Chapter 1 - Introduction
1.1 Inland Revenue currently provides resources and expertise to certain enforcement agencies to help detect and prevent organised crime. However, taxpayer secrecy rules currently prevent Inland Revenue from sharing information with other enforcement agencies.
1.2 One of the aims of the Government’s Better Public Services reforms is to ensure the public sector undertakes a more collaborative, cross-agency approach to supporting citizens and gaining efficiencies. The Prime Minister recently set 10 challenging results for the public sector to achieve over the next three to five years. Two areas of focus relate to reducing crime rates and reoffending.
1.3 Making better use of information and information-sharing between government agencies has been identified as one means of gaining greater efficiencies and improved outcomes from the public sector. Improved information-sharing between Inland Revenue and other enforcement agencies has been identified as a means to both improve cross-agency collaboration and contribute to the Government’s goals of reducing crime.
1.4 Building on recent reforms to Inland Revenue’s secrecy rules, the Government has considered the possibility of an increased role for Inland Revenue in sharing information with enforcement agencies. This discussion document proposes that Inland Revenue may share information with other enforcement agencies where it might be an advantage in dealing with serious offences.
1.5 Expanding the information Inland Revenue shares with other government agencies is not without risk. The Government recognises that confidentiality is an important aspect of taxpayers’ comfort when providing information to Inland Revenue. There is also a risk of Inland Revenue being distracted from its core tax role. The Government is therefore only considering information-sharing when the benefits to society from such sharing are clear. For the purposes of this round of consultation, that means limiting information-sharing for law enforcement to cases of serious offences. Further information-sharing proposals are likely to be considered.
1.6 The Government takes very seriously the need for agencies to protect taxpayers’ privacy and secrecy. Therefore strict processes would be required for any increased information-sharing. Inland Revenue has many years’ experience in successfully exchanging sensitive information with New Zealand’s international tax treaty partners and these processes offer a model (which is highly regarded internationally) for domestic exchange of information on serious offence.
Purpose of this discussion document
1.7 The Government believes the proposals set out in this document will provide benefits to society. However, it also understands that trust in government use of information is crucial. The Government therefore wishes to canvass public opinion and ensure that any sharing of information follows a process that is acceptable to the public.
1.8 Your views on the advantages and disadvantages of this proposal and, if sharing does take place, when and what controls should be in place are welcomed.
1.9 To support consideration of the proposals, Inland Revenue commissioned research to help inform its advice to Government. The research was designed to obtain the views of a number of stakeholder groups regarding the use of Inland Revenue information to assist law enforcement agencies. An advisory group, comprising representatives from the Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Police, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Victoria University of Wellington and Inland Revenue, oversaw this research project.
Summary of proposals
1.11 The Government proposes allowing Inland Revenue to share information with other enforcement agencies:
- when the offence is committed by an individual and is punishable by imprisonment of four years or more; or if a similarly serious offence is committed by a body corporate which would be punishable by imprisonment of four years or more if it had been committed by an individual;
- when there are reasonable grounds for the agency identifying the possible offence to suspect that a serious offence has been committed, is being committed, or will be committed;
- when there are reasonable grounds for Inland Revenue to suspect the information it has is relevant to the prevention, detection or investigation of, or is evidence of, a serious offence that has been committed, is being committed, or will be committed; and
- when Inland Revenue is satisfied that:
- the information is readily available within Inland Revenue;
- it is reasonable and practicable to communicate the information; and
- it is in the public interest to communicate the information.
How to make a submission
1.12 The Government invites submissions on the proposals in this discussion document.
1.13 Submissions should include a brief summary of major points and recommendations. They should also indicate whether it would be acceptable for officials from Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Justice and New Zealand Police to contact you about your submission to discuss the points raised.
1.14 Submissions should be made by 21 May 2013 and be addressed to:
Sharing Inland Revenue information to support law enforcement
C/- Deputy Commissioner, Policy and Strategy
Inland Revenue Department
PO Box 2198
Or email: [email protected]
Readers may also wish to access the online forum: www-targetingseriouscrime.ird.govt.nz [site no longer available - see Internet Archive for archived version] which has been launched in tandem with this discussion document.
1.15 Submissions may be the source of a request under the Official Information Act 1982, which may result in their publication. The withholding of particular submissions on the grounds of privacy, or for any other reason, will be determined in accordance with that Act. If you think any part of your submission should properly be withheld under the Act, you should indicate this clearly.
1 The Prime Minister’s Results for New Zealanders, released on 15 March 2012, http://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/The_Prime_Minister's_results_for_New_Zealanders.pdf