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Tax officers set free

MOBILITY is the key word for the Cannington-based Australian Tax Office GST field team.

Each team has been given a laptop and mobile phone to allow them to go out on the road and visit businesses requesting GST information.

Rather than working from the Cannington office, the field team link their laptops to the mainframe, download essential information to their hard drive – which handles up to ten gigabytes – and hit the road.

Field officers spend anywhere from half an hour to four hours visiting each business, depending on the complexity of the information required.

Being completely independent from the base office, the field officers often work late nights and weekends to meet the time constraints of business operators.

Upon return to the office, the officer simply links again to the mainframe to upload information which is then merged.

Cannington Tax Office assistant commissioner for GST Brian Fitzgerald said, as security was of paramount concern, four security areas protected the system from unauthorised access.

Mr Fitzgerald said, to prevent the transfer of secure data, the laptops had neither a CD-ROM nor a floppy drive.

“Business enquiries are processed according to postcode, and a field officer works within a specific group of suburbs so as to familiarise themselves with the businesses in that area,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“We work to a guideline of contact within three days from the time of the initial phone inquiry and field as many answers as possible using an electronic reference system on the ATO’s intranet.

“This technology means we can often answer questions straight away.

“Otherwise, we have a ‘reply in five days’ policy where questions that weren’t answered during the field visit are responded to via fax, post, email or phone.”

Cannington Tax Office GST team leader Laurie Simpson said the officers enjoyed their new mobile status.

“Wireless technology is changing the entire workplace culture,” Mr Simpson said.

“They enjoy the feeling of being on the cutting edge of technology and working in variety of environments, rather than being stuck in an office.

“At some stage later in the year we plan to link to a super domain based at the Tax Office in Burwood, NSW.

“This means some field officers may not need to come in to the office at all.”

Mr Fitzgerald said the Cannington GST teams, which service the whole of WA, aimed to make 20,000 field visits between now and July.

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