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Australian Taxpayers' Confidentiality Improved

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

02 December 2010

The confidentiality of taxpayers' personal information held by the Australian Taxation Office has been improved, following the passage of the Tax Laws Amendment (Confidentiality of Taxpayer Information) Bill 2010 through both houses of Parliament.

In welcoming the passage of the legislation Bill Shorten, Assistant Treasurer and Minister or Financial Services and Superannuation, said: “These laws will streamline and improve the confidentiality of taxpayer information collected by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)."

He added: “The new law will standardize the existing tax secrecy and disclosure provisions to ensure the law is applied consistently and that taxpayer information held by the Tax Office is protected.”

Existing tax secrecy and disclosure provisions found in 18 taxation Acts have been standardized and consolidated into a framework found, for the first time, in a single place in the taxation law.

Inconsistencies and complexities inherent in the existing laws have been removed to provide greater certainty for taxpayers, taxation officers and other users of taxpayer information.

“Taxpayers provide personal information to the Tax Office expecting it to be kept confidential. This legislation therefore balances this protection of taxpayer information and the value of using this information for other appropriate purposes, such as law enforcement and whole of government operations,” the Assistant Treasurer said.

The standardized confidentiality framework largely replicates existing disclosures, but also introduces a limited number of new disclosure provisions in the public interest, including for law enforcement agencies and courts.

“Taxpayers have an expectation to the right to privacy of all confidential information provided to the ATO. This amendment ensures that confidentiality is protected, while still ensuring law enforcement and other appropriate agencies have the ability to access that information in the public interest,” Shorten said.

TAGS: court | tax | law | Australia | enforcement | legislation

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