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  • Tax whistleblowers

    From 1 July 2019, new arrangements to better protect individuals who disclose information to us on tax avoidance behaviour and other tax issues will begin.

    Individuals will now be better protected under the law when they disclose tax avoidance behaviour and other tax issues to us about an entity (includes an individual) they are, or have been, in a relationship with.

    Qualifying for protection

    In order to qualify for protection as a tax whistleblower, certain conditions must be satisfied. You must:

    • be, or have been, in a specific relationship with the entity you are reporting about, for example, you are an employee or former employee, or a dependant or spouse
    • report the entity to us or to an eligible recipient who is someone in a position to take appropriate action –this includes someone appointed by the entity the disclosure is about, for example, an internal auditor
    • consider that the information will help us or the recipient perform their duties under taxation law.

    If you don’t qualify for protection as a tax whistleblower, you can still report a concern.

    Whether or not you are a tax whistleblower, we will make every effort not to disclose any information we have which would identify you. Alternatively, you may choose to report to us anonymously.

    Information you can disclose

    This law protects eligible tax whistleblowers who report a disclosure:

    • to us if they consider the information may assist us to perform our duties under a taxation law in relation to the entity about which the disclosure is made, or
    • to an eligible recipient if they
      • have reasonable grounds to suspect that the information they intend to provide indicates misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances, in relation to the tax affairs of the entity or an associate of the entity, and
      • consider the information may assist the eligible recipient to perform their duties under a taxation law in relation to the entity about which the disclosure is made.
       

    Example:

    Wayne is a labourer with a construction company. Wayne suspects that his employer is paying other employees in cash to avoid paying tax to the ATO and discloses this to the ATO using the tax evasion reporting form. Wayne qualifies for protection under tax whistleblower law as he is an employee of the company and he considers the disclosure may assist the ATO to perform their duties under a tax law.

    End of example

    Who to make a disclosure to

    To qualify for protection, you must make the disclosure to us or an eligible recipient. Eligible recipients are generally internal to the entity about which the disclosure is made, or have a relationship with that entity that is relevant to its tax affairs such as a registered tax or BAS agent who provides services to the entity.

    How tax whistleblowers are protected

    Identity protection

    If you are a tax whistleblower, it is illegal for someone to disclose your identity, or information that is likely to lead to your identification. However, you may consent to sharing your identity. If your identity needs to be disclosed to an authorised body, such as us or an auditor to assist in the investigation, the authorised body is required to treat the information you disclosed as confidential. They are also required to take all reasonable steps to reduce the risk that your identity will be revealed.

    Your identity is protected in court proceedings. Your identity, or documentation that contains or is likely to uncover your identity, is not required to be disclosed to a court or tribunal. The exception to this is if the court thinks it is necessary for your identity to be revealed in the interests of justice.

    Disclosures to your legal practitioner are protected

    Your disclosure to your lawyer for the purposes of obtaining legal advice or representation in relation to tax whistleblower law is protected, even in the event where you do not qualify to be an eligible tax whistleblower.

    Civil, criminal and administrative liability protection

    You are protected from civil, criminal and administrative liability in relation to your disclosure. For example, your employer can’t sue you or terminate your employment for breaches of contract or confidentiality.

    Any information incriminating you will not be treated as admissible in evidence against you in criminal or penalty proceedings. If your disclosure reveals a breach in your personal tax affairs, such as undeclared income, you may have immunity against any criminal or penalty proceedings. This immunity does not prevent us from issuing a tax assessment or imposing an administrative penalty in respect of your own tax liability, however, we may treat your disclosure as a voluntary disclosure in determining your liability for penalties in respect to any unpaid tax.

    Detrimental conduct protection

    If you make a disclosure, you are protected from detrimental conduct. It is illegal for anyone to cause detriment to you in relation to a disclosure, or a suspected disclosure. For example, you can't:

    • be dismissed, harassed or intimidated, harmed or injured (including psychologically) by your employer
    • have your property, business or your financial position damaged.

    Compensation and other remedies

    You can receive compensation if a court finds you suffered detriment in relation to your disclosure. If you were victimised and suffered loss, damage or injury as a result of it, a court may order the person causing you detriment to compensate you if it thinks appropriate. Examples of the remedies available include:

    • paying damages
    • reinstating employment
    • an injunction to prevent or stop detrimental conduct
    • apologising.

    How to make a disclosure to us

    Use the tax evasion reporting form to make a disclosure to us. It only takes a few minutes and your information is treated confidentially. You don't have to give us your personal details if you don't want to.

    Remember to make note of the reference number when you submit your form to us – you will need to quote the number if you want to add any further information later.

    You can also:

    • use our Report a concern tool available in the ATO app
    • Report unpaid super contributions from your employer (but not about another business)
    • write to us – mark all letters 'in confidence' and mail to:

      Australian Taxation Office
      Tax Evasion
      Locked Bag 6050
      DANDENONG  VIC  3175
    •  

    • call us on 1800 060 062
    • if English is not your first language, or you can't speak it well, and you want to talk to a tax officer, phone the translating and interpreting service (TIS) on 13 14 50
    • tax practitioners – phone us on 13 72 86 (Fast Key Code 3 4).

    See also:

      Last modified: 27 Mar 2019QC 58244