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Foreign Investment Review Board data matching program exemption

Our reference: DMA15/00004

[redacted]
Deputy Commissioner of Taxation
Australian Taxation Office

By email: [redacted]

Dear [redacted]

Request for exemption from Guidelines on Data Matching in Australian Government Administration

I refer to your correspondence of 4 May 2015 regarding the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Foreign Investment Review Board data matching program protocol (the data matching program).

The purpose of the data matching program is to identify foreign investors in Australian residential and agricultural land that may not be complying with their taxation obligations. The ATO aims to identify possible non-compliance by comparing data provided by the Foreign Investment Review Board (the source entity) for the period 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2016.

I note that the ATO is seeking an exemption to the data destruction timeframes contained in Guideline 7 of the Guidelines on Data Matching in Australian Government Administration 2014 (the Guidelines). Specifically, the ATO is seeking to retain data for three years from receipt of all data files from the source entity.

Consideration of issues

Under Guideline 10, an agency seