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Opinions on Ministerial Notifications

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Ministerial decision not to provide information about payers of payroll tax and the amount paid by each

Opinion

The decision by the Minister for Finance, the Hon Ben Wyatt MLA, not to provide Parliament with information about payers of payroll tax and the amount paid by each was reasonable and therefore appropriate.

Background

In Parliament on 16 October 2018, the Hon Robin Scott MLC asked the Minister for Finance for the following information in Legislative Council Question on Notice 1644:

Hon Robin Scott to the minister representing the Treasurer; Minister for Finance; Energy; Aboriginal Affairs:

(1) For the most recent period of twelve months for which figures are available to the Minister, will the Minister table a geographic breakdown of the sources of payroll tax, whether by region or by electorate or by tax zone or on any other geographical basis?

(2) For the most recent period of twelve months for which figures are available to the Minister, will the Minister table a list of the 100 largest payers of payroll tax, showing the amount paid by each?

(3) For the most recent period of twelve months for which figures are available to the Minister, will the Minister table a list of the 1,000 largest payers of payroll tax, showing the amount paid by each?

(4) For the most recent period of twelve months for which figures are available to the Minister, will the Minister table a list of all payers of payroll tax, showing the amount paid by each?

(5) For the most recent period of twelve months for which figures are available to the Minister, will the Minister advise the total of payroll tax paid by businesses employing 100 or fewer employees?

(6) For the most recent period of twelve months for which figures are available to the Minister, will the Minister provide a geographic breakdown of the sources of payroll tac paid by businesses employing 100 or fewer employees, whether by region or by electorate or by tax zone or on any other geographical basis?

On 16 October 2018, the Minister declined to give information for parts (2) to (4) of the question, replying:

(2)-(4) Section 114(2) of the Taxation Administration Act 2003 prevents the Commissioner of State Revenue from disclosing taxpayer information that could reasonably be expected to lead to the identification of any person to whom it relates.

The Minister’s full response is included in Appendix 1.

On 1 November 2018, the Auditor General received the Minister’s notification of the decision not to provide the requested information in accordance with section 82 of the FM Act.

Key findings

The decision by the Minister not to provide information was reasonable and therefore appropriate.

The Minister properly sought advice from the Commissioner of State Revenue (the Commissioner) before responding to the request. The Commissioner did not provide the information to the Minister, claiming it was taxpayer information and could not be disclosed.

The Commissioner based the advice on an assessment by the Office of State Revenue (OSR) that the information could not be disclosed because:

  • the requested information was taxpayer information which is considered confidential
  • such information was subject to the requirements of section 114(2) of the Taxation Administration Act 2003 (the Act). That section says certain people, including the Commissioner, must not disclose or make use of information or material obtained under a taxation act. It goes on to list some exceptions
  • none of the exceptions applied to the facts of this matter.

We agree with the OSR assessment that no exceptions under the Act applied, and that the information was confidential and could not be provided.

In reaching this opinion, we followed the approaches laid out in previous Opinions on Ministerial Notifications dealing with taxpayer information.[1],[2] To protect taxpayer interests and government information and allow for efficient administration of taxation legislation, it is common for taxation legislation to include specific confidentiality obligations.

[1] Office of the Auditor General. 2015 Report 21: Opinion on Ministerial Notification, p. 8

[2] Office of the Auditor General. 2016 Report 5: Opinion on Ministerial Notification, p. 40

 

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