Australia: Tax leak accused to pay $5.5m fine

Companies, as well as individuals that disclose sensitive government tax information, could face fines in the multimillions of dollars under a draft piece of legislation that the government of New South Wales plans to introduce in the near future.

Following the controversy involving PwC and the leakage of commonwealth tax information, this bill intends to take measures to counteract breaches in confidence.

If an individual is caught accessing or revealing secret government information, they might face a maximum penalty of $1.1 million, while businesses could face a maximum penalty of $5.5 million. Those who were involved in trying to cover up a violation would be held accountable for the same penalty.

Courtney Houssos, the minister of state finances, stated on Tuesday that the new rules would place integrity “at the heart of the New South Wales government’s tax system.”

“We’re putting people on notice who actively and deliberately seek to mislead for personal gain,” she added. “We’re putting them on notice.” “This is not just about discouraging people from engaging in inappropriate behaviour; it is also about holding people accountable for the lies they have told.”

The auditor general of the state, Margaret Crawford, disclosed in March that the New South Wales government had spent around one billion dollars on consultants between the years 2017 and 2022. As a result, the state’s public sector relies largely on consulting firms. A parliamentary inquiry has been established to investigate this reliance.

As a result of the amendments that are being suggested, the state’s chief commissioner of state revenue would be granted the authority to report violating individuals or organizations to the appropriate professional bodies as well as publicize specifics regarding any violation.

In addition, the regulations governing the state’s payroll tax would be altered so that Revenue NSW would be able to collect back taxes owed by “Phoenix” operators who dissolve their businesses in order to avoid having to pay them.

Because of the potential harm that the practice can do to individuals, businesses, and creditors who are owed payments, it has been a major source of worry for regulators at the state and commonwealth levels.

According to the government’s estimation, the amount of payroll tax money that has been lost due to Phoenix activities is more than $85 million.

According to Houssos, the adjustments will assist in putting an end to “dishonest” firms. “It will also offer greater fairness and transparency for the people of NSW,” she added. “I am very excited about this.”

In addition, the law would strive to increase compliance by introducing a new offence for tax evasion or tax evasion attempts, which will carry a maximum punishment of two years in prison or a fine of one hundred thousand dollars, whichever is greater.

On Tuesday morning, the bill was introduced to the Labor caucus, and it was anticipated that it would be tabled to parliament later that same day.

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