Tax chief questions media reporting

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent

The head of the Australian tax office has accused two media outlets of being irresponsible for making "unsubstantiated claims" that his department can get it wrong in one in 20 tax cases.

Addressing a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday, Australian Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan admitted that in a large institution like the Australian Taxation Office, human mistakes will be made.

But he said there is absolutely no evidence for the claims made by the ABC and Fairfax Media, and instead they provided a distorted picture of what is happening at the ATO.

"Scaring or deterring anyone from facing up to their tax obligations and working with us to resolve those issues is simply irresponsible," Mr Jordan said.

He believes the ABC is working against its code of practice.

"Seriously, how appropriate is it to have the title of the Four Corners program, 'A Mongrel Bunch of Bastards'," Mr Jordan said.

"It is highly offensive and inaccurate".

He said while the ATO could do better, it does well when compared with other tax authorities.

"Not everybody does the right thing and some, when caught out, go to great lengths to criticise the ATO," he said.

The Four Corners program examined evidence from businesses, ATO staff, lobby groups, lawyers and academics about the difficulties of challenging tax office assessments.

Mr Jordan told the hearing he had not made formal complaints to either organisation at this stage.

Shadow treasurer Andrew Leigh noted that since the coalition came to office it had cut over 4000 jobs from the tax office.

"That has made it harder than ever for the ATO to perform at the level Australians expect," Dr Leigh told AAP.

He said the report by the ABC and Fairfax had raised genuine concerns and prompted a call from Labor to launch an investigation into the ATO.