• Department of Immigration & Border Protection Visa Holders

    1 Data matching guidelines

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is committed to voluntarily complying with the Guidelines on data matching in Australian government administration (2014) (Guidelines) published by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

    The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) Visa Holders Data Matching Program Protocol is prepared and published in accordance with these guidelines.

    2 Overview

    The DIBP visa holders data matching program has been developed to assist the ATO to effectively detect, and deal with compliance risks within the visa holding population. Data from DIBP will be used in ATO risk detection models to select populations for administrative action relating to tax return integrity, income tax and goods and services tax non-compliance and fraud. This represents the use of data in a smarter way to improve decisions, services and compliance.

    Analysis of data obtained from DIBP about visas granted in the three year period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2014, under previously published data matching program protocols, supports the view that there is an elevated level of risk relating to non-compliance and fraud associated with this population. Based on those identified risks, the ATO intends to acquire visa information for visas granted in the period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2015 and future periods between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2017. This means previously acquired data for the period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 will be refreshed in the new table structure in an effort to take advantage of opportunities with new risk detection models.

    The ATO has a responsibility to protect the public revenue and to maintain community confidence in the integrity of the tax system. Undertaking the DIBP visa holders data matching program will assist us in investigating and taking steps to mitigate fraud on the Government’s revenue.

    3 Purpose & objectives

    3.1 Purpose

    The purpose of this data matching program is to ensure that taxpayers are correctly meeting their taxation obligations. These obligations include registration, lodgment, reporting and payment responsibilities.

    3.2 Objectives

    Objectives of the DIBP Visa Holders data matching program:

    • Assist in developing and implementing administrative strategies to improve voluntary compliance by:
      • visa holders,
      • visa sponsors, and
      • migration agents; and
       
    • Improve knowledge of the overall level of compliance with taxation obligations by:
      • visa holders,
      • visa sponsors, and
      • migration agents
       
    • Test the veracity and strengths of existing risk detection models and treatment systems and identify areas for improvement in the ATO’s suite of compliance models and treatment systems and practices
    • Improve the integrity of the Tax and Superannuation system by cancelling ineligible ABN registrants
    • Identify potentially new or widespread fraud methodologies and those entities controlling or exploiting those methodologies
    • Ensure compliance with registration, lodgment, correct reporting and payment of taxation and superannuation obligations.

    The ATO is seeking to obtain external data to cross-reference with its own internal data to identify relevant cases for administrative action, including compliance and educational strategies.

    4 Agencies & entities involved

    4.1 Matching & primary user agency

    The ATO is the matching agency and will generally be the sole user of the data. The data matching program will be conducted using the ATO’s secure computer systems and in accordance with approved policies and procedures.

    In very limited and specific circumstances as contained in Division 355 of Schedule 1 to the Taxation Administration Act 1953, the ATO may provide individual records to other agencies, including state and territory revenue authorities and law enforcement agencies. These other agencies include those responsible for:

    • Administering social welfare, health and safety programs for the purposes of determining eligibility to certain types of benefits and rebates
    • Overseeing superannuation funds, corporations and financial market operators to ensure compliance with prudential regulations
    • Determining entitlement to rehabilitation and compensation payments.

    Each request for information by these other government agencies will be assessed on its merits and must be for an admissible purpose allowed for by taxation laws.

    4.2 Source entities

    Data will be obtained from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

    In accordance with guideline 5.9 the ATO has also advised that the source agency/entity to take reasonable steps to notify the general public of their participation in this data matching program. To assist with this, the ATO has:

    • Provided written materials the data provider can provide to its clients advising of their participation in this program
    • Advised the data providers to update their privacy policies to note that personal information is disclosed to the ATO for data matching purposes.

    5 Data issues

    5.1 Data elements

    The ATO will obtain the following data items from the source agency for the 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years:

    Table description

    Base population cohort of active visa holders meeting the criteria shown in appendix B

    Address history for visa applicants and sponsors

    Contact history for visa applicants and sponsors

    All visa grants

    Visa grant status by point in time

    Migration agents (visa application preparer who assisted or facilitated the processing of the visa)

    Address history for migration agents

    Contact history for migration agents

    All international travel movements undertaken by visa holders (arrivals and departures)

    Sponsor details (457 visa)

    Education providers (educational institution where the student visa holder intends to undertake their study)

    Visa subclass name

    A full copy of the data dictionary is included at appendix A, and the visa holder selection method is included at appendix B.

    5.2 Number of records

    It is estimated that the total number of records that will be obtained is more than one million individuals.

    5.3 Data quality

    The ATO expects the DIBP data to be of high quality given that the department maintains a sophisticated up-to-date database of all visa applications and travel movements.

