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Tax File Number Guidelines 1992

Note: This is the draft revised Tax File Number Guidelines, developed for public consultation by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in August 2011.


 (Amended [DATE] 2011)

Issued under s 17 of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)

on     [DATE]      to take effect on         [DATE]

Introduction

The Tax File Number Guidelines (‘TFN Guidelines') are issued under s 17 of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (‘Privacy Act').  The TFN Guidelines, which are legally binding, regulate the collection, storage, use, disclosure, security and disposal of individuals' tax file number information.

The TFN Guidelines only apply to the tax file number information of natural persons and do not apply to tax file number information about other legal persons including corporations, partnerships, superannuation funds and trusts.

A breach of these TFN Guidelines is an interference with privacy under the Privacy Act.  Individuals who think that their tax file number information has been mishandled may make a complaint to the Information Commissioner.

As well as constituting a breach of the TFN Guidelines, unauthorised use or disclosure of tax file numbers is also an offence under the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth) (TAA) with a penalty of up to $11,000 fine, two years imprisonment, or both.

However, unlike the TFN Guidelines, the TAA protects all tax file numbers and not just those of natural persons. Specifically, s 8WA places restrictions on unauthorised requirements or requests that a person's tax file number be quoted. Section 8WB places restrictions on the unauthorised recording, maintaining a record of, use or disclosure of a person's tax file number.

Tax file number rules are also partly contained in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth). Furthermore, the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 (Cth) provides for, and regulates, the matching of records between the Australian Taxation Office and the assistance agencies using the tax file number in part of the matching process.

The Tax File Number Guidelines

Guideline 1 Meaning of terms

1.1 Unless the contrary intention appears, any term used in these guidelines which is defined in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) has the same meaning as in that Act.

1.2 In these guidelines:

          Approved recipient means a TFN recipient who:

  • (a) is engaged by an authorised recipient to provide services where it is reasonably necessary to have access to tax file number information; or
  • (b) has obtained an individual's consent to access their tax file number, to help manage that individual's taxation, superannuation or personal assistance affairs.

Assistance agency means:

  • (a) the Department of Human Services
  • (b) the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
  • (c) the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
  • (d) the Department of Veterans' Affairs, or
  • (e) any successor agency to an agency referred to in (a) to (d) above, or any other successor agency or agencies which may have responsibilities under an Administrative Arrangements Order for administration of provisions of a personal assistance law.

Authorised recipient means a TFN recipient (other than the Commissioner of Taxation or assistance agencies) that is authorised by taxation, personal assistance or superannuation law to receive tax file numbers.

Individual means a natural person.

Personal assistance lawmeans:

  • (a) an Act or part of an Act referred to in the meaning of ‘personal assistance' in section 3 of the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 as enacted from time to time
  • (b)     sections of the following Acts that deal with handling tax file numbers:
    • (i) the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999
    • (ii) the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999
    • (iii) the Child Care Act 1972
    • (iv) the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989
    • (v) the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988
    • (vi) the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010
    • (vii) the Social Security Act 1991
    • (viii) the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999
    • (ix)the Student Assistance Act 1973
    • (x) the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986
  • (c) the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 or
  • (d) relevant regulations made under any Acts or provisions referred to in paragraphs (a), (b), or (c) above.

Superannuation lawmeans:

  • (a) the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993
  • (b) the First Home Saver Accounts Act 2008
  • (c) a law within the meaning of ‘Superannuation Acts' under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 and the First Home Saver Accounts Act 2008
  • (d) the Retirement Savings Accounts Act 1997 or
  • (e) an Act or part of an Act for which the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (‘APRA') has the general or joint administration that deals with the handling of TFNs, and which is not a taxation law, or
  • (f) relevant regulations or approvals under any Act referred to in (a), (b), (c), (d), or (e) above.

Taxation lawmeans:

  • (a) an Act or part of an Act for which the Commissioner of Taxation has the general or joint administration
  • (b) the Tax Agent Services Act 2009
  • (c) an Act under which the Commissioner of Taxation has powers and functions related to the use of tax file numbers including the Higher Education Support Act 2003, or
  • (d) regulations under any Act referred to in (a) to (c) above.

