In its 2019-20 annual report, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) outlines how many disclosures of taxpayer information it has made to law enforcement agencies, and provides insight into the key agencies it cooperates with.
Legal basis for disclosures
Section 355‑70 (item 1) of Schedule 1 to the Taxation Administration Act 1953 allows the disclosure of taxpayer information to specified law enforcement agencies where the information is:
- Relevant to determining whether a serious offence has been, or is being, committed.
- For enforcing a law, the contravention of which is a serious offence.
- For proceeds of crime order proceedings.
Number of disclosures made by agency
Agencies to whom the most disclosures were made by the ATO during the reporting period include:
|Agency||Number of disclosures|
|Australian Federal Police (AFP)||1,948|
|Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC)||914|
|Australian Border Force||243|
|NSW Crime Commission||179|
|Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)||138|
|Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)||136|
|South Australia Police||90|
Most of these disclosures are based on requests received by the ATO from the relevant agencies, however there are also a number of ATO-initiated disclosures. For example, 258 of the 1,948 disclosures to the AFP were initiated by the ATO.
The disclosures are also listed based on the specific types of crime and/or the responsible ATO taskforce. For example, the categorised disclosures to the AFP were:
|Crime type / Taskforce||Number of disclosures to AFP|
|Fraud & Anti-Corruption Centre Taskforce||15|
|National Anti-Gang Taskforce||1,219|
|Serious Financial Crime Taskforce||175|
|Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce||124|
|Black Economy Taskforce||2|
This data can demonstrate the focus areas of specific agencies in working with the ATO to investigate wrongdoers. For example, it is evident that the AFP collaborates strongly with the ATO to combat criminal gangs and serious offences.
For some crime areas, there are limited agencies who collaborate with the ATO. For example, besides the AFP, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) is the only other agency who received disclosures relating to the National Anti-Gang Taskforce, with 109 disclosures within the period.
In contrast, in relation to serious offences, there are numerous additional agencies who received disclosures from the ATO including:
- Courts such as the NSW Downing Centre District Court.
- National bodies such as the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
- State agencies such as the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption.
- State police forces such as NSW Police.
Most requests are accepted by the ATO. Examples of requests being rejected relating to serious offences include one request by the Crime and Corruption Commission Western Australia, one request by Queensland Police, and three requests by NSW Police.
The ATO may disclose taxpayer information to law enforcement agencies if it is relevant to investigating a serious offence or enforcing a related law, or when dealing with proceeds of crime. The ATO’s annual report highlights the extent of its cooperation with numerous law enforcement agencies and bodies, across a range of serious crime areas including corruption, financial crime, and organised crime.