Is taxpayer data recognised as highly confidential and adequately safeguarded against disclosure to third parties, including other parts of the Government?

Tax (2nd Edition)

Romania Small Flag Romania

As a general rule, the fiscal secrecy rules prevent the tax authorities from disclosing taxpayer information and data to third parties. However, tax authorities may disclose such information and data to other public authorities and judiciary bodies, as per the law.

Australia Small Flag Australia

Taxpayer data is recognised in Australia as highly confidential.

It is a criminal offence for an ATO officer to disclose confidential taxpayer information. There are, however, a number of specific exceptions to this rule, including if information is already publicly available or if it is disclosed to Government Ministers, for other government purposes or for law enforcement and related purposes. In addition, the ATO has established various internal processes that must be followed when a disclosure is to be made in order to ensure taxpayer confidentiality is maintained wherever possible.

Also, the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 (Cth) enables a taxation officer to disclose protected information to a committee of one or both Houses of Parliament.

France Small Flag France

The FTA is required to keep confidential any kind of information they may be granted access to in the course of an audit, and do so in practice. Other administrations (criminal enquiries, Social Security) can be provided with information about a taxpayer.

Canada Small Flag Canada

The CRA is obliged by statute to safeguard the confidentiality of taxpayers’ information, and it has robust internal screening and security measures in place to ensure that this information is not disclosed to third parties without the taxpayers’ written consent. To supplement these measures, the CRA also provides tips to the public on how to avoid identity theft and how to identify fraudulent communications from third parties purporting to be acting on behalf of the CRA.

However, the CRA is permitted to disclose taxpayer information in certain limited circumstances provided in the Income Tax Act, including for purposes of investigating whether a criminal offence has been committed.

In addition, the CRA is not immune to system failures; it periodically issues notifications to the public announcing material privacy breaches, which are frequently attributable to employee error / misconduct or cyber-attacks. Information about unreported data breaches has been obtained by various media outlets through requests filed under the federal Access to Information Act.

Belgium Small Flag Belgium

Yes. Civil servants within the Belgian tax authority are required to maintain professional confidentiality and may not disclose, outside of their profession, any information which the civil servants were granted access to by virtue of their professional activity. A violation of that obligation constitutes a criminal offence.

Bulgaria Small Flag Bulgaria

Yes, taxpayer data are recognised as highly confidential and adequately safeguarded against disclosure to third parties, including other parts of the Government. The Tax-Insurance Procedure Code envisages special procedures for disclosure of taxpayer data to third parties, including other parts of the Government or foreign authorities. Most often a permission of a court is required. Only explicitly listed in the law public bodies are authorized to receive taxpayer data without court permission.

United States Small Flag United States

The tax code provides for strict confidentiality and non-disclosure rules for taxpayer information. Criminal penalties may be imposed on people who disclose tax information. Other U.S. Government agencies can receive taxpayer information only in limited circumstances and with a court order.

The United States has entered into numerous tax treaties and Tax Information Exchange Agreements under which the United States will exchange tax information on a government to government basis in certain situations.

Ukraine Small Flag Ukraine

The status of taxpayer data as confidential information or as public information depends on type of the data.

The personal data of individual taxpayers is clearly defined as classified information. There are three types of classified information: confidential information, secret information, and information for internal use only.
The status of tax information regarding the taxpayers as legal entities is not clearly defined in Ukrainian legislation. According to Ukrainian legislation, confidential information is information which the access to is restricted by natural or legal persons. Thus, if a legal person restricts access to any of his/her information, it shall be classified as confidential information.

Tax authorities are obliged to prevent the disclosure of classified information received by them during fulfillment of their functions. This obligation is not absolute, and in cases expressly stipulated by law, tax authorities are entitled to disclose the abovementioned information.
The unlawful disclosure of classified information, including confidential information, is a criminal offence.

At the same time there are several official, open data registers with public information on taxpayers. For instance: The United State Register of Legal Entities, Individual Entrepreneurs, and Public Organizations of Ukraine; the Register of Value Added Tax Payers; the Register of Single Tax Payers; the Register of payers of Excise Tax for the Sale of Fuel; the Data on the Registration of Taxpayers, etc.