    Data will be transformed into a standardised format and validated to ensure it contains the required data elements prior to loading to ATO computer systems.

    5.4 Data integrity

    The ATO uses a sophisticated identity matching techniques to ensure we identify the correct taxpayer when we obtain data from third parties. This technique uses multiple details to obtain an identity match. For example, where an Australian Business Number (ABN), name, address and date of birth are available all items are used in the identity matching process. Very high confidence matches will occur where all fields are matched.

    Additional manual processes may be undertaken where high confidence identity matches do not occur, or a decision taken to destroy the data with no further action.

    Where administrative action is proposed, additional checks will take place to ensure the correct taxpayer has been identified. The taxpayers will be provided with the opportunity to verify the accuracy of the information before any administrative action is taken.

    5.5 Data security

    ATO staff are subject to the strict secrecy and privacy provisions contained in Division 355 of Schedule 1 to the Taxation Administration Act 1953 and include terms of imprisonment in cases of serious contravention of these provisions.

    All ATO computer systems are strictly controlled, with features including:

    • System access controls and security groupings
    • Login identification codes and password protection
    • Full audit trails of data files and system accesses.

    The ATO will utilise its secure internet-based data transfer facility to obtain the data from source agency.

    6 Discrepancy matching

    6.1 Matching process

    The identity matching process is described above under ‘Data integrity’ and is the first step in the matching process.

    Data analysts use various models and techniques to detect potential discrepancies, such as under-reported income or over-reported deductions. Higher risk discrepancy matches will be loaded to the ATO’s case management system and allocated to compliance staff for actioning.

    Lower risk discrepancy matches will be further analysed and a decision made to take some form of compliance or educational activity, or to destroy the data.

    6.2 Quality assurance

    Quality assurance processes are integrated into ATO processes and computer systems and are applied throughout the data matching cycle.

    These assurance processes include:

    • Registering the intention to undertake a data matching program on an ATO internal central register
    • Obtaining approval from the Data Matching Gatekeeper and relevant Senior Executive Service (SES) Officers prior to any activity being undertaken
    • Conducting program pilots or obtaining sample data to ensure the data matching program will achieve its objectives prior to full data sets being obtained
    • Notifying OAIC of our intention to undertake the data matching program and request permission to vary from the Data Matching Guidelines
    • Maintaining access management logs recording details of who has access to the data, why access is required and how it will be used
    • Processes embedded into compliance activities, such as:
      • Review of risk assessments, taxpayer profiles and case plans by senior officers prior to client contact
      • On-going reviews of cases by subject matter technical experts at key points during the life cycle of a case
      • Regular independent panel reviews of samples of case work to provide assurance of the accuracy and consistency of case work.
       

    These processes ensure data is collected and used in accordance with the ATO’s data management policies and principles, and complies with the OAIC’s data matching guidelines.

    7 Previous program

    The ATO has been data matching visa data from DIBP (and its predecessors) for a number of years. The use of this data in risk detection models and treatment systems has been very effective in assisting to mitigate compliance risks.

    Empirical evidence from earlier data matching programs also confirmed that there was an elevated level of risk within the subset of taxpayers who are first time lodgers with DIBP links. Given the complexity, frequency, volatility and widespread effects of fraud methodologies, it is considered prudent to continue to undertake this data matching program to monitor compliance behaviour.

    8 Action resulting from the program

    The results of this program will enhance the ATO’s existing risk detection models and treatment systems by identifying areas for improvement through the identification of entities controlling or exploiting potentially new or widespread fraud methodologies.

    Action resulting from DIBP visa holder data matching program will be to ensure that taxpayers (sponsors and visa holders) within this population (visa holders, visa sponsors, and migration agents):

    • Are completing correct tax returns and business activity statements
    • Are meeting their registration, lodgment, reporting and payment obligations for pay as you go withholding, fringe benefits tax and superannuation guarantee; and
    • Are correctly managing their tax obligations.

    Before any administrative action is taken, taxpayers will be provided with the opportunity to verify the accuracy of the information obtained by the ATO. Taxpayers will generally be given at least 28 days to respond before administrative action is taken.

    For example, where discrepancy matching identifies that a taxpayer is not reporting all of their income, but in fact they are reporting the income under another entity, the taxpayer will be given the opportunity to clarify the situation.

    The data may also be used to ensure that taxpayers are complying with their other taxation and superannuation obligations, including registration requirements, lodgment obligations and payment responsibilities.

    In cases where taxpayers fail to comply with these obligations, after being reminded of them, escalation for prosecution action may be instigated in appropriate circumstances.

