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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3502

Senator SHORT —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. When recipients of social security benefits are also in receipt of other income and notify the Australian Taxation Office of this other income, is it the policy of the Taxation Office to advise the Department of Social Security of the existence of this other income? If not, would such notification have any significant impact on reducing social welfare fraud resulting from overpayments which the Department of Social Security has identified as the main component of social welfare fraud?

Senator WALSH —In regard to the first part of the question, I might be able to get some more detailed information later but what actually happens is the reverse of what the question suggested, that is, the Department of Social Security supplies information to the Taxation Office rather than the Taxation Office supplying information to the Department of Social Security. I do not believe that section 16 of the Income Tax Assessment Act would allow the Tax Office to supply specific information about the taxable income of individuals to the Department of Social Security. However, as I understand it, the supply of information to the Tax Office from Social Security is certainly useful to the Taxation Office and may be useful in social security law enforcement. The weakness in that present system or any variant of it is that it only picks up people who have the same name. It may pick up the case of a pay as you earn taxpayer, an employee who is simultaneously drawing a social security benefit, but only if that person is using his correct name in drawing the social security benefit. If he is employed under one name and drawing a social security benefit under another name, there is no way that cross checks between the two departments can be fully effective. The critical point-I will wind up on this-is that we must have a system which ensures that everybody who has dealings with the Government or a bank uses the same name and the correct name every time. Of course, the only way to ensure that is to vote for the Australia Card.