Inland Revenue’s private enforcers
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.