    Where a taxpayer has correctly met its obligations, the use of the data will reduce the likelihood of contact from the ATO.

    9 Time limits applying to the program

    The ATO is seeking to have the Privacy Commissioner exercise his discretion and allow the ATO to vary from the data destruction requirements contained in the guidelines.

    The collection of the initial dataset under this protocol is expected to occur in the September 2015, and then quarterly for the ensuing financial years.

    The ATO is seeking to retain the data for three years after its collection on the basis that its retention is required for the protection of public revenue. Current guidelines allow for twelve months retention. Destroying the data in the timeframes contained in the Guidelines would hinder the ATO’s ability to protect public revenue by inhibiting:

    • Development of new risk identification models (which takes significant time and effort)
    • Refining, combining and testing existing risk identification models, and
    • Monitoring the sub-population for new and emerging risks.

    A full case setting out the basis for seeking this variation to the guidelines and its impacts on individual privacy is contained at appendix C.

    10 Public notice of the program

    The ATO will publish a public notification of this data matching program in the Commonwealth government notices gazette in the week commencing 3 August 2015. A copy of the gazette notice will be provided to the data providers and the OAIC. A copy of the proposed gazette notice is included at appendix D.

    The ATO will publish a copy of this data matching program protocol on its website once the gazette notice has been published. It can be accessed from www.ato.gov.au/dmprotocols

    The data provider has been advised they may also notify their clients of participation in this data matching program, and they are considering their options.

    11 Privacy complaints

    If a taxpayer is not satisfied with how the ATO has collected, held, used or disclosed its personal information, they can make a formal complaint.

    A complaint can be lodged by:

    • using the online complaints form at http://www.ato.gov.au/complaints
    • phoning our complaints line on 1800 199 010
    • phoning the National Relay Service on 13 36 77 (if you have a hearing, speech or communication impairment)
    • sending us a free fax on 1800 060 063, or
    • writing to:

    ATO Complaints

    PO Box 1271

    ALBURY NSW 2640

    12 Relationship to lawful functions

    The Commissioner of Taxation has responsibility for ensuring taxpayers meet their taxation and superannuation obligations. Compliance with these obligations is a matter the ATO takes seriously and failure to address non-compliant behaviour has the potential to undermine community confidence in the integrity of the taxation and superannuation systems and the ATO’s capacity to administer those systems.

    The ATO’s data matching program is one of the strategies used to identity and deal with non-compliant behaviour. Data matching programs also provide a degree of assurance that taxpayers are meeting their obligations.

    The DIBP visa holders data matching program is part of the ATO’s focus on addressing the issues raised by non-compliant and potentially fraudulent behaviour. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection visa holder data matching program will provide a degree of assurance that particular classes of taxpayers are meeting their taxation obligations.

    13 Legal authority

    13.1 ATO legislation

    The data will be obtained under the ATO’s formal information gathering powers contained in the following legislative provisions:

    • Section 264 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936
    • Section 353-10 of Schedule 1 to the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (administering indirect taxes)
    • Section 128 of the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986
    • Section 77 of the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992.

    These are coercive powers that obligate the data providers to furnish the information requested. The ATO will use the information for taxation and superannuation compliance purposes.

    13.2 Privacy Act

    Data will only be used within the limits prescribed by Australian Privacy Principle 6 (APP6) contained in Schedule 1 of the Privacy Act 1988 and in particular:

    • APP6.2(b) – the use of the information is permitted by an Australian Law; and
    • APP6.2(e) – the use is necessary for the ATO’s enforcement related activities

    14 Alternative methods

    Department of Immigration and Border Protection is the only complete source of information pertaining to visa holders. The ATO has considered a range of alternatives to this data matching program to ensure entities are complying with their taxation and superannuation obligations. Relying only on data already held by the ATO is of limited value for the following reasons:

    • The ATO only receives data from taxpayers that are correctly registered and meeting their lodgment obligations
    • The ATO has no other data to cross-reference to ensure taxpayers are reporting their obligations correctly other than by directly contacting every taxpayer

    This data matching program will allow the ATO to identify taxpayers who are not fully complying with their obligations, as well as those that may be operating outside the taxation and superannuation systems. It will also reduce the likelihood of the ATO unnecessarily contacting taxpayers who appear to be complying with their taxation obligations.

    Data matching is an effective method of examining records of thousands of taxpayers to ensure compliance with lodgment and reporting obligations that would otherwise be a resource intensive exercise.

    It also assists the ATO in effectively promoting voluntary compliance by notifying the public of areas and activities under scrutiny, despite some negative perceptions toward data matching.

