What it does: Collects revenue for the Australian government
Staff stats: Around 20,000 staff in offices across Australia
The good bits: Lots of workplace flexibility and development opportunities
The not so good bits: Public service bureaucracy
The ATO story
Contrary to the classic line about life’s two certainties, Australia was free of taxes – barring customs and excise duties – until 1910. That’s when Prime Minister Andrew Fisher introduced the first federal tax laws. He then appointed a Commissioner of Land Taxation to head up the collection efforts of 105 tax officers.
Lots of revenue was required to fund WWI, then WWII, then the Keynesian policies of the post-war era. This led to the rapid growth of the Federal Government’s revenue-collecting statutory agency. This was called the Commonwealth Taxation Office then the Federal Taxation Office before it became the ATO.
The Treasurer is responsible for the ATO. The ATO is overseen by an executive team made up of a Commissioner of Taxation and three Second Commissioners of Taxation. All are appointed for seven-year terms.
Nowadays, the ATO administers the federal taxation system and the GST (on behalf of the states and territories). It also oversees most of the superannuation system and the Australian Business Register. Each year it processes almost nine million tax returns and collects over $300 billion.
The ATO has been recognised as one of Australia’s top grad employers by The Australian and the Australian Financial Review, publications not noted for their pro-public service editorial positions. That would seem to be proof the ATO delivers on its commitment to be “consistently recognised for our efforts as an employer” and maintain its “exemplary record as a nurturer of new talent and a culture in which our employees excel”.
The ATO is committed to having a workforce that’s representative of the Australian community. It’s particularly focused on recruiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and offers an Indigenous cadetship program.
You’ll both need to be an Australian citizen and pass an integrity check demonstrating you’re of good character to work at the ATO. For some positions, you may also have to pass a medical.
Granted, you might not be too popular at parties but, as another old saying goes, taxation is the price we pay for civilisation. While nobody enjoys handing their money over to the taxman, the ATO has a well-earned reputation as a professional, honest and forward-thinking revenue-collection agency. By working for it, you’ll be making a real difference in the lives of your fellow Australians. You’ll be helping collect the money that funds Medicare, old age pensions, infrastructure schemes, scientific research and environmental programs.
The recruitment process
The ATO offers tailored grad programs for most disciplines although it has an obvious interest in those with accounting, commerce, economics, finance and law qualifications. Grad program positions, like all ATO roles, are filled on merit. To be judged sufficiently meritorious to be offered a spot, you’ll need to submit a written application then complete an assessment process. This will include undergoing psychometric testing, sitting interviews and providing references. You’ll also need to attend an assessment centre. There you will take part in role plays, individual presentations, group activities, in-tray exercises and writing case studies.
You can expect a starting salary of $58,000. There’s a significant pay bump after completing the grad program and annual pay reviews after that. There’s four week’s leave plus a week during the Christmas shutdown period. There’s also three week’s sick leave, paid maternity leave, the option to buy up to another eight week’s annual leave and access to a generous super scheme.
The grad program runs for a year. You don’t have to move to Canberra, you can work at one of the ATO offices located in Australia’s capital cities and large regional towns. During the program you’ll do work rotations, get a range of training and personal development opportunities and be supported by a program manager. Once you’ve completed the program, you’ll ascend to a APS4 grading and have your salary increase to $64,605. The ATO aspires to providing best practice career development for its staff. Nonetheless, it is a government agency, meaning you’ll need to be patient when it comes to promotions. There may be lucrative private-sector opportunities on offer after you’ve acquired an in-depth knowledge of how the tax system functions.
The vibe of the place
The socialising may not be as frenetic as is the case with some other government grad programs. That’s because you won’t be working alongside a lot of other people who’ve had to move to Canberra. That said, most ATO offices have active social clubs, which arrange sporting activities, family fun days and happy hours. The workplace culture may not be as buzzy as might be the case at a corporate employer but it’s friendly and supportive.
From the Employer:
"As an ATO grad you’ll be part of something big. From day one you’ll join our reinvention – challenging and transforming the way we operate.
With other professionals, you’ll help shape a world-leading tax and super administration known for its contemporary services, expertise and integrity.
Our journey demands the right company: thinkers with the energy, courage and resilience to make a difference. We offer unique experiences you can take with you on your career path, wherever that may lead.
Your future is our future
The ATO graduate program has a history of success. Our previous grads have helped shape Australia’s tax and super administration into one of the best in the world. Now it’s your turn.
What we do
We’re Australia’s principal revenue collection agency, responsible for managing and shaping the tax and superannuation systems for the benefit of the Australian community.
One of Australia’s largest public service employers, we have offices in all capital cities and many regional centres.
As an ATO graduate you’ll work alongside other professionals, contributing to the economic and social wellbeing of the Australian community. Together you’ll help shape an organisation known for its contemporary services, expertise and integrity.
What you need
If you have a degree in any of these disciplines, you could have the skills we’re looking for.
- Accounting, Finance and commerce
- Information Technology
- Marketing and communication
- Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and statistics
Develop your career, make a difference
Our graduate program provides an opportunity for you to develop in a dynamic and high profile national organisation. We value our people and their diverse skills and give high priority to developing their capabilities.
- An intensive 12-month program
- Challenging work rotations to develop your skills and explore different areas of interest
- A program manager to support you professionally and personally throughout the year
- Dedicated training and development opportunities
- A competitive starting salary of around $58,000
- Advancement upon successful completion
- Flexible working arrangements
- An excellent social and networking base with fellow graduates
Applications open 1 March 2017, applications close 12 April 2017
Your journey starts here > ato.gov.au/graduate-program"