Tax commissioner faces inquiry about ‘disobeying’ Senate over JobKeeper disclosures

Chris-Jordan-ATO

ATO commissioner of taxation Chris Jordan. Source: AAP/Lukas Coch.

Australia’s tax commissioner Chris Jordan is facing an inquiry into whether he disobeyed the Senate after not following through on an order to provide details about businesses receiving JobKeeper.

South Australian independent senator Rex Patrick moved a motion on Tuesday that Jordan be referred to a standing committee of privileges. The motion gained the support of Labor, the Greens and the crossbench.

Patrick had moved an earlier motion in August to order Jordan to produce a list of all employers paid JobKeeper with an annual turnover above $10 million, including the number of employees paid and the total amount returned. 

The request followed criticism of the government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy providing some profitable businesses with an increase to their turnover during the pandemic.  

But Jordan has refused to produce the documents on privacy grounds. The ATO boss has argued it would be unlawful to provide the information relating to about 10,000 taxpayers who had shared their information on the basis it would stay confidential.

Patrick’s new motion requests the committee investigate whether Jordan “disobeyed a lawful order of the Senate”, failed to produce the documents, improperly interfered with the power of the senate and whether any contempt was committed. 

“We want the privileges committee to hopefully consider what the taxation commissioner wants to do to protect the privacy of people so that their information is not released willy-nilly without context,” Patrick told the Senate. 

“Secondly, we want to make sure that the information is disclosed preferably in camera so that we can have full accountability on the government’s JobKeeper scheme.” 

Jordan, in a statement to The Mandarin, said that he respected the powers of the Senate and the critical function it undertook.

“One of my fundamental roles as Commissioner of Taxation is to safeguard the integrity of the tax and super systems by ensuring the community’s confidence in taxpayer secrecy is maintained,” he said. 

“Following yesterday’s vote, the Senate standing committee of privileges will now further consider the Senate’s order for information about businesses which received JobKeeper.

“This is now a matter for the Senate’s privileges committee, so I won’t be providing further comment.”

This article was first published by The Mandarin

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