Rejoice! GST cancelled!

Today I received the scoop from the ATO (Australian Taxation Office): Notice of cancellation — goods and services tax (GST).

No more GST? You’d think that would be bigger news, but there was nothing on TV. Just this personal letter. Well, not too personal. I was greeted as “Dear Sir/Madam”. But it was addressed to me by name — in fairness, as a sole trader, that may be my “registered business name” which only coincidentally happens to be my real name. Oh wait. I see this cancellation thing only applies to me.

  • You are not carrying on an enterprise
  • You cannot be registered for GST
  • We have cancelled your Australian business number (ABN)
  • The cancellation is effective as of 11 August 2008
  • If you are not satisfied … you may request a review. A fee will usually be payable. Your application must be in writing, setting out the reasons for your application and be lodged with the AAT within 28 days of the date of receipt of this notice.

Whew. Some of that was in a second letter. Cancelling my ABN. On my birthday. They only issued the noticed on 5 September and I only received it today. (Perhaps it was nice to not receive this on my birthday?)

Wow. Seems I haven’t worked since June 2006. That’s worked as a sole trader mind you, I’m still happily employed at Smart Service Queensland where I work to make user interfaces — and thus customer experiences — better. Which brings me to Tim Turner’s interesting work on government market segmentation. It describes four different market segments for government organisations. One segment is subject relationships.

The ATO have got this down pat. Australian business and taxation are their jurisdiction. They got the law on their side and they tell you how it is. Even if it is a month after the fact.

If you need to design a “government to subject” user experience, take note:

  1. Apply the rules without informing the subject, as is your right.
  2. Give the subject a token notification afterwards.
  3. Do not address the subject personally: Dear Sir/Madam is appropriate.
  4. Tell the subject how to appeal the application of rules, but warn them that they must pay for the privelege! To reiterate: do the thing, and then explain appeals. Don’t ask before doing!
  5. Specify a different appeal process per rule applied. All appeals must be in writing, but they can go to different recipients. They are likely to be treated as entirely separate cases.
  6. Remind subjects of other (potential) outstanding obligations. This is a blanket warning. Do not personalise to the subject’s circumstances.
  7. Use “must” and “have to” a lot.
  8. Do not engage in communication with the subject: no email or phone call, use the postal service.
  9. Use a separate letter for each rule that has been applied (even rules that flow on from the application of previous rules).
  10. Do not put your organisation name on the envelope, only a return address. Let your organisation name be known only when the letter is opened.
  11. The letter must be signed (use a photocopied signature) by the highest ranking official within the organisation.

11 techniques to apply! Does this sound tongue-in-cheek? It isn’t supposed to. It’s a list of observations from these letters that I feel effectively reinforced the “government to subject” experience.

Given I haven’t worked in 2 years, I really don’t need that ABN. And now I won’t have to fill out quarterly business activity statements. Nor request new digital certificates every time I rebuild my PC at home. And that is all good news! Woot 🙂


Published by

Ben Boyle

Web developer, Dad, gamer, mentor, animator, universal design advocate, fan of gadgets and sunshine!

2 thoughts on “Rejoice! GST cancelled!”

  1. Ok, so the (academic) question here is: to what extent did the 11 things that they did actually differ from your expectations? Sure, on first principles, you might expect them to be more polite, more communicative, and even perhaps less rule-bound. But, really, you’re a “subject” (as in ‘subject of the crown’ for those uninitiated to Ben’s and my private wonder), of course they’re going to treat you distantly, en-masse, and (in a word) efficiently.There’s no doubt that the communication could be better framed, but wouldn’t that just encourage a lot of ultimately useless questioning and hopeless attempts at appeals?Lovin’ your work!:o)

  2. It absolutely is a subject relationship, so no shaken expectations at all. Maintaining a certain aloofness (perhaps “professional distance” is a better term) from subject seems appropriate. The ATO are at all times very consistent in this.Right down to the part where I didn’t even expect to be hearing from the ATO about anything, yet don’t question the appropriateness of such a letter to arrive. Subjects don’t question the authority of the government I guess.Such a letter could not work in other segments. For customers and citizens, it would be unsolicited mail. In an established client relationship, the mail might not be unsolicited, but the contents of that mail – informing of an action without the consumer’s prior knowledge and/or approval – that would be surprising. Surprising, as in not meeting expectations.But for subjects, all ok. Efficient eh?

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