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Response to PwC - tax regulator information gathering powers

The Law Council of Australia provided a submission to the Treasury in response to its consultation regarding the Response to PwC—Tax regulator information gathering powers review (Consultation Paper).

The Law Council considers the current Australian Taxation Office (ATO) information-gathering powers generally fit for purpose and cautions against the granting of criminal investigation powers to the ATO or the further enhancement of existing information-gathering powers.

A number of existing agencies have specialist powers for criminal investigations and those agencies are better equipped to carry out criminal investigations in the context of tax crimes than the ATO. If the ATO were to be granted such powers, they would need to develop additional controls and processes to manage such rights and ensure the rights of ordinary citizens were not overly impinged by such actions.

The Law Council believes that the better approach would be for the Australian Government to ensure the current inter-agency processes work more efficiently and effectively. The delay in the identification and investigation into matters relating to PWC was not a result of a lack of powers, but the failure of the agencies to properly connect.

The cost of establishing and maintaining a separate set of controls, which would be necessary for the ATO if it was granted criminal investigatory powers, would far exceed the current costs of any duplications arising under existing arrangements. This would also create a duplication of functionality and therefore inefficiencies in government operations. Accordingly, the Law Council does not support the granting of criminal investigatory powers to the ATO.

While we oppose the introduction of extended powers as proposed in the Consultation Paper, we have provided observations in response to the key themes below.

Read the full submission below.

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