    15 Costs & benefits

    15.1 Costs

    There are some incidental costs to the ATO in the conduct of this data matching program, but these will be more than offset by the total revenue protected:

    • Data analyst resources to identify potential instances of non-compliance
    • Compliance resources to manage casework and educational activities
    • Governance resources to ensure that the guidelines and Privacy Act are complied with, and quality assurance work to ensure the rigour of the work undertaken by analysts and compliance staff
    • Storage of the data.

    15.2 Benefits

    Benefits from conducting this data matching programs include:

    • Maintaining community confidence in both the taxation and superannuation systems by creating a level playing field, as well as maintaining community confidence in the ATO’s capacity to fairly administer those systems
    • Integrity of the taxation and superannuation systems – there are inherent risks in taxpayers not complying with their obligations, including those that deliberately abuse these systems – this program will assist the ATO in detecting, dealing with and deterring those that are not meeting their obligations
    • Enabling enforcement activity and recovery of taxation revenue – without undertaking this data matching program and subsequent compliance activity there are no assurances that a wider risk to revenue does not exist.

    Appendix A

    Data Dictionary

    DIBP_ATO_ACTIVE_VISA_HOLDERS_dd_mm_yy_TO_dd_mm_yy

    Base population cohort of active visa holders meeting the criteria shown in appendix B

    Description

    Field name

    Client Identifier

    CLIENT_ID

    Person Identifier (PID)

    PRSN_ID

    Client Visa Subclass Code

    VISA_SBCLS_CD

    Client Visa Grant Number

    VISA_GRANT_NR

    DIBP_ATO_CLIENT_ADRS

    Address history for visa applicants and sponsors

    Description

    Field name

    Client Identifier

    CLIENT_ID

    Client type (Visa Applicant, Sponsor)

    CLIENT_TYPE_CD

    Address Type (Residential, Postal, Business, Residential other, Postal other, Business other)

    ADRS_TYPE_DS

    Date of Effect From

    EFFECT_DT_FROM

    Date of Effect To

    EFFECT_DT_TO

    Client First Line of the Address

    ADDRESS_1

    Client Second Line of the Address

    ADDRESS_2

    Client Third Line of the Address

    ADDRESS_3

    Client Fourth Line of the Address

    ADDRESS_4

    Country Code

    CNTRY_CD

    The Postcode of the Address

    POSTCODE

    The State or Territory of the Address

    STATE

    The Suburb, Town or City of the Address

    SUBURB

    DIBP_ATO_CLIENT_CONTACT

    Contact history for visa applicants and sponsors

    Description

    Field name

    Client Identifier

    CLIENT_ID

    Client type (Visa Applicant, Sponsor)

    CLIENT_TYPE_CD

    Contact Type (Residential, Postal, Business, Residential other, Postal other, Business other)

    ADRS_TYPE_DS

    Date of Effect From

    EFFECT_DT_FROM

    Date of Effect To

    EFFECT_DT_TO

    Mobile phone number

    MOBILE_PHONE

    Phone number

    PHONE

    Fax number

    FAX

    eMail address

    EMAIL

    DIBP_ATO_GRANTS

    All visa grants

    Description

    Field name

    Client Identifier

    CLIENT_ID

    Person Identifier (PID)

    PRSN_ID

    Client Visa Subclass Code

    VISA_SBCLS_CD

    Client Visa Grant Number

    VISA_GRANT_NR

    Visa Grant Date

    VISA_GRANT_DT

    Country that issued the travel document

    CITIZENSHIP_CNTRY

    Client Travel Document Identifier

    TRVL_DOC_ID

    Visa Grant Entry Expiry Date

    VISA_ENTRY_EXPRY_DT

    Visa stay number of days allowed

    VISA_STAY_DAYS_NR

    Number of entries allowed (No Entry, Single Entry, Multiple Entry)

    VISA_ENTRIES_ALLOWED_CD

    Client Birth Country

    BIRTH_CNTRY

    Client Birth Date Day (DD)

    BIRTH_DT_DD

    Client Birth Date Month (MM)

    BIRTH_DT_MM

    Client Birth Date Year (YYYY)

    BIRTH_DT_YYYY

    Client Title

    TITLE

    Client Family Name or Surname

    FAMILY_NAME

    Client First Given Name or First Given Initial

    GIVEN_NAME

    Client Second Given Name or Second Given Initial

    SECOND_GIVEN_NM

    DIBP Source Processing System

    SOURCE_SYSTEM

    Client Applicant Type (Primary or Secondary)

