I recently wrote a blog about a recent decision of the Full Court of the Family Court, in which one of the issues for determination was the Taxation Commissioner’s access to the parties’ family law pleading statements. The decision is reported as Commissioner of Taxation & Darling [2014] FamCAFC 59.

The Full Court held the Commissioner could access and use those documents it required for taxation purposes. In the reasons for judgement, their Honours’ held the ATO should be released from the implied obligation not to use documents obtained from the file for a purpose not related to the proceedings, an obligation set out by the High Court in Hearne v Street (2008) 235 CLR 125

The High Court refused Darling’s application for special leave to appeal from the Full Court’s decision.

The ATO have published a decision impact statement. It notes that:

1. The ATO’s policies were updated in 2011 to instruct ATO officers not to seek to inspect or copy documents from court files by relying on the access powers (ITAA 1936 s 263) because such conduct could constitute contempt of court, and

2. Where the Commissioner, as a non-party to litigation, seeks access to court documents for use other than in the proceeding in which the documents were filed, he/she will make an application to the court for release from the implied obligation.