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Harman obligation yields to Tax Commissioner’s statutory functions

Today, the Federal Court held that the Harman obligation not to use documents obtained in the course of a judicial proceeding for a purpose other than that proceeding yields to the Commissioner’s statutory functions including the Commissioner’s obligation to use information available to him to make a tax assessment.


Chris Peadon of New Chambers appeared for the Commissioner, led by Mr Tim Begbie QC.


In this case, the applicant in a Part IVC tax appeal caused the Court to issue a subpoena to a third party. That third party produced the documents to the Court in accordance with the subpoena. The third party objected to the Commissioner accessing the documents unless that access was conditioned upon the Commissioner giving an express undertaking reflecting the Harman obligation that the Commissioner would not use the documents for purposes other than the proceeding. The Commissioner opposed the imposition of the condition on the basis that the Harman obligation yields to the Commissioner’s statutory functions.


Justice Davies of the Federal Court accepted the Commissioner’s argument.


This decision is consistent with the Full Court’s decision in Rennie Products.


It confirms that the Commissioner is entitled to use documents obtained during the course of a court proceeding in carrying out his other statutory functions.



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