Tax file number has the same meaning as tax file number in s 6 of the Privacy Act 1988.

Tax file number informationhas the same meaning as tax file number information in s 6 of the Privacy Act 1988.

Tax File Number recipient (‘TFN recipient') has the same meaning as file number recipient in s 11 of the Privacy Act 1988, and includes:

  • (a) the Commissioner of Taxation
  • (b) an assistance agency
  • (c) an approved recipient
  • (d) an authorised recipient
  • (e) the trustee of a superannuation fund.

Trusteefor the purposes of these Guidelines, and in relation to superannuation funds, has the same meaning as trustee in the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993.

Guideline 2 General

2.1 The tax file number must not be used as part of a national identification system.

2.2 Guideline 2.1 does not prevent the Commissioner of Taxation from using the tax file number as an identifier in accordance with taxation law.

2.3 An individual is not legally obliged to quote their tax file number.

2.4 Neither taxation laws nor personal assistance laws nor superannuation laws make the quotation of a tax file number a requirement however there may be financial disadvantages for the individual in doing this. For example certain assistance payments may be withheld.

Guideline 3 Collection of tax file number information

3.1 TFN recipients may only request or collect tax file number information from individuals and other TFN recipients for a purpose authorised by taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law

3.2 When requesting an individual's tax file number, TFN recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure that:

  • (a) individuals are informed (orally or in writing):
    • (i) about the taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law which authorises the TFN recipient to request or collect the tax file number
    • (ii) of the purpose(s) for which the tax file number is requested or collected
    • (iii) that declining to quote a tax file number is not an offence, and
    • (iv) about the consequences of declining to quote a tax file number.
  • (b) the manner of collection does not unreasonably intrude on the individual's affairs, and
  • (c) the TFN recipient only requests or collects information that is necessary and relevant to the purpose of collection under applicable taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law.

Guideline 4 Tax file numbers provided incidentally

4.1 If an individual provides information to a TFN recipient which includes a tax file number, for a purpose not connected with the operation of a taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law and that information incidentally contains a tax file number:

  • (a) the individual providing the information may remove the tax file number, and
  • (b) if the individual does not remove the tax file number, the TFN recipient must not use or disclose the tax file number or record the tax file number in a way that is inconsistent with Taxation Administration Act 1953 or these guidelines.

Guideline 5 Use or disclosure of tax file number information

5.1 Tax file number information may only be used or disclosed (including for matching personal information about individuals) by TFN recipients, for a purpose authorised by taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law.

5.2 A tax file number must not be used or disclosed (except where authorised under taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law):

  • (a) to confirm or establish the identity of an individual, or
  • (b) to collect information about an individual.

Guideline 6 Storage, security and destruction of tax file number information

6.1 TFN recipients must take reasonable steps to:

  • (a) protect tax file number information from misuse and loss, and from unauthorised access, use, modification or disclosure in a way that anticipates all reasonably foreseeable risks to security, and
  • (b) ensure that access to records containing tax file number information is restricted to persons who need to handle this information under taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law

6.2    A TFN recipient must take reasonable steps to securely destroy or permanently de-identify tax file number information where it is no longer:

  • (a) required by law to retain the information, or
  • (b) necessary for a purpose under taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law (including the administration of such law).

6.3    Where a TFN recipient destroys or permanently de-identifies tax file number information, this must be done securely.

Guideline 7 Staff training

7.1 TFN recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure:

  • (a) all staff are aware of the need to protect individuals' privacy when handling tax file number information, and
  • (b) all staff who collect or access tax file number information for taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law purposes are aware of:
    • (i) the circumstances where tax file number information may be collected
    • (ii) the need to protect individuals' privacy when handling tax file number information, including under these Guidelines and under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)
    • (iii) the prohibitions on the use and disclosure of tax file number information and
    • (iv) the penalties or other sanctions that apply for breaching these Guidelines or applicable provisions relating to the handling of tax file numbers in taxation law, personal assistance law or superannuation law.

