Scope of our powers
The use of our access powers is not limited to the tax affairs of a person who is subject to our compliance activity. We may also use them to make general enquiries – for example, to identify persons engaged in a particular activity.
Our access powers can only be used:
- by authorised persons
- in good faith
- for the purposes of the law we are administering.
Our rights of access must be exercised by authorised persons only, and they can only access documents for which we have authority under the relevant law. However, a person may be authorised to access documents for more than one purpose.
Authorised persons cannot enter and remain on your premises without producing their written authorities, unless they have your consent. Anyone lawfully on your premises may inspect these written authorities and make a note of their contents. For security reasons, we do not allow the written authorities to be photocopied, or to leave the authorised persons' possession.
Documents and information obtained in the course of an access visit can be provided to other officers involved in the case who did not attend.
Acting in good faith
We are required to act in good faith when exercising our access powers.
We use a risk-based approach to formulate our compliance strategies. Your risk categorisation may help guide our approach when we gather information from you. We are more likely to use our access powers when seeking information from taxpayers we regard as higher risk because of their relative size, nature of transactions, tax performance or compliance history.
When exercising our access powers we may also look into the affairs of a particular category of taxpayers.
Purposes of the Act we are administering
We can only exercise our access powers for the purposes of a particular Act and are restricted by the provisions of those Acts. Although we are free to inspect documents and their contents, our access powers do not allow us to copy them without making some effort to consider their relevance.
We will only copy documents that are reasonably relevant to our investigation or other tax matters. We will not copy documents in bulk without initially attempting to determine their relevance, and will consider the nature, volume and location of documents before taking copies. We sometimes use a keyword search – for example:
- the name of a jurisdiction where an investment was placed
- the section of the Act
- the name of the arrangement.
Our access powers may be limited in certain ways, including claims for:
- legal professional privilege
- the accountants' concession
- the corporate board advice concession.
We will generally give you adequate time to consider or obtain advice about your claims. The time we allow you to consult with your adviser will depend on the circumstances, including:
- the volume of data
- the availability of our specialist officers (for example, forensic specialists, interpreters and legal advisers)
- the proximity of your advisers to the information.
When requesting information that could be subject to a claim, we may:
- adopt a staged approach and accept the documents in batches (for example, if we have requested a large amount of electronic data)
- conduct a keyword search of computer records – we expect these searches will be completed without initially reviewing each item for a potential claim.
We provide a detailed explanation of the limits to our access powers under Limits to our formal powers.