• Appendix 1

    Data collection methods and sources

    Method or source




    ATO data warehouse

    Provides quantitative data.

    Data from tax returns, activity statements and other forms lodged by taxpayers and intermediaries.

    Readily accessible.

    Up-to-date data (refreshed on a weekly basis).

    Misunderstandings sometimes occur between analysts and data extractors. Data specifications must be discussed in detail.

    Corporate surveys

    Provides both qualitative and quantitative data.

    See e-library, especially our research which includes links to corporate research and surveys.

    Data collected from a sample of the population.

    Market research surveys are generally made up of a range of questions aimed at gauging public opinion.

    Our corporate surveys typically cover a range of issues, including awareness and understanding of tax obligations, perceptions of tax fairness and attitudes towards us and tax compliance.

    These surveys include our Business Perceptions Survey, Community Perceptions Survey, Professionalism Survey and a range of tax practitioner surveys.

    Surveys are also commissioned, or run in-house, on specific topics such as influences on taxpayer claiming behaviour, awareness and satisfaction with specific products and understanding of specific tax obligations.

    • Offers anonymity.
    • Relatively inexpensive to administer.
    • Easy to compare over time provided questions remain the same or similar.
    • Can cover many people.
    • Able to collect large amounts of data.
    • Many sample questionnaires already exist.
    • Can be tailored to specific issues at the risk, product and market levels as well as the corporate level.


    • Might not get carefully considered feedback.
    • Wording can bias clients' responses.
    • Not the full story - breadth rather than depth.
    • Danger of 'over-surveying' certain segments (for example, tax practitioners).
    • Need a certain level of expertise for reliable sampling, questionnaire design, data collection and analysis. This limits the opportunity for in-house surveys and puts the onus on commissioning experts.
    • Sampling and non-sampling errors.
    • The sampling error is associated with inferring the whole population characteristics from a small sample.
    • The non-sampling error includes non-response bias and biases introduced by the framing or order of questions.



    Provides qualitative data.

    Used when you want to fully understand someone's impressions or experiences, or to learn more about their answers to questionnaires.

    • Obtains the full range and depth of information.
    • Develops a relationship with the client.
    • Flexibility with the client.
    • Data is collected with a specific purpose in mind which makes the data more consistent with the objective.


    • Often time-consuming.
    • Difficult to analyse and compare.
    • Potentially costly.
    • Interviewer may bias clients' responses which may make it difficult to legitimately compare results from different interviewers.
    • Generally can't provide statistically reliable samples.


    Focus groups

    Provides qualitative data.

    Used to explore a topic (for example, reactions to an experience or suggestion, understanding common complaints) in depth through group discussion.

    • An efficient way to obtain good range and depth of information in a short time.
    • Data is collected with a specific purpose in mind which makes the data more consistent with the objective.
    • Valuable for exploring new areas and developing ideas and hypotheses. Often used as a preliminary data gathering exercise to help inform the design of a more comprehensive survey.


    • Problematic to analyse responses.
    • Need a good facilitator for safety and closure.
    • Difficult to schedule a group of 6-8 people together at the same time.
    • Not representative of wider population.
    • Tendency of participants to treat the experiment as a game rather than a real-life situation.
    • Generally can't provide statistically reliable samples.


    Case studies

    Provides qualitative data.

    Provide an in-depth examination of a single instance or event.

    • Provides a deeper understanding of the behaviour of a particular kind of taxpayer or segment which may lead to the generation of hypotheses and more extensive research.
    • Can be undertaken, to some extent, without the need for taxpayer co-operation because existing data can be used.


    • Usually time consuming to collect, organise and describe.
    • Represents depth of information rather than breadth and may not be necessarily representative of the wider population.
    • Costly to conduct when time and resource intensive.
    • Generally can't provide statistically reliable samples.


    Academic research

    Provides both qualitative and quantitative data.

    Academic researchers publish tax-related research on a range of topics.

    • Researchers are highly-qualified and specialised.
    • You can commission academic researchers to do specific work.
    • The work may already have been done.


    • Information might be too broad and general for our purposes.
    • Usually a time lag exists between research and publication which means the results might not be applicable to the period of interest.


    Public opinion research

    Provides qualitative data.

    Library & Information Services subscribe to several databases which may be useful for this kind of research.

    Can include market research surveys and scans of topical issues receiving media attention.

    • Gives a broad and current view of public opinion.
    • A partial analysis can provide some useful context to other findings.


    Can be difficult to analyse for various reasons including the following.

    • Media scans need to be fairly comprehensive over the period of review and range of media.
    • Need to use consistent and standard definitions for terms such as positive and negative media perceptions.
    • Resource intensive and likely to mean that most business areas wouldn't conduct their own ongoing media analysis.


    Other government agencies

    Material can be found on the relevant government websites. A good place to start is the Australian, State, Territory and Local governments website at gov.auExternal Link which has links to federal and state government sites in Australia.

    Most government websites allow access to a range of published information which provides information on external factors or external benchmarks relating to tax compliance indicators.

    These include:

    • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) - provides a wide range of statistics
    • Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) - has a range of statistics on financial indicators
    • Productivity Commission - undertakes research on economic, industry, business and demographic issues including a number of business benchmarking studies.


    Easy to access.

    Might use units of measurement (for example, different definitions for particular population segments) that aren't specific to our needs.

    Professional associations

    Professional associations and industry bodies represent the interests of their members and regulate their practice for the benefit of the community. Some associations publish regular updates and reports relating to their industry.

    May provide information on external factors or external benchmarks relating to tax compliance indicators.

    • Might use units of measurement (for example, different definitions for particular population segments) that aren't specific to our needs.
    • Some reports are only available by paid subscription.


    Appendix 2


    Comparison statistics

    Statistics or data that are used as a comparison. For example, a benchmark or control group can be used as a comparison statistic.


    A part of a larger whole.

    Data point

    The individual point where a value is graphed, as a point on a line, bar or pie slice. Each data point maps to an individual cell in a spreadsheet's data range. For example, the percentage of activity statements lodged on-time for the 2005-06 income year.

    Data series

    A complete series of data, corresponding to the same type of data points. For example, the percentage of activity statements lodged on-time over a period of seven income years.

    Inferential statistics

    A group of methodologies that allow you to draw inferences about a population based on the behaviour of a sample.

    Primary data

    Data which is collected at source for the particular purpose of meeting the evaluation objective.

    Risk management committee

    Oversees all compliance risk work in a business line and is responsible for prioritising compliance risk work for that business line.


    A small part or quantity intended to show what the whole is like. For example, a subset of the population of interest.

    Secondary data

    Data that has been collected, summarised or interpreted for a different purpose.


    A general direction and tendency.

    Trend line

    A line indicating the general course or tendency of something. For example, a set of points on a graph.

    Trend analysis

    Involves the collection and presentation of information in order to identify patterns.

      Last modified: 13 Jan 2015QC 25789