A FORMER policeman who once worked as an adviser to John Howard has been appointed to run the Tax Office, in an unprecedented move to give the top job to someone outside the federal bureaucracy.
Chris Jordan, a veteran private-sector tax adviser who will become Commissioner of Taxation in January, said he has no immediate plans for a shake-up at the agency.
"There's an opportunity to have a fresh look at things because I am from outside the system," Mr Jordan said yesterday. "I just want to spend a lot of time listening: listening to those people within the Tax Office, listening to stakeholders generally, including business and community organisations.
"I don't have any particular radical ideas or thoughts at this point, but I think it's just a marvellous opportunity to look at things in a slightly different way."
Mr Jordan is the only non civil servant to head the ATO since the first commissioner was appointed in 1910. But after years of acting as an intermediary between business and government on taxation policy, he says he will not be "coming in cold to the position".
Mr Jordan began his working life as a policeman in Sydney in the 1970s, before joining the accounting firm KPMG, where he worked for more than 20 years, until June this year.
He was seconded to advise Mr Howard on taxation when the future prime minister was in Opposition in the 1980s. He has worked in a wide range of advisory roles since then.
Mr Jordan still counts Mr Howard as a personal friend. His handling of complex policy issues has also earned him accolades from the serving Labor government.
This year he chaired the panel tasked with cutting company taxes - which failed to reach an agreement with business - and has chaired the Board of Taxation since June 2011.
"I've had a lot of time in and around policy development and implementation, and in the Board of Taxation, to understand the problems that often arise in the tax system," he said.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said: "Mr Jordan brings a broad range of experience, including industry and public policy experience under both Labor and Coalition governments." The Coalition also welcomed Mr Jordan's "much-needed" private sector experience.
In taxation circles, Mr Jordan is known for his impartiality, but this has not prevented him criticising business and government alike.
In June, he was critical of what he thought were simplistic calls for business tax cuts, dressed up as "reform". He also took aim at politicians' failure to consider changing the GST. On Monday he said it would no longer be appropriate to comment on policy issues.
Mr Jordan replaces Michael D'Ascenzo, who announced his retirement last month.