    APPLNT_TYPE_CD

    Visa CASE Identifier

    VA_CASE_ID

    Nomination CASE Identifier

    NM_CASE_ID

    Migration Agent Number Identifier

    AGT_MARA_ID

    DIBP_ATO_PERSON_VISA_SNAPSHOT

    Visa grant status by point in time

    Description

    Field name

    Client Identifier

    CLIENT_ID

    Person Identifier (PID)

    PRSN_ID

    Client Visa Subclass Code

    VISA_SBCLS_CD

    Client Visa Grant Number

    VISA_GRANT_NR

    Client Lawful Status (onshore – Lawful)

    LAWFUL_STATUS_DS

    Client Lawful Status snapshot date

    LAWFUL_STATUS_DT

    Client Visa In Effect Until Date

    VISA_IN_EFFECT_UNTIL_DT

    DIBP_ATO_MGRNT_AGT

    Migration agents (visa application preparer who assisted or facilitated the processing of the visa)

    Description

    Field name

    Migration Agent Number Identifier

    AGT_MARA_ID

    Migration Agent Title

    AGT_NAME_TITLE

    Migration Agent Family Name or Surname

    AGT_FMLY_NM

    Migration Agent First Given Name or First Given Initial

    AGT_GIVEN_NM

    Migration Agent Second Given Name or Second Given Initial

    AGT_SCND_GVN_NM

    Migration Agent Business Name

    AGT_BUSINESS_NM

    DIBP_ATO_MGRNT_AGT_ADRS

    Address history for migration agents

    Description

    Field name

    Migration Agent Number Identifier

    AGT_MARA_ID

    Address Type (Residential, Postal, Business, Residential other, Postal other, Business other)

    ADRS_TYPE_DS

    Date of Effect From

    EFFECT_DT_FROM

    Date of Effect To

    EFFECT_DT_TO

    The First Line of the Address

    ADDRESS_1

    The Second Line of the Address

    ADDRESS_2

    The Third Line of the Address

    ADDRESS_3

    The Fourth Line of the Address

    ADDRESS_4

    Country Code

    CNTRY_CD

    The Postcode of the Address

    POSTCODE

    The State or Territory of the Address

    STATE

    The Suburb, Town or City of the Address

    SUBURB

    DIBP_ATO_MGRNT_AGT_CONTACT

    Contact history for migration agents

    Description

    Field name

    Migration Agent Number Identifier

    AGT_MARA_ID

    Contact Type (Residential, Postal, Business, Residential other, Postal other, Business other)

    CONTACT_TYPE_DS

    Date of Effect From

    EFFECT_DT_FROM

    Date of Effect To

    EFFECT_DT_TO

    Mobile phone number

    MOBILE_PHONE

    Phone number

    PHONE

    Fax number

    FAX

    eMail address

    EMAIL

    DIBP_ATO_MVMNT

    All international travel movements undertaken by visa holders (arrivals and departures)

    Description

    Field name

    Client Identifier

    CLIENT_ID

    Person Identifier (PID)

    PRSN_ID

    Client Visa Subclass Code

    VISA_SBCLS_CD

    Client Visa Grant Number

    VISA_GRANT_NR

    Movement Direction (Arrival or Departure)

    MOVEMENT_DIRECTION_CD

    Movement Date

    MOVEMENT_DT

    DIBP_ATO_NOMINATIONS

    Sponsor details

    Description

    Field name

    Nomination CASE Identifier

    NM_CASE_ID

    Sponsor Identifier

    SP_CLIENT_ID

    Sponsor ABN (Australian Business Number)

    SP_ABN

    Sponsor Title

    SP_TITLE

    Sponsor Family Name or (Business Employer Name)

    SP_NM

    Sponsor First Given Name or First Given Initial

    SP_GIVEN_NAME

    Sponsor Second Given Name or Second Given Initial

    SP_SECOND_GIVEN_NM

    Nominated Base Salary $ Amount

    NM_BASE_SALARY

    Nominated Total Remuneration $ Amount

    NM_REMNUNMERATION_AMT

    Post code of work location

    NM_WORK_POST_CODE

    Occupation code of worker

    NM_OCCUP_CD

    DIBP_ATO_STUDENT_COURSE

    Education providers (educational institution where the student visa holder intends to undertake their study)

    Description

    Field name

    Client Visa Grant Number

    VISA_GRANT_NR

    Educational Provider Code Number

    COURSE_PROVIDER_CD

    DIBP_ATO_VISA_SUBCLASS

    Visa subclass name

    Description

    Name

    Client Visa Subclass Code

    VISA_SBCLS_CD

    Client Visa Subclass Name

    VISA_SBCLS_NM

    Date of Effect From

    EFFECT_DT_FROM

    Date of Effect To

    EFFECT_DT_TO

    Appendix B

    Visa Holder Selection Method

    Definitions

    Focus period

    Data will be extracted and transferred to the ATO in batches each quarter. The “Focus period” is the period of time the data batch relates (start date to end date). For example, data batches will be required for the following focus periods:

