Inland Rev­enue’s pri­vate en­forcers

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION / NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

Pri­vate debt col­lec­tors chas­ing de­fault­ing tax­pay­ers and stu­dent loan bor­row­ers will be bound by the same con­fi­den­tial­ity con­di­tions as the Inland Rev­enue Depart­ment staff.

A depart­ment spokesman has con­firmed a four-month trial had be­gun, us­ing pri­vate debt col­lec­tors to re­cover pay­ments from 15,000 tax debtors in New Zealand and 500 stu­dent loan de­fault­ers liv­ing in Aus­tralia.

Rev­enue Min­is­ter Peter Dunne said agree­ments would pro­tect the pri­vacy of tax­pay­ers.

‘‘We have ac­tu­ally talked to the Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner about this,’’ he said.

‘‘We have an agree­ment that any staff would have to ad­here to the same con­fi­den­tial­ity that depart­ment em­ploy­ees would have to.

‘‘We are very con­scious of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the han­dling of in­for­ma­tion.’’

None of the depart­ment’s spe­cial pow­ers to re­cover debts, such as re­quir­ing em­ploy­ers to hand over salaries, seiz­ing prop­erty, or ap­ply­ing pe­nal tax or in­ter­est, would be del­e­gated to pri­vate com­pa­nies, he said. They would not be able to ne­go­ti­ate pay­ment plans.

‘‘Any­thing that re­quires a com­mis­sioner’s de­ci­sion would have to come back to the depart­ment,’’ Mr Dunne said.

‘‘This is lit­er­ally peo­ple who knock on doors to chase up debt.’’

A spokesper­son for the Inland Rev­enue Depart­ment said se­cu­rity of tax in­for­ma­tion is of crit­i­cal im­por­tance.

‘‘All staff mem­bers em­ployed by the ex­ter­nal com­pa­nies par­tic­i­pat­ing in this study are re­quired to sign a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment, ad­here to leg­isla­tive re­quire­ments re­gard­ing cus­tomer con­fi­den­tial­ity, and will be sub­ject to the same back­ground checks as Inland Rev­enue em­ploy­ees.’’

Staff em­ployed by ex­ter­nal com­pany’s staff will be given con­tact de­tails and debt amounts for those debtors who are in de­fault but will not have any ac­cess to Inland Rev­enue’s in­for­ma­tion sys­tems, she said.

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