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Australia To Consolidate Tax Privacy Laws

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

16 January 2007

Acting Australian Treasurer, Peter Dutton, has announced details of changes to the taxation law arising out of the Government’s Review of Taxation Secrecy and Disclosure Provisions.

Tax secrecy and disclosure provisions from 22 different tax acts will be standardised into a new framework within a single piece of legislation. The government says that the new framework was developed with consultation and numerous submissions received from professional associations, government agencies, business groups and taxpayers.

“Submissions were strongly in favour of standardising the existing tax secrecy provisions in order to provide certainty for taxpayers and users of tax information,” Dutton said.

The standardised secrecy framework will maintain existing disclosures, and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will also now be able to release taxpayer information in limited circumstances, where the public interest benefits exceed the impact on taxpayer privacy.

“New disclosures will include allowing the ATO to disclose more information to law enforcement agencies," Dutton said.

“For example, an important part of tackling organised crime or tracking supporters of terrorist organisations may require releasing information on the specific tax matters of individuals," he added.

The ATO will also be able to provide additional information to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in support of its role in corporate and insolvency regulation.

Dutton said that the standardisation will be "another significant step forward" in the government’s ongoing objective of reducing the complexity and volume of Australia’s tax laws.

The new secrecy and disclosure legislation is expected to be introduced into Parliament this year. Dutton said there will be opportunities to provide input on the draft legislation.

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