In these resources, everyone can find information regarding the status of tax payer as a VAT-payer, single tax-payer, the date of registration as a taxpayer, the types of activities of the taxpayer, the size of authorized capital of the taxpayer, etc.

Information regarding the beneficial ownership of companies is now publicly available on www.data.gov.ua and www.register.openownership.org.

Currently Ukraine is not a signatory of the Common Reporting Standard.
According to the Decree of the President of Ukraine “On Measures to Counter Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” No. 180/2016 dated on April 28, 2016, the Ukrainian government is obliged to organize work regarding the inclusion of Ukraine into the international initiatives of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in particular to the automatic exchange of tax information.

Also, on May 25, 2017, deputies of the Ukrainian parliament registered a bill draft No. 6503. This draft bill defines the notion of the automatic exchange of information, the list of subjects obliged to provide information within the framework of automatic exchange, their rights and duties, the type of information which is planned to exchange within the framework of automatic exchange, etc.

Cyprus Small Flag Cyprus

While complying fully with all information exchange standards, Cyprus takes taxpayer confidentiality very seriously. The Assessment and Collection of Taxes Law contains strong safeguards against inappropriate disclosure of taxpayer information and requires requests for disclosure to conform with strict requirements, thus ruling out so-called fishing expeditions.

United Kingdom Small Flag United Kingdom

Section 18 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (CRCA) imposes a duty on HMRC officials to ensure that taxpayer information is kept confidential. It is a criminal offence to contravene section 18 by disclosing information to a person whose identity is specified in the disclosure or can be deduced from it. The s18 duty is not absolute and it does not apply to a disclosure which “is made for the purposes of a function of the Revenue and Customs and does not contravene any restriction imposed by the commissioners.”

A case of particular interest on this exception is R (Ingenious Media Holdings plc) v The Commissioners for HMRC [2013] EWHC 3258 (Admin). This judgment emphasizes that HMRC’s duty of confidentiality is a fundamental duty owed to the taxpayer.

Ecuador Small Flag Ecuador

The tax returns as well as any other information related to a tax liability of taxpayers can only be used to fulfill the purpose and duties of the tax administration. The taxpayer´s information available to the tax administration is reserved. Exceptions include information:

a) Of the identity of taxpayers and their tax liability.

b) to identify aggressive planning and ownership/operations of taxpayers doing transactions with tax haven jurisdictions;

c) about the creation, use and ownership of entities in tax haven jurisdictions.

Gibraltar Small Flag Gibraltar

Yes, appropriate organisational and technical security measures are taken to protect personal data against accidental or unlawful destruction or loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure or access

Israel Small Flag Israel

The ITA is under a statutory duty to keep taxpayers’ information confidential, a breach of which may trigger criminal offences. Exceptions apply with respect to disclosure of such information to the NII or in certain bankruptcy procedures.

Switzerland Small Flag Switzerland

Swiss tax legislation provides for strict confidentiality and non-disclosure rules regarding taxpayer information. However, other Swiss authorities can receive taxpayer information in certain situations.

Switzerland has entered into numerous tax treaties and tax information exchange agreements under which Switzerland will exchange tax information on a government-to-government basis in certain situations.

Italy Small Flag Italy

Taxpayer data are recognized as highly confidential and, in principle, cannot be shared by the tax authorities with others (including other public bodies) except in specific cases provided for by the law. In cases not provided for by the law, the data can be shared with other public bodies if they are necessary for the functioning of the requesting body.

Portugal Small Flag Portugal

As a general rule, officials and agents of the Tax Administration are required to keep confidential the data collected on the taxpayers situation and the personal information obtained in the tax procedure, including those arising from professional secrecy or any other duty of secrecy legally regulated.

Exceptions are provided for the following situations:

(i) Authorization of the taxpayer for the disclosure of his tax situation;

(ii) Legal cooperation of the tax administration with other public entities;

(iii) Mutual assistance and cooperation of the tax administration with the tax administrations of other countries resulting from international conventions to which the Portuguese State is bound, whenever reciprocity is contemplated; and

(iv) Collaboration with justice under the Code of Civil Procedure and Code of Criminal Procedure; and

(v) Confirmation of the tax identification number and fiscal domicile to the entities legally competent to carry out the commercial, land or car registration.

