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Despite signalling he would leave in 18 months, Chris Jordan could see his digitisation project through to the end of the decade.
ATO commissioner Chris Jordan is refusing to rule out a third term as head of the Tax Office when his second term ends in April 2024.
Mr Jordan, 68, signalled in 2019 that he would not seek a third term but the ATO declined to confirm this in response to questions in the wake of an interview with him last month.
Repeated requests failed to clarify the matter although the ATO said, in full:
“The Commissioner is focused on his current term and continuing to deliver outcomes for the Australian community.”
During the interview, which will be featured in the IPA’s Public Accountant magazine in November, Mr Jordan emphasised the scale of the task now facing the ATO in the wake of the pandemic.
He said it needed to rebuild revenue and reduce its debt book after more than two years of allowing taxpayers to postpone payments during COVID.
Despite occasional controversy, Mr Jordan is widely considered to have been an effective tax commissioner. He has maintained the ATO’s reputation at a time when similar organisations overseas, such as the US Internal Revenue Service, have sometimes come under heavy political pressure.
Mr Jordan is also widely seen as relatively apolitical. He was appointed by then ALP treasurer Wayne Swan at the end of 2012. Previously, he had worked for John Howard when Howard was Opposition Leader, and later headed a project team for the Abbott government’s treasurer, Joe Hockey. Scott Morrison extended his term in 2017.
Current Treasurer Jim Chalmers might welcome the chance to reappoint Mr Jordan. Dr Chalmers was Wayne Swan’s chief-of-staff when Mr Jordan was appointed and would welcome his enthusiasm for getting ATO revenues back up to speed as soon as possible.
Mr Jordan has shown a willingness to take on larger corporates, a priority for this Labor government. As ATO head, Mr Jordan’s first high-profile campaign was to ensure tech multinationals such as Apple, Google and Microsoft paid what the ATO considered the lawful level of Australian taxes.
Mr Jordan is also a prime mover behind the ATO’s race to digitise, with the vision of a future in which “tax just happens” outlined at the Xerocon event last month.
Extending Mr Jordan’s term would require no special measures. Changes to public service laws in 1999 removed compulsory retirement for public servants on the grounds of age.
If he served a third term, Jordan would become Australia’s second longest-serving Commissioner of Taxation. Robert Ewing had the job from 1917 to 1939.
Since the job was created in 1910, most of the Tax Office’s 12 commissioners of taxation have served for at least a decade. The most recent to serve 15 years or more was Patrick McGovern, who filled the role from 1946 to 1961.