New legislation would allow government agencies, including police and prosecutors, access to Australians' tax returns to "prevent or lessen" a serious threat to public health or safety. Under the Tax Laws Amendment Bill, the Australian Taxation Office would also be allowed to distribute tax information to the Fair Work Ombudsman and state and territory workers' compensation boards. Current secrecy laws allow police access to tax information for investigation of serious offences, but do not generally allow the information to be used in court, The Australian reports. "Taxpayer information has proved to be a valuable source of intelligence information for the investigation of activities such as money laundering and social security fraud," states the legislation's explanatory memorandum. The bill has been referred to the Senate economics committee for review.
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