When a media enquiry is made to Inland Revenue, more than just the Official Information Act 1982 and Privacy Act 1993 come into play. In particular, the secrecy obligations under section 81 of the Tax Administration Act 1994 ("the Act") may well determine whether any information can be provided.
Section 81 of the Act generally prevents us from communicating details of any customer's affairs to anyone but the customer themselves or their authorised tax agent. Note that tax secrecy obligations under section 81 cannot simply be "waived" by the customer concerned.
This means that we are generally not able to provide specific comment to the media on the affairs of any individual, company or any other type of entity. As tax secrecy obligations apply to "all matters relating to" the Acts referred to in section 81(1)(a), we may be unable to comment on a wide range of matters, including statistical, policy, and general tax administration matters.
Even in cases involving Inland Revenue and high-profile customers, we still cannot normally comment on a customer's affairs. This can sometimes mean that only a customer's side of the story is reported.
The section 81 secrecy obligations under the Act do not prevent the customer from providing a journalist with copies of Inland Revenue letters if they choose to do so. However, for some documents, such as Child Support Administrative Review Decisions, a customer may commit an offence by publishing the document to any other person without leave (Child Support Act 1991 sections 96P and 124) even though section 81 does not apply to them.
Section 81 exists to protect the integrity of the tax system, and in particular protects the confidentiality of customers' individual affairs. We are required to use our best endeavours to protect the integrity of the tax system, which combined with section 81 will often have the consequence that we simply cannot comment on media enquiries relating to customers, whether we want to comment or not.
Communications and Inquiry
To make a media query:
Phone 04 890 1698 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the email address is only for enquiries from the news media. It is monitored during normal business hours 8am - 5pm Monday to Friday.
P O Box 2198
Date published: 08 Jul 2008
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