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Proven system of checks and controls to protect taxpayers' information


The Inland Revenue Department attached great importance to the protection of taxpayers' information, which was essential to the integrity of Hong Kong's taxation system, the Acting Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Mr Tam Kuen-chong, said.

He was speaking in response to press enquiries on a Taxation Officer of the Inland Revenue Department being charged by the ICAC today (July 18) for alleged misconduct in public office by recording particulars of taxpayers for future personal use.

"The department has in place a proven system of internal checks and controls to ensure proper use of taxpayers' information." Mr Tam said.

Since 1999, a logging mechanism had been put in place to randomly select and log on-line enquiries for review check in order to ensure that officers make enquiries only in the course of discharging their duties.

"We also regularly review the system with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of the system." he said.

Mr Tam reiterated that the department had adopted a zero tolerance policy for acts in violation of integrity and improper handling of taxpayers' information.

Perpetrators of minor offences would be subject to verbal or written warnings while those of major offences would be subject to disciplinary action.

"In the event of criminal offences, the case will be referred to the relevant law enforcement authorities, that is , the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Hong Kong Police Force." he said.

Mr Tam stressed that officers of the department were authorised to access taxpayers' information only in the performance of their duties.

"Any unauthorised access to or use of taxpayers' information is also an offence under the Crimes Ordinance or the Common Law." he said.

The department has issued clear guidelines on the security and handling of departmental records.

"As a general rule, officers are not permitted to take taxpayers' or other departmental files or records out of the office unless it is necessary for them to do so in the performance of their duties." Mr Tam said.

Ends/Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Issued at HKT 18:03