Our formal access powers
In most cases, we only use our access powers if we cannot obtain the documents or information we require under a cooperative approach.
When using our access powers, we are authorised to enter and remain on any land, premises or place and have full and free access to books, documents, goods or other property. We can make copies of documents for our records, but cannot seize or remove your documents without your consent. We can only exercise our rights of access for the purposes of the applicable laws we administer.
If we visit your premises, you must give us reasonable assistance and provide adequate facilities. Penalties and prosecution may apply if we are obstructed from gaining access or where reasonable facilities or assistance has not been provided.
We will generally give you prior notice before exercising an access power. However, in exceptional circumstances we may not give you notice beforehand – for example, if we believe that the documents we need may be destroyed.
Our access powers are limited by legal professional privilege, the accountants' concession and the corporate board advice concession. Our access powers are not restricted by claims of confidentiality or privilege against self-incrimination.
The decision to use our access powers is reviewable by the Federal Court under section 5 of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. You have the right to a 'statement of reasons' in respect of our decision under section 13 of the Act.
We list the main legislative provisions supporting our access powers under Legislative references.
Figure 5 Access powers used in 2014–15
Enquiries about current or future tax affairs
Our access may involve gathering information and documents that relate to current year or future year transactions or planning, in addition to past income years. We may use our access powers to investigate matters that relate to an assessment of income before the return is lodged. Provided these enquiries are undertaken for the purposes of administering the law, our access powers can be used to obtain documents and information relating to:
- transactions commenced in the current year, but yet to be completed
- tax products and tax schemes
- transactions that were not carried out, but explain the tax implications of completed transactions.
This type of access can help us identify emerging trends, tax schemes and tax products – for example, we may make enquiries about a tax scheme by accessing a tax adviser’s client base. This approach provides important information about potential tax implications of future transactions.
The grounds for review of a decision to use our access powers are set out in section 5 of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977.