The government has introduced a bill that would allow federal, state and territory agencies to use tax data when determining eligibility for relief payments during “major” disasters.
The descriptively-titled ‘Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 3) Bill 2022’ contains the newly-proposed “data sharing” arrangements.
Under the current Taxation Administration Act 1953, an ATO officer can’t disclose certain types of information to other agencies.
This is information that relates to the “affairs of an entity and identifies, or is reasonably capable of being used to identify, the entity.”
In an explanatory memorandum [pdf], the government said it wants to “amend the tax secrecy provisions in the TAA 1953 to allow tax information to be disclosed to Australian government agencies for the purposes of administering major disaster support programs.”
It defines administration in broad terms: coordinating payments, as well as auditing them, though notes these responsibilities could ultimately fall to different agencies.
The memorandum states that similarly protected tax data “has been used by Australian government agencies, including states and territory governments, to verify an applicant’s eligibility to access a range of support payments (for example, the recent Covid-19 related support payments).”
Allowing the data to be used in the administration of “major disaster support programs … will assist Australian government agencies to address the needs of individuals and businesses significantly disrupted by a major disaster event more efficiently and effectively and reduces the risk of those individuals and businesses receiving inadequate or inappropriate support,” the memorandum states.
“This measure will assist Australian government agencies to address the needs of individuals and businesses significantly disrupted by a major disaster event more efficiently and more effectively,” assistant treasurer Stephen Jones said.
“The sharing of taxation information will only be authorised if the treasurer is satisfied that the program supports individuals and businesses affected by a major disaster.”