6.2.5 Access to employer records
The Registrar can access the wage or payroll records of an employer.
CSRC Act section 61
The Registrar's power to access employer records can only be used to access the salary or wage records (including information stored on a computer) of a payer's employer for the purpose of applying the employer withholding provisions.
Officers, authorised in writing by the Registrar, have the power to enter employers' premises and to access documents (section 61(1)). Officers can inspect, examine, take extracts from, or make copies of, any documents that are relevant to the payer. They cannot gather information on any other person. Officers cannot remove documents.
Section 61 only applies to premises where the employer's records are kept (usually the employer's business premises). Where the relevant salary and wage records are in some other place (e.g the offices of the employer's accountant or the employer's home) officers may access those premises.
Authorised officers do not have power under the child support legislation to access the premises of banks and other financial institutions, parents, or any other third party. Officers can only access the premises of a bank or financial institution where the institution is the employer of the payer and the salary and wages records are held on the premises.
An officer seeking entry to an employer's premises must produce a current authority signed by the Registrar. The authority must identify the officer and state that the officer is authorised to exercise the Registrar's powers under section 61. Officers who do not produce an authority cannot enter or remain on the land or premises if requested to leave (section 61(2)).
If an employer wants to obtain professional advice, the search should be postponed temporarily. Officers should make arrangements to ensure there is no tampering with the records (e.g. the documents or copies of the documents could be sealed in an envelope or box with both the custodian of the papers and the officers signing an undertaking not to open the item until the advice has been received).
Any claim that the records are subject to legal professional privilege (6.2.6) will be resisted on the grounds that wage records are created to record payments to employees, not for the purpose of obtaining legal advice.
The employer may commit an offence if they do not provide reasonable facilities and assistance to an authorised officer (section 61(3)) (6.8).
Although the access provisions do not grant a right to conduct an interview, many interviews proceed on an informal basis without recourse to a formal notice. These informal discussions will usually reduce the cost of compliance, as the person is not required to attend the office for an interview or to produce the required records under a formal notice (6.2.4).
Employers can refuse to answer any questions other than those specifically related to the location of records. Where officers have reasonable grounds for requiring the employer to answer other questions about the documents and the employer is unwilling to reply informally, the officer can later prepare and issue a notice under the appropriate information and evidence-gathering provision.