Information sharing

Release of general information

Enforcement of employment standards

Sharing biometric information


RELEASE OF GENERAL INFORMATION


Clause 117(3)

Submissions

(Office of the Privacy Commissioner, KPMG, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand)

Three submitters expressed their general support for the proposals.

We support the Commissioner releasing general information without the approval of the Minister of Finance, as long as the information does not identify any taxpayer. (KPMG, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand)

The use of de-identified and statistical information to increase the transparency of government processes is supported. The proposed amendment to enable decisions on the release of information in this context to be made by the Department, rather than requiring Ministerial approval, is a pragmatic approach to facilitate the release of information when it is desirable to do so. (Office of the Privacy Commissioner)

Comment

Officials note the general support for the proposed amendments.

Recommendation

That the submissions be noted.


ENFORCEMENT OF EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS


Clauses 117(2) and (6)

Issue: Support for the proposal

Submission

(Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, KPMG, Office of the Privacy Commissioner)

Three submitters expressed general support for the proposals to share information with other agencies, such as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and with WorkSafe for the enforcement of employment standards.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner also commented that it considers the threshold introduced in clause 117(2) that requires the Commissioner to consider that “the disclosure is reasonably necessary” to support a legislative function, as proposed for the new section 81(4)(ec) of the Tax Administration Act, is a sufficient safeguard to ensure the exchange of personal information will be appropriately constrained to support the purpose intended. (Office of the Privacy Commissioner)

Comment

Officials note the general support for the proposed amendments.

Recommendation

That the submission be noted.


Issue: Proposal should be reconsidered

Submission

(EY)

The proposal is not necessarily in the best interests of fostering voluntary compliance and disclosure, for tax purposes, by taxpayers. The proposal should be reconsidered.

Comment

Officials agree that voluntary compliance is an important consideration.

There are times when carrying out a function in relation to workplace legislation that wage and time records are absent, inaccurate or falsified. Using Inland Revenue records will support the goal of facilitating the enforcement of employment standards. Inland Revenue records should enable labour inspectors to identify and proceed against a breach.

Recommendation

That the submission be declined.


Issue: Further safeguards needed

Submission

(KPMG)

The proposal should be subject to the same safeguards over the storage and use of taxpayer-secret information, and sanctions for non-compliance, that apply to Inland Revenue, applying to the relevant agencies (and their officers).

Comment

There will be safeguards in place over the storage and use of the information shared. For example, information can only be shared for specific purposes and the information can only be used for that purpose, the information must be stored appropriately by the other agency and only accessible by relevant people in the other agency (not by all staff). In addition, shared information is part of a public record and therefore the Public Records Act 2005 applies. The receiving agency must comply by having appropriate storage and disposal procedures in place.

Recommendation

That the submission be declined.


SHARING BIOMETRIC INFORMATION


Clause 117(5)

Issue: Support for the proposal

Submission

(Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, KPMG, Office of the Privacy Commissioner)

Three submitters support the amendment to section 81 of the Tax Administration Act 1994 to allow the sharing of biometric information with the Ministry of Social Development.

Comment

Officials note the submitters’ support for the proposed amendments.

Recommendation

That the submission be noted.


Issue: Should the proposed amendment be limited to the Ministry of Social Development?

Submission

(KPMG)

The proposal, as set out in the Commentary to the Bill, is limited to the sharing of voiceprint data with the Ministry of Social Development. However, draft section 81(4)(nb) of the Tax Administration Act 1994 appears to allow voiceprint sharing with any “public sector agency”. It is unclear what is actually intended here.

Comment

Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development are looking at a pilot to determine whether Inland Revenue’s biometric information can be used to identify and verify callers to the Ministry.

The legislation is wider than required for the pilot to ensure that if the pilot is successful, the use of Inland Revenue’s voiceprint data can be extended to other government agencies – that is, the intention is to future-proof the legislation.

Recommendation

That the submission be noted.


Issue: The giving of consent

Submission

(KPMG)

The draft legislation (proposed section 81(4)(nb)(iv)) requires the Commissioner to seek approval from a taxpayer to exchange biometric information with other Government agencies. It is not clear, practically, how Inland Revenue will attempt to seek consent. We also believe it may be useful for the legislation to allow the other agency (the Ministry of Social Development) to seek consent from the taxpayer, on Inland Revenue’s behalf, if this is an easier option.

Comment

Officials agree with the submission and consider that the legislation should be clarified and consent obtained by the other agency (for the pilot this would be the Ministry of Social Development). Administratively, this would be a much simpler option.

Recommendation

That the submission be accepted.


Issue: Extending the types of biometric information

Submission

(KPMG)

Limiting the type of biometric information to be exchanged to the “voice of the person” seems short-sighted. Biometric information encompasses a range of potential identifiers. Consideration should be given to the reasons for limiting the type of biometric information that might be exchanged. This is particularly relevant as electronic communication increases and video as well as voice communication becomes more prevalent.

Comment

Section 81 of the Tax Administration Act 1994 creates an obligation of secrecy for officers of Inland Revenue. However, under section 81(4), there is a list of circumstances in which this obligation has been removed. This provision relates to the sharing of information that Inland Revenue holds, rather than receives. At this stage the only biometric information that Inland Revenue collects relates to voice. Officials consider that at this stage the proposed amendment should be limited to voice biometric information only.

Recommendation

That the submission be declined.