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Wednesday, 12 September 1973
Page: 934

Mr Bourchier asked the Treasurer upon notice:

(1)   Is the Taxation Office using a computer system which at the press of a switch shows on a television screen a taxpayer's complete background. <2) If so, does he consider that this information should be allowed on display at the obvious risk of infringing a taxpayer's rights.

(3)   Will he give an assurance that all necessary precautions will be taken to protect the taxpayers' rights.

Mr Crean - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   No. The Taxation Office uses computers to assist in the making of assessments and for various clerical and enforcement purposes. A description of the main features of the system will be found in the annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation, which my predecessor presented to Parliament on 26 September 1972. The only use presently made of visual display units is in the data entry system. When the computer edit programs indicate that an error may have been made, the information which an operator has fed into the system is displayed on a screen in coded form to enable the data to be verified by comparing it with the income tax return or other document from which it has been extracted. The screen does not provide the verifying operator with any information about the taxpayer which is not already available in the document in the operator's possession. No disclosure of information is involved.

(2)   See answer to (1).

(3)   The income tax law requires that the Commissioner of Taxation maintain secrecy regarding the affairs of taxpayers. The honourable member may be assured that the computer system will not be used, either in its present form or in future developments, in a way which would involve unlawful disclosure of information.

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