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New Ombudsman Opinion - IRD legal advice

The Ombudsman has released his opinion on a complaint about the Inland Revenue Department’s (IRD’s) decision to withhold legal advice on outsourcing contact with taxpayers. The Ombudsman upheld IRD’s decision, noting that it was open to IRD to withhold the information because release would be contrary to its secrecy obligations under the Tax Administration Act, and because it was necessary to maintain legal professional privilege. You can read the full opinion here.

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Summary

The complainant asked the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) to provide him with copies of its legal advice relating to outsourcing contact with taxpayers about overdue tax debt, overdue tax returns and other matters. IRD withheld the information for the following reasons:

• IRD was obliged to withhold the information under section 81(1) of the Tax Administration Act 1994 (TAA). Accordingly, under section 18(c)(i) of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA), IRD was entitled to refuse the complainant’s request as releasing it would be contrary to section 81(1) of the TAA; and

• it was entitled to withhold the information under section 9(2)(h) of the OIA in order to maintain legal professional privilege.

Based on the information provided to me, I have concluded that IRD was entitled to withhold the information at issue under sections 18(c)(i) and 9(2)(h) of the OIA.

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