    • 1/7/2013 to 30/6/2014
    • 1/7/2014 to 31/3/2015
    • 1/7/2014 to 30/6/2015
    • 1/7/2015 to 30/9/2015
    • 1/7/2015 to 31/12/2015
    • 1/7/2015 to 31/3/2016
    • 1/7/2015 to 30/6/2016
    • 1/7/2016 to 30/9/2016
    • 1/7/2016 to 31/12/2016
    • 1/7/2016 to 31/3/2017
    • 1/7/2016 to 30/6/2017

    Visa Holder Selection Method

    Table description

    Selection method description

    Base population cohort of active visa holders

    Active visa holders that have been granted one or more visas and stayed in Australia for any part or the whole focus period

    Address history for visa applicants and sponsors

    Full address history required for all in the base population cohort

    Contact history for visa applicants and sponsors

    Full contact history required for all in the base population cohort

    All visa grants

    Full history of ALL granted visas for all in the base population cohort (not limited by focus period)

    Visa grant status by point in time

    Snapshot records within the focus period for all in the base population cohort

    Migration agents (visa application preparer who assisted or facilitated the processing of the visa)

    All migration agents with a link to one or more in the base population cohort

    Address history for migration agents

    Full address history required for migration agents with a link to one or more in the base population cohort

    Contact history for migration agents

    Full contact history required for migration agents with a link to one or more in the base population cohort

    All international travel movements undertaken by visa holders (arrivals and departures)

    Full history of ALL travel movements for all in the base population cohort (not limited by focus period)

    Sponsor details (457 visa)

    All sponsors with a link to one or more in the base population cohort

    Education providers (educational institution where the student visa holder intends to undertake their study)

    All education providers with a link to one or more in the base population cohort

    Visa subclass name

    All visa subclass names with a link to one or more in the base population cohort

    Appendix C

    Variation to Guidelines

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is seeking approval for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Visa Holders data matching program to vary from one or more of the conditions detailed in Guideline 10 of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s Guidelines on data matching in Australian government administration (2014) (the Guidelines).

    The ATO is seeking to retain data for three years from receipt of all verified data files from data providers. The ATO considers that a variation from the usual retention periods for this data matching program is in the public interest as destruction of the data would hinder the ATO’s ability to identify taxpayers who may be subject to administrative action and therefore result in the loss of public revenue by inhibiting:

    • Development of new risk identification models (which takes significant time and effort)
    • Refining, combining and testing existing risk identification models, and
    • Monitoring the sub-population for new and emerging risks.

    The ATO has determined that this variation will not affect the privacy of an individual.

    This program will be subject to an evaluation within three years which is consistent with the requirements of guideline 9.

    Additional information justifying this variation is included in the tables below:

    • Table 1 – Matters considered in accordance with Guideline 10.2 in seeking this variation
    • Table 2 – Consistency with requirements of the other Guidelines issued by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

    The ATO does not require that this request be kept confidential (guideline 10.6) and has no concern if the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner place this information on its website.

    Table 1: Matters considered in seeking this variation to the Guidelines

    Matter considered

    Consideration

    10.2.1 - The effect of not abiding by the specified requirements of the Guidelines would have on individual privacy

    Retaining data for a period of three years will not increase the risks to an individual’s privacy. The ATO has in place very secure processes for handling and storing data. Once acquired, all data will be stored on ATO secure computer systems where access is strictly controlled and full audit logs maintained

    The ATO and its staff operate under stringent secrecy and privacy legislation that prohibits the improper access to or disclosure of protected information. These obligations are supported by significant penalties, including imprisonment. This substantially mitigates the risks of breaches of privacy.

    10.2.2 - The seriousness of the administrative or enforcement action that may flow from the data matching program

    An extension of the retention period will not affect the seriousness of the administrative action that may flow from the match, but will assist in detecting non-compliance or taxation fraud

    Where the ATO proposes to take administrative action where a taxpayer may have reported incorrectly, the ATO will differentiate between those that try to do the right thing and those that set out to deliberately avoid their obligations. Documented procedures, including the Taxpayers’ Charter and Compliance Model will be followed to ensure fairness and consistency.