Guideline 8 Obligations of the Commissioner of Taxation and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority to publish

8.1 The Commissioner of Taxation and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) must make information publicly available which identifies:

  • (a) (i) in APRA's case: the classes of persons, who are authorised by or under taxation law or superannuation law to request tax file numbers
  •      (ii) in the Commissioner of Taxation's case: the classes of persons who are authorised by or under taxation law to request tax file numbers
  • (b) the specific purposes for which these persons, may request tax file numbers
  • (c) the prohibitions on the collection, recording, use and disclosure of tax file number information
  • (d) the penalties applying to unauthorised acts and or practices relating to tax file numbers and tax file number information, and
  • (e) where to find further detail about the matters in (a) - (d) above.

8.2 The Commissioner of Taxation and APRA will publish information in accordance with the requirements of Guideline 8.1 about any amendments to taxation law and superannuation law that allow tax file numbers to be requested.  Where practicable, this information will be published before the amendments commence.

8.3 Where the Commissioner of Taxation or APRA prescribes or approves practices involving the collection of tax file number information, the Commissioner of Taxation or APRA must ensure those practices include informing the individual:

  • (a) about the legal basis for collecting the individual's tax file number information
  • (b) that declining to quote a tax file number is not an offence, and
  • (c) about the consequences of declining to quote a tax file number.

8.4 The Commissioner of Taxation and APRA must comply with all other relevant obligations in these Guidelines, including as a TFN recipient.

Guideline 9 Assistance agency obligations to publish

9.1  Assistance agencies that may request a tax file number under personal assistance law, or under taxation law, must make information publicly available which identifies:

  • (a) the specific purposes for which the agency may request a tax file number
  • (b) the prohibitions on thecollection, recording, use and disclosure of tax file number information
  • (c) the penalties that apply to unauthorised acts and practices relating to tax file number information, and
  • (d) where to find further detail about the matters in (a) - (c) above.

9.2  Assistance agencies will publish information (in accordance with the requirements of Guideline 9.1) about any amendments to personal assistance law that allow tax file numbers to be requested.  Where practicable, this information will be published before the amendments commence.

9.3  Assistance agencies must comply with all other relevant obligations in these Guidelines, including as a TFN recipient.

Notes to the Tax File Number Guidelines 1992

Note 1

The Tax File Number Guidelines 1992 (in force under section 17 of the Privacy Act 1988) as shown in this compilation is amended as indicated in the Tables below.

Table of Instruments

Title
Date of Gazettal/ FRLI registration Date of commencement Application, saving or transitional provisions

Tax File Number Guidelines 1992

(see F2008B00560)

14 Oct 1992 (see, Gazette 1996, No. GN 41)

21 Dec 1992

Tax File Number Guidelines (Amendment 1996 No 1)

(see F2008B00561)
26 Feb 1997 (see Gazette 1997, No. GN 8) 17 Nov 1996

Tax File Number Guidelines (Amendment 1996 No 2)

(see F2008B00562)
26 Feb 1997 (see Gazette 1997, No. GN 8) 16 Feb 1997

Tax File Number Guidelines (Amendment 2003 No 1)

(see F2008B00563)
10 Mar 2004 (see Gazette 2004, No. GN 10) 3 Mar 2004

Privacy Act 1988 Part III Division 4 - Tax File Number Guidelines Amendment No 1, 2010

20 Dec 2010 (see F2010L03316)

21 Dec 2010

Table of Amendments

ad. = added or inserted am. = amended rep. = repealed rs. = repealed and substituted

Guidelines affected

How affected

G. 1 ..............................................

am. 1996 No. 2

G. 2 ..............................................

am. 1996 No. 1

G 3 ..............................................

am. 1996 No. 2

G 3A .............................................

ad. 1996 No. 2

G. 5 ..............................................

am. 1996 No. 1

G. 6 ..............................................

am. 1996 No. 1

G. 7 ..............................................

am. 1996 No. 1

G. 8 ..............................................

am. 1996 No. 1

G. 9 ..............................................

          

am. 1996 No. 1; 2003 No. 1; 2010 No. 1