Review of tax and corporate whistleblower protections in Australia

The Government has published The Review of tax and corporate whistleblower protections in Australia seeking public comments on the introduction of appropriate protections for tax whistleblowers and in assessing the adequacy of existing whistleblower protections in the corporate sector.

In particular, it seeks comment on whether corporate sector protections and similar provisions under financial system legislation should be harmonized with whistleblower protections in the public sector.

Currently there are no specific legal protections under tax law to ensure there is no revelation of the identity of people who disclose, on a confidential basis, information about individuals or businesses which they believe may not be meeting their tax obligations (tax whistleblowers).

A number of tax whistleblowers have made disclosures to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) in the mistaken belief that they are protected by provisions currently under the Corporations Act 2001, when in fact those provisions only provide protection for disclosures concerning contraventions of corporate, not tax, law.

Statutory protections for whistleblower disclosures in the corporate sector are contained in Part 9.4AAA of the Corporations Act 2001.

Similar whistleblower protections to those set out in the Corporations Act are available if the disclosures concern misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstances affecting the institutions supervised by APRA — Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs), insurers and superannuation entities.

The consultation paper raises the question of  rewards to incentivize whistleblowers.

This consultation process, focused upon tax and corporate sector whistleblowing, is intended to complement the work of the Senate Inquiry.

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