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Tax secrecy and transparency – an ongoing balancing act



In July this year, Kathrin Bain, a lecturer in the School of Taxation and Business Law, attended a two-day conference in Rust, Burgenland, organised by the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law, part of the Vienna University of Economics and Business.  The theme of the conference was “Tax secrecy and tax transparency – the relevance of confidentiality in tax law”.

With attendees from around the world, including Europe, North and South America, China, and India, lively discussion took place on how different countries face the continuing ‘balancing act’ between protecting taxpayer privacy on the one hand, but ensuring revenue authorities have the ability to access sufficient information on the other.

In the Australian context, tax evasion has received increased media attention in recent years, in large part due to the high profile case of Paul Hogan.  Further, e-tax and the increasingly ability to use ‘pre-filled data’ has highlighted to many taxpayers the amount of data the ATO has access to. 

Kathrin spoke on this increasing use of pre-filled data, as well as the sharing of information between state revenue authorities at the Australian Taxation Office.  Other topics of the conference included confidentiality requirements of revenue authorities, banks, lawyers and tax advisers; recourse for taxpayers if any such confidentiality is breached; and the increased sharing of information internationally between governments.

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