013-14, TARB provided 784 private rulings and determined 1287 objections.

This expert knowledge contributes to our efforts of ensuring the complexities of the legislation we administer are clearly and concisely presented to customers.

Compliance

Detecting cases where uncollected revenue exists relies largely on accurate and timely records accessed from a variety of information sources.

Our Forensic Investigations team use sophisticated data-matching and Business Intelligence (BI) technology to collect this detail, which helps to promptly identify and inform taxpayers of their obligations so they can comply with the law. This approach is both effective and efficient, with 91 per cent of these cases revealing liabilities in the past year.

Overall, in 2013-14 our Compliance Division uncovered about $303 million in revenue from more than 10,753 investigations. In cases of serious dishonesty, we launched 21 prosecutions and achieved a 100 per cent success rate.

Our investigators considered more than 7500 cases in 2013-14, resulting in $151.9 million in assessments.

Revenue from compliance activities in 2013-14

  • Landholder $118.68m
  • Land tax $83.04m
  • Payroll tax $71.87m
  • Lease $10.57m
  • Land rich $7.9m
  • Duties $7.36m
  • FHOG $4.06m
  • Other $0.3m

Landholder Acquisitions

Customers who acquire substantial land holdings in Victoria, or carry out certain leasing arrangements, may encounter complex obligations under the Duties Act 2000.

Furthermore, our staff issued 124 private rulings, processed 121 acquisition statements, determined 13 trust applications and completed 69 investigations with repect to the currrent landholder and former land rich provisions of the Act this year. In respect to lease provisions, a further 90 private rulings were issued and five investigations completed.

Land Tax Compliance Project

When significant areas of non-compliance are identified, we move quickly to establish expert teams that can educate taxpayers in their obligations and collect revenue rightfully due to the state.

As such, after securing funding from the Victorian Government until at least 2015-16, our Land Tax Compliance Project seeks to build on our efforts to engage with customers who are not meeting their obligations with the property they own.

This new team seeks to correct anomalies where Principal Place of Residence (PPR) exemptions have been incorrectly applied to properties and is expected to recoup about $90 million of revenue over three years.

In their first year our investigators exceeded their target of investigations, completing 3186 and identifying $14.75 million in outstanding revenue.

Information Technology

IT made 33 application releases to production systems, finalised 77 application change requests, performed 591 systems changes, resolved 7561 service requests and 6482 incidents and met agreed resolution times on 95% of service desk tickets.

Our technical infrastructure drives all of our revenue management activities and is critical to our ability to deliver the services our customers expect from us. Expanding the capacity of our core technology without undertaking a costly redevelopment represents a significant and ongoing challenge for our IT specialists.

Much of their efforts, therefore, are spent managing this technical environment and, for the past eight years, they have achieved award-winning results via the Sustainable Revenue Management System (SRMS). The team proudly accepted a Victorian Digital Government Award for its work to upgrade our unclaimed money technology in October 2013, which was a major milestone that lays the foundations for future IT projects.

Consistent government funding is further endorsement of this cost-effective and sustainable approach to prolong the life of our technical assets.

During the year our IT specialists also delivered a range of diverse improvements, such as:

  • Changes to accommodate legislative updates or system enhancements for the congestion levy, FHOG, FSPL and DOL.
  • Transferring all staff to a new operating system with minimal disruption to productivity.
  • Upgrades to our core application server and a network refresh at Ballarat.

Revenue Recovery

Additional funding for the DCA contract this year facilitated the DCA to resolve $16.0 million of debt (up from $9.9 million) at a very good resolution rate of 51% (compared to 37% previous year).

Through the year our revenue recovery specialists use targeted communication and negotiation skills to work closely with customers who have outstanding debt. In this way, we attempt to understand individual circumstances and ensure the most appropriate recovery strategy is applied to each case.

The team worked very hard to reduce our debt-to-revenue ratio to 1.35 per cent – the best result since 2008 and considerably lower than the 1.7 per cent last financial year. As at 30 June 2014 actionable debt was $186.7 million, more than $17 million down from 2012-13.

Where specific areas of debt are identified, significant work is undertaken to resolve these issues. For example, the team collected more than $3 million in land tax debt this year through enforcing s47 of the TAA (the garnishee provision) at property settlements. This was previously a rarely used provision but has resulted in this significant revenue being recovered much earlier than expected.

Aged debt/revenue ratio of 0.45% is another excellent outcome and betters previous result of 0.51%. The average monthly aged debt ratio was 0.54% compared to 0.55% last year.

The e-filing of court documents coupled with additional resources enabled the team to make significant improvements by resolving 169 matters (with total value of $21.8 million) and reducing cases on hand by 28.

Knowledge Management

Bringing greater organisation-wide consistency to the complex tax decisions we make streamlines our processes, generating lasting efficiencies for our customers and industry stakeholders alike.

While we have always skilfully managed our knowledge assets, streamlining our decision-making process as a whole-of-organisation strategic goal allows us to better respond to the challenges of:

  • Seamlessly operating across two locations (Melbourne and Ballarat).
  • Incorporating amendments to existing taxation legislation.
  • Administering new taxation legislation.
  • Managing the impact of adverse court decisions.
  • Responding to market fluctuations and general economic uncertainty.

We have created panels of senior specialists whose role is to provide a precise focus on emerging technical issues, make definitive rulings on decisions, and determine how best to effectively communicate this position across the SRO and beyond.

Additionally, our experts regularly meet with peak bodies, such as the Law Institute of Victoria, Tax Institute of Australia and Institute of Chartered Accountants, to openly discuss issues affecting various industries, including interpretation of legislation and recent court rulings.

Picture of the refurbished customer service centre

Finance and Administration

The management of our discretionary output budget to within a 0.03 per cent variance in 2013-14 points to consistently strong year-on-year administration by our corporate support specialists.

Other key 2013-14 achievements include:

  • Completing a major redesign and fitout of the Customer Service Centre and providing new office space to accommodate the Land Tax Compliance Project.
  • Reviewing and updating the organisation’s Electronic Document Records Managing Strategy.
  • Conducting a live-scenario test to assess crisis management and business continuity plans.
  • Meeting all environmental targets, including reducing overall paper usage.