It should be noted that under the Portuguese law, the publication of lists of taxpayers with outstanding tax debts does not constitute a breach of these confidentiality rules.

Kenya Small Flag Kenya

The Tax Procedures Act, 2015 guarantees the confidentiality of documents and information received by the KRA in the course of administering tax law. However, the documents and information received may be disclosed to other Government agencies such as the Auditor General and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics to enable them carry out their duties but under certain prescribed circumstances. In addition, tax information can be disclosed to foreign tax authorities pursuant to tax information exchange agreements entered into by Kenya.

Poland Small Flag Poland

The Polish Tax Ordinance Act stipulates a broad regulation of taxpayer data secrecy. The general principle is that individual data included in tax returns or other documents filed by taxpayers, tax remitters, or tax collectors, as well as data possessed by the tax authorities (e.g. collected during a tax audit) are covered by tax secrecy and cannot be revealed to anybody except for those circumstances specifically indicated in the law. Unjustified revealing of tax information can be subject to criminal liability.

In certain situations, as regulated in the law, tax data can be revealed to specific authorities such as: other tax authorities, courts, or prosecutors, in connection with proceedings conducted by these bodies (e.g. with respect to money laundering or other offences). Tax information can also be provided to foreign tax authorities in accordance with tax treaties concluded by Poland.

Poland is a signatory of the Common Reporting Standard. It was implemented into Polish law on 1 May 2017.

Polish law does not currently stipulate a public Register of Beneficial Ownership; however, the legislative procedure to implement this Register has already been initiated.

Japan Small Flag Japan

Generally yes. The officials of the tax authority are bound by and subject to the confidentiality obligations under law, and unlawful disclosure will constitute a criminal offence. Taxpayers’ information is not generally shared with other parts of the government. This should remain true even after the introduction of the various transfer pricing documentation requirements, i.e., master file, country-by-country reports and local file; that is, these information is also supposed to be protected by the confidentiality obligations owed by the authority officials.

However, it is at the same time true, as a matter of fact, that there often are press coverages over an assessment made upon a specifically identified taxpayer (which is clearly confidential information), even if the taxpayer itself does not make it public, if the information has a news value. Many practitioners suspect that some officials of the tax authority having contact with the press are the news source, while the tax authority never admits it.

The Netherlands Small Flag The Netherlands

Data from taxpayers is treated as highly confidential and facts and circumstances of the taxpayer cannot be disclosed to third parties. In case of criminal offences the tax authorities will however provide the information to the respective authority dealing with such affairs.

Mexico Small Flag Mexico

In terms of the Federal Tax Code, information provided by taxpayers to the competent authorities is considered as confidential and it is duly protected from disclosure to third parties. In this sense, such information could only be provided to other governmental authorities in cases sanctioned by law and assuming that due process has been abided by.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that certain information could be required from tax authorities on an international scale, in pursuance of broad exchange of information agreements or other relevant instruments such as FATCA or CRS.

Norway Small Flag Norway

Information that has been reported to the Norwegian Tax Administration is subject to the confidentiality obligations in the Tax Administration Act. Breach of duty of confidentiality is a legal offence and is very seldom seen.

In general, the Tax Administration does not share confidential information with other Government Agencies. However, there are statutory exceptions where the confidentiality is waived under the existing regulations. Due to court practice in resent cases, we will advise taxpayers to keep tax advice separate from accounting information.

Also, the Norwegian Tax Administration exchanges information with other countries’ tax authorities in accordance with the tax treaties.

Germany Small Flag Germany

The data relating to tax matters is safeguarded against disclosure to third parties by the tax secrecy rule. The tax secrecy rule basically stipulates that the tax authorities are not allowed to disclose any data they gained knowledge of during the tax proceedings to any third party. However, there are several exceptions to the tax secrecy rule, like disclosure of facts in connection with criminal proceedings unrelated to tax.

Updated: October 18, 2017