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Australia To Improve Protections For Whistleblowers

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

07 December 2017

The Australian Government has introduced legislation to provide stronger protections for whistleblowers who expose corporate and tax misconduct.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2017 was introduced to Parliament on December 7, following a two-month consultation on its provisions.

The new corporate and tax whistleblower protection regimes will apply to whistleblower disclosures received from July 1, 2018. The disclosures can however concern misconduct that took place prior to this date.

The legislation

  • Broadens the subject matter of disclosures that qualify for protection, to encompass and enhance those covered under the existing corporate and financial sector whistleblower regimes;
  • Ensures that a disclosure to the Commissioner of Taxation qualifies for protection if the eligible whistleblower considers that the information may assist the Commissioner in the performance of their functions;
  • Means that in order to qualify for protection under the tax whistleblower regime, the whistleblower must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the information indicates misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstances, in relation to the tax affairs of the entity;
  • Strengthens the requirement of confidentiality of a whistleblower's identity;
  • Strengthens the immunities provided to whistleblowers and ensures the information they disclose is not admissible in evidence against them in a prosecution;
  • Broadens and clarifies the prohibition against the victimization of whistleblowers by adding a civil penalty option for prosecution for victimization and adding a broad inclusive definition of "detriment";
  • Makes it easier for individuals who suffer detriment in relation to a protected disclosure to claim compensation; and
  • Ensures that corporate entities that were or are employers of a whistleblower are liable if they contributed by act or omission to victimizing conduct.

Revenue Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said: "The reforms mean whistleblowers will be able to come forward with the confidence that they will be protected under a comprehensive and robust legal framework."

"Breaking ranks and reporting wrongdoing can be a harrowing experience, so it is important people know they will have access to redress if they are victimized as a result of blowing the whistle."

TAGS: individuals | compliance | tax | value added tax (VAT) | tax compliance | tax avoidance | Australia | legislation | Tax | Tax Evasion

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