    10.2.3 - The effect that not abiding by the specified requirements of the Guidelines would have on the fairness of the program – including its effect on people’s ability to find out the basis for decisions that affect them and their ability to dispute those decisions

    There will be no effect on the fairness of the program or the ability of taxpayers to find out the basis of decisions that impact them or their ability to dispute those decisions

    Before any administrative action is undertaken, taxpayers will be given at least 28 days to verify the accuracy of the information that has been derived from this data matching program

    Where administrative action is to be undertaken, we will adhere to the principles established in the Taxpayers’ Charter and Compliance Model to ensure an equitable and consistent approach is taken

    If a taxpayer does not agree with an assessment, they maintain the right to dispute the decision. They also have the legal right to appeal against those decisions through the courts and tribunals.

    10.2.4 - The effect that not abiding by the specified requirements of the Guidelines would have on the transparency and accountability of government operations

    There will be no adverse effects on the transparency and accountability of government operations

    A program protocol is submitted to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the ATO will strictly adhere to the commitments in that document

    The ATO will publish a notice with general information about the program in the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette before data matching commences. The ATO will also make a copy of the program protocol available on its website.

    10.2.5 - The effect that not abiding by the specified requirements of the Guidelines would have on compliance of the proposed program with the Australian Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act 1988

    There will be no effect on compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles contained in Schedule 1 to the Privacy Act 1988 due to longer retention of the data. The data is collected is solely for the stated objectives established in the data matching program protocol.

    10.2.6 - The effect that abiding by all of the requirements of the Guidelines would have on the effectiveness of the proposed program

    The effectiveness of the program would be reduced if the data retention period is not extended

    There would be a significant reduction in the ability of the ATO to detect incorrect reporting and taxation fraud without understanding and monitoring trends in the data collected

    The destruction of the data in accordance with the current Guidelines would impact the integrity of the taxation system by:

    • Limiting the ATO’s ability to identify taxpayers who may be subject to administrative action
    • Resulting in the loss of revenue
     

    10.2.7 - Whether complying fully with the Guidelines could jeopardise or endanger the life or physical safety of information providers or could compromise the source of information provided in confidence

    Not abiding by all the requirements of the Guidelines would not influence or affect the personal safety of any individual identified as part of the program or compromise the source of the information provided in confidence.

    10.2.8 - The effect that abiding by all the requirements of the Guidelines would have on public revenue – including tax revenue, personal benefit payments, debts to the Commonwealth and fraud against the Commonwealth

    Not allowing the variation to the data retention period of the current program would cause the ATO to miss potential breaches of taxation laws and subsequent non-payment of tax. This would result in the Commonwealth foregoing taxation revenue

    There are risks to the integrity of taxation system when people fail to comply with their obligations. Abiding by all of the requirements of the Guidelines will reduce the effectiveness of proposed compliance activity. The ATO would miss the opportunity to educate those taxpayers trying to do the right thing, and deterring those that are non-compliant from repeating the behaviour

    The effect of abiding by all of the requirements in the Guidelines could negatively impact on both public revenue and public and government confidence in the ATO. People not complying with their taxation obligations, including those operating outside the system, set a bad example to compliant taxpayers and may encourage their non-compliance. Maintaining community and government confidence in the taxation system is critical to the on-going role of the ATO.

    10.2.9 - Whether abiding by all of the requirements of the Guidelines would involve the release of a document that would be an exempt document under the Freedom of Information Act 1982

    Only information relating to the taxpayer’s own affairs will be released upon receipt of a Freedom of Information request.

    10.2.10 - The legal authority for conducting the proposed program in a way inconsistent with the specified requirements of the Guidelines

    There is no specific legislative power authorising the conduct of this program inconsistent with the Guidelines

    The Commissioner of Taxation, or his authorised representative, has formed the opinion that this data is required to enable the ATO to effectively and efficiently carry out its legislated functions under the general powers of administration contained in:

    • Section 3A of the Taxation Administration Act 1953
    • Section 8 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936
    • Section 1-7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997

    The reasons for proposing to operate outside requirements of the Guidelines are detailed above.

    Table 2: Matters considered in seeking this variation to the Guidelines

    This section outlines where the ATO is consistent with the requirements of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s Guidelines on data matching in Australian government administration (2014).

    Paragraph/Guideline

    Action Taken/To Be Taken

    Paragraph 6 - Status of the Guidelines

    The ATO has committed to complying with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s Guidelines on data matching in Australian government administration (2014) by way of a Chief Executive instruction.

    Guideline 1 - Application of the Guide

    The ATO applies the Guidelines for all data matching programs where it is anticipated the program will include records of 5,000 or more individuals.

    The ATO recognises that programs where there are multiple data sources but with common objectives and algorithms are treated as a single data matching program.

    Guideline 2 - Considerations before conducting a data matching program

    The ATO conducts a cost-benefit analysis and considers alternate methods prior to proposing to conduct a data matching program.

