The Inland Revenue Department has released a study on cross-government information sharing to identify, stop or disrupt serious crime.  The focus of the study is on the impact of information sharing on the integrity of the tax system.  The current position is that information is not shared from IRD to other government departments because it is 'tax secret'.  However, there are certain situations where sharing information relating to serious crime would be beneficial.  Examples of information sharing situations could include:

  • Proactive sharing of information with Police and / or SFO where IRD detects evidence of serious crime.
  • Sharing information with a cross-government taskforce that focuses on organised crime.
  • Sharing information with other government departments for statistical and evaluative purposes.

The method adopted in this study was to pose 'scenarios' for participants, and assess their level of comfort with information sharing in each situation.  The study found that information sharing would be acceptable if 'fit for purpose'.  That is, agencies involved should be authoritative sources and justifiable users of information and information shared should be the minimum required to meet the needs of the agency requesting it.  Participants in the study raised a number of concerns about information sharing that should be balanced against the benefits of sharing, such as:

  • individual privacy;
  • the nature of the serious crime compared to the type and extent of information;
  • the authority of the information with the ability to supply;
  • the intended and potential use compared to the risk of error and abuse; and
  • any potential impact on public trust of IRD and the integrity of the tax system.

The study was clear that information sharing should be underpinned by legislation setting out relevant rules and principles, and should be addressed as an all of Government issue rather than simply an IRD issue.  For access to further information, and the full report, please see here.