The Treasurer recently announced that new legislation to be introduced into parliament will help agencies involved in Project Wickenby share information to aid law enforcement. Now Treasury has released a discussion paper on the review of taxation secrecy and disclosure provisions.

The purpose of the review is to improve the laws that protect taxpayer information and allow disclosure in limited circumstances only in accordance with a prescribed legal process.

The discussion paper draws attention to the complexity and uncertainty caused by the different tax secrecy and disclosure provisions which exist across several provisions including superannuation, excise, Australian Business Number (ABN) and Tax File Number (TFN) legislation. The paper proposes that the various tax law secrecy and disclosure provisions should be standardised into a single piece of legislation such as the Taxation Administration Act 1953.

As well as investigating the principles governing the standardisation of secrecy and disclosure laws, the discussion paper looks at disclosure of taxpayer information, specifically for:

* administration, design and maintenance of the tax laws
* the purpose of protecting public finances
* the purpose of other Commonwealth, state and territory laws

Four possible new disclosures of taxpayer information for public comment are also discussed:

* disclosure to third parties with taxpayer consent
* disclosure to law enforcement and intelligence agencies
* disclosure to the Tax Commissioner as an employer
* disclosure to third parties where a duty is owed to them

The government is seeking submissions by interested parties on the proposals and issues canvasses in the discussion paper by 29 September 2006.

CPA Australia has prepared a summary of the proposals. It can be downloaded here

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