    Further, the ATO has rigorous governance arrangements, processes and system controls in place to protect the privacy of individuals.

    Guideline 3 - Prepare a program protocol

    Prior to conducting a data matching program, the ATO prepares a data matching program protocol, submits this to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and makes a copy publicly available on the ATO website

    When elements of a data matching program change, the protocol is amended and a copy of the amended protocol provided to the OAIC and update the ATO website.

    Guideline 4 - Technical Standards Report

    Documentation is prepared and maintained so as to satisfy the requirements of a Technical Standards Report.

    Guideline 5 - Notify the Public

    The ATO publishes notification of its intention to undertake data matching program in the Commonwealth Government Gazette Notices prior to the commencement of the program.

    This notice includes all of the requirements outlined in the Guidelines.

    Notification of the program is also published on the ATO’s website and data providers are advised they can advertise their participation in the data matching program.

    Guideline 6 - Notify individuals of proposed administrative action

    Prior to taking any administrative as a result of the data matching programs individuals and other entities are given at least 28 days to verify the accuracy of the information provided to the ATO by third parties.

    Guideline 7 - Destroy information that is no longer required

    The ATO is seeking to vary from this requirement.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Guideline 8 - Do not create new registers, datasets or databases

    The ATO does not create new registers or databases using data obtained in the course of a data matching program.

    Guideline 9 - Data Matching Program Evaluations

    Programs are regularly evaluated within 3 years of the commencement of the data matching program. These evaluations are provided to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

    Guideline 10 - Variations to Guideline Requirements

    When the ATO intends to vary from the requirements of the Guidelines it seeks the approval of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and provides documentation to support the variance.

    Guideline 11 - Data Matching with entities other than agencies

    The ATO undertakes its own data matching programs.

    The ATO does not outsource this function.

    Where data is obtained from an entity other than an individual, the ATO usually does so using its formal information gathering powers. In these instances the entities are advised they are able to notify their clients of their participation in the data matching program.

    Guideline 12 - Data matching with exempt agencies

    The ATO does not usually undertake data matching with agencies that are exempt from the operations of the Privacy Act 1988 under section 7 of that Act and that are subject to the operation of the Guidelines (i.e. any data matching undertaken with an exempt agency would usually be for fewer than 5,000 individuals).

    In the event a data matching activity would otherwise be subject to these Guidelines except for the exemption status, the ATO would still adhere to the principles of the Guidelines and prepare a program protocol, seeking to vary from the Guidelines by not publicly notifying of the program and publishing the protocol. The ATO would still lodge a copy of the Protocol with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

    Guideline 13 Enable review by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

    The ATO would not prevent the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner from reviewing its data matching activities and processes. These activities and processes have been reviewed by the Australian National Audit Office and Inspector-General of Taxation.

    Appendix D

    Gazette Notice

    Commissioner of Taxation

    NOTICE OF A DATA MATCHING PROGRAM

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will acquire names and addresses and other details of visa holders, their sponsors, and migration agents for the 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

    The data items that will be obtained are:

    • Address history for visa applicants and sponsors
    • Contact history for visa applicants and sponsors
    • All visa grants
    • Visa grant status by point in time
    • Migration agents (visa application preparer who assisted or facilitated the processing of the visa)
    • Address history for migration agents
    • Contact history for migration agents
    • All international travel movements undertaken by visa holders (arrivals and departures)
    • Sponsor details (457 visa)
    • Education providers (educational institution where the student visa holder intends to undertake their study)
    • Visa subclass name.

    It is estimated that records relating to approximately 1,000,000 individuals will be obtained.

    These records will be electronically matched with certain sections of ATO data holdings to identify non-compliance with registration, lodgment, reporting and payment obligations under taxation laws.

    The purpose of this data matching program is to ensure that taxpayers are correctly meeting their taxation obligations. Its objectives are to:

    • Improve intelligence on the overall level of compliance with taxation obligations by visa holders, sponsors, migration agents
    • Test the veracity and strengths of existing risk detection models and treatment systems and identify areas for improvement in the ATO’s suite of compliance models and treatment systems and practices
    • Improve the integrity of the data on the Australian Business Register by cancelling ineligible registrants
    • Identify potentially new or widespread fraud methodologies and those entities controlling or exploiting those methodologies
    • Assist in developing and implementing administrative strategies to improve voluntary compliance by visa holders, sponsors, and migration agents; and
    • Ensure compliance with registration, lodgment, correct reporting and payment of taxation and superannuation obligations.

    A document describing this program has been prepared in consultation with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. A copy of this document is available:

    AttentionEnd of attention
      Last modified: 03 Aug 2015QC 46575