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  • Exchanging data with other Australian Government agencies

    Our data-matching program identifies cases at risk of either:

    • incorrect personal financial assistance payments
    • tax evasion.

    We provide income information derived from tax returns to the Data-Matching Agency (DMA), a separate agency within Services Australia. We do this on a cyclical basis (up to nine cycles per year) on selected agency clients. This is used to determine the eligibility criteria for benefits and to help detect fraud within the welfare system.

    The data is provided by us under the provisions of the Data-Matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990.

    Assistance agencies provide client data, including tax file number (TFN) and identity details, to the DMA who give us this data to match. The data is then passed via Centrelink and used for a series of matching exercises, before the outcomes are returned to the DMA.

    Where we have identified the client from data provided, the following data is returned to the DMA:

    • personal identity
    • declared income
    • date of most recent taxation assessment
    • amount of the spouse tax offset
    • surname and any other name details of the spouse where a spouse offset has been claimed
    • surname and any other name details
    • an indicator, if the TFN is compromised.

    We conduct matching exercises against our internal data to detect cases where:

    • individuals are receiving more than one payment simultaneously
    • a lesser entitlement or no entitlement exists
    • a greater entitlement exists
    • income details of assistance agency payments are understated in tax returns.

    Other data exchanges

    We exchange data with Services Australia programs such as Centrelink and the Child Support Program, as well as other government agencies under separate legislative provisions, as detailed here.

    Services Australia

    As part of the 2019–20 budget, the government announced the expansion of Single Touch Payroll (STP) to support the social welfare system by enabling the sharing of data in near real-time between us and other Commonwealth agencies.

    An expanded STP data set will be provided to Services Australia, to assist in the administration of the welfare system.

    Services Australia will use STP data to make it easier for their customers to verify and report employment income and information. This will help streamline claims processes, reduce reporting burden and improve the accuracy of welfare payments.

    The STP expansion also aims to streamline a range of employer reporting obligations, such as providing separation certificates, confirming employment income and child support garnishee and deduction reporting.

    Collecting this additional information through STP will aim to reduce the need for many of those obligations for employers with employees who are Services Australia customers.

    We will only share information with Services Australia where the individual has been identified as a customer of Services Australia.

    Refer to the Services Australia websiteExternal Link for more information about the data-matching protocols between the ATO and Services Australia.

    Centrelink

    Each week we provide taxpayer identity information, derived from the processing of TFN declarations (previously employment declarations), to Centrelink. Centrelink matches this data against clients receiving unemployment benefits to ensure benefits are not paid after employment has commenced.

    We pass approximately 100,000 records to Centrelink each week. Around 12% of these are found to be Centrelink clients. ATO data is provided under table item 1 in table 1 in section 355-65 of Schedule 1 to the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA).

    We provide taxpayer income details for the purpose of administering family assistance entitlements. This involves the daily exchange of income, family tax benefit and Child Care Subsidy data between Centrelink and us, via a mutual client register, for family assistance administration and payment reconciliation.

    This information is used in the assessment of entitlements, reconciliation of payments and immediate recovery of outstanding debts to the Commonwealth. ATO data is provided under table item 6 in table 1 in section 355-65 of Schedule 1 to the TAA.

    To detect Centrelink clients failing to declare assets, we match all beneficiaries against trust data from the tax return database. This identifies welfare beneficiaries who are also recipients of trust distributions. We provide details of trust income to Centrelink, along with the Centrelink reference number as an identifier. Subsequent checks determine if the trust income was declared to Centrelink at the time the entitlement to the benefit was determined. We do not pass TFNs to Centrelink. This data is provided to Centrelink under the Trust beneficiary data-matching program.

    Child Support Registrar

    The Child Support Registrar has access to our taxpayer income details (employment and investment income) via electronic transfer and direct access, for the purpose of assessing the amount of individuals' child support payments and for garnishee action, where appropriate.

    The Child Support Registrar's acquisition of taxpayer information from the Commissioner of Taxation is provided for by the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

    We can also provide information to the Child Support registrar voluntarily, for the purposes of administering the two child support Acts referred to above, under table item 7 in table 1 in section 355-65 of Schedule 1 to the TAA.

    Department of Home Affairs

    Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs) onshore compliance staff request address information for individuals who have been classified as 'illegal non-citizens', to assist in locating them. Home Affairs provides name and date of birth details to us and we use this to retrieve address details. We are authorised to communicate information to Home Affairs for the purpose of assisting in locating persons who are unlawfully in Australia, under Item 3 in Table 7 in subsection 355-65 of Schedule 1 to the TAA.

    Some specific information about persons who are visa holders or sponsors can also be disclosed to Home Affairs for the specific purposes set out in table item 4 in the same table.

    Department of Education, Skills and Employment

    From October 2021, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) will use employment data collected through Single Touch Payroll (STP) to efficiently administer a range of apprenticeship programs.

    Elements of STP, such as wage data, will be used to verify eligibility and help with calculating entitlements available to employers and their apprentices.

    STP data will also support DESE to verify continued employment of the apprentice throughout their apprenticeship, reducing overpayments of incentives where the employment relationship ceases.

    Our data is provided under Item 4B in Table 1 in section 355-65(2) of Schedule 1 in the TAA.

    We will only share information with DESE where the employer and their apprentice (or apprentices) have been identified as a customer of DESE.

    Refer to the DESE websiteExternal Link for more information about the data-matching protocols between the ATO and DESE.

      Last modified: 07 Dec 2021QC 55323