8 April 2015
Media Release - #2015024, 2015

Integrity in our tax system

The Government is committed to maintaining integrity in Australia's taxation system.

The decision to disclose the information of taxpayers is entirely a matter for the Commissioner of Taxation as an independent statutory office holder.

Confidentiality of taxpayer information has been a key feature of Australia's taxation system since the 1950s.

The principle of confidentiality goes to the very essence of our voluntary, self-assessment taxation system. Without the continued application of confidentiality provisions, we run the risk of reducing compliance with the system.

The benefit of this approach is evidenced in the success of the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Project DO IT where 5,600 people came forward to self-disclose around $600 million in income and $4 billion in offshore assets.

The importance of confidentiality in our tax system has always been respected by both sides of politics.

Australian taxpayers need to know if Bill Shorten still holds the view that:

"The inconsistencies and ambiguities associated with the existing law have the potential to undermine its primary purpose—that is, to provide clear protection for taxpayer information. The taxation law has long recognised that such protection is fundamental to ensuring that taxpayers maintain their confidence in the operation of the tax system." (Source: Bill Shorten, then Assistant Treasurer, Hansard, Wednesday, 29 September 2010)

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan also recognised the importance of confidentiality when he said:

"I would have thought that everyone out there that was concerned about good public administration would see the common sense in observing what the Tax Office says about confidentiality provisions because they are important to every Australian and it's not a decision of the Government, it's the decision of the Tax Office." (Source: Wayne Swan, doorstop interview: Brisbane: 24 January 2013)

This Government is working hard to ensure multinationals pay taxes in Australia on the income they earn here.

Under our leadership, G20 Finance Ministers will continue to tackle base erosion and profit shifting and increase transparency to crack down on tax evasion.

We have also taken a leadership role in the automatic exchange of tax information, recently signing an agreement with Switzerland, based on the OECD’s common reporting standard.

We are working closely with other tax administrations, mapping the global operations of multinationals operating in the digital economy.

The ATO has strong investigative powers to ensure that multinational companies operating in Australia are paying their fair share of tax.

With additional resources, the ATO is undertaking more extensive inquiries and audits of multinational companies considered a risk to Australian tax collections.

The ATO is embedded in the offices of dozens of multinationals operating in Australia. By 30 June 2015, the ATO will have conducted around 200 reviews of the highest risk multinationals.

We need to promote and support this work, not put it at risk.