Centre Alliance supports the broad intent of the bill, including schedule 5 which permits the passing of significant tax debt information by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to Credit Reporting Bureaus.
But as is the case for all powers granted to officials by Parliament, they must protect citizens (individuals, families or corporate entities) from unfair or aggressive practices. Unfortunately unfair and aggressive conduct does occur from time to time, including from the ATO. The abuse of garnishee powers by the ATO stands out as a notable recent example.
This bill fails to properly offer citizens protection in respect of passing tax debt information to Credit Reporting Bureaus. The submission and oral evidence of the Inspector General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO) is instructive in this regard.
It is noted that the IGTO provided a number of recommendations for changes that should be made to this bill in order to get the public purpose/citizen protection balance right. The Committee recognised this in Recommendation 2 of the report which states:
Having recognised the range of concerns raised by the IGTO, the Committee should not just leave the ATO to engage to IGTO; it should do its job properly and recommend the bill be changed to address the IGTO’s concerns.
That the bill be amended to incorporate the recommendations of the Inspector General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman into schedule 5.