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MEMBER 182 writes, in response to comments by Member 179 in last week's TAXVINE about disclosing tax file numbers to debt collectors:

"In regard to Member 179's issues with disclosure of TFNs over the phone, I have had this occur when the ATO rings me about a client. They ask for the client's TFN but I advise them that I cannot give it to them as I don't know who the caller is. I then ask for them to provide the TFN as proof of identity, just as they ask it of me when I ring them. They almost always refuse so I just say that they will have to put their request in writing and we will attend to it within our 28 day service standard. They rang me, not the other way around.

We will not give out the information over the phone, just as the ATO will not. If people ring us, it is their obligation to identify who they are. If they have the client's TFN, then it won't hurt for us to give it to them. But we should not have to give these callers the TFN. After all, it is they who ring us wanting information. Surely if they ring a client's listed accountant/tax agent they can be reasonably confident that we are who we say we are."