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Chris Bowen

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs

3 December 2007 - 8 June 2009

Media Release of 13/03/2009

NO.015

Government Moves to Consolidate the Taxation Secrecy and Disclosure Provisions

The Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen, today released for public comment an exposure draft Tax Laws Amendment (Confidentiality of Taxpayer Information) Bill 2009 and explanatory materials that propose to implement the single and consolidated framework outlined in the Treasury discussion paper released in 2006, to govern the protection and disclosure of taxpayer information received by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in the course of administering the taxation laws.

"The Government affirms the importance of maintaining a high level of protection of information provided by taxpayers," Mr Bowen said.

"In standardising taxation secrecy and disclosure provisions currently found across 18 taxation Acts, the new framework is intended to address inconsistencies and ambiguities with the current provisions that have been enacted over a long time and in a number of different drafting styles.

"The new framework will provide greater clarity and certainty to taxpayers, the ATO and users of taxpayer information and will reduce the volume and complexity of the taxation law."

In addition to standardising existing taxation secrecy and disclosure provisions, the new framework also makes it clear that the future disclosure of taxpayer information should only be permitted where the public benefit from the disclosure outweighs taxpayer privacy.

Other key features of the new framework include that:

  • it maintains current levels of disclosures that can be made by the ATO to other government agencies;
  • it introduces some new disclosure provisions, where the public benefit outweighs taxpayer privacy;
  • it includes clear rules to govern the on-disclosure of taxpayer information provided by the ATO to another agency or entity;
  • it clarifies that there is no prohibition on the disclosure of taxpayer information that is lawfully available to the public; and
  • it provides that a taxpayer's consent can not in and of itself authorise the disclosure of their information.

The Government now seeks submissions from interested parties on the exposure draft Bill and explanatory materials. Copies of these materials are available from the Treasury website (www.treasury.gov.au) or may be obtained from the project team by telephoning 02 6263 4334.

Written comments on the consultation materials should be sent by Friday 17 April 2009 and may be submitted by mail, facsimile or email to:

The General Manager
Business Tax Division
The Treasury
Langton Crescent
PARKES ACT 2600
Fax: 02 6263 4466

Email: confidentiality@treasury.gov.au