Australia’s already diverse mining tax landed in the news again when federal ministers in Australia were forbidden from seeing the latest revenue figures for Labor’s mining tax.
The government's lawyers warned that if the minister were to look at the numbers it would breach the law and subject them to jail terms, The Australian reported.
The advice came as the Coalition demanded the disclosure of the mining tax results in the midst of a renewed political fight over whether the policy could deliver the $2 billion claimed for it this financial year.
In a report, The Australian revealed that big miners did not expect to pay any of the minerals resource rent tax for the December quarter. This would mean the tax has raised no revenue in its first six months.
A spokesman for Acting Treasurer David Bradbury said the Coalition wanted the government to break the law by releasing the figures.
A Treasury minute tells ministers that they cannot see the quarterly Mining Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) figures because the Australian Taxation Office advised that this would breach federal law.
“The ATO’s current view is that disclosure of these data would breach the secrecy provisions of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 as taxpayer information may be ascertained by a process of deduction,” says a copy of the minute, The Australian reported.
"This is a matter for the ATO to independently determine and is not a decision of any department or minister."
While the MRRT applies to all miners producing iron ore and coal, most of its revenue is expected to come from just three companies: BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.
Treasury said in the minute that the Australian Government Solicitor had backed the ATO advice and said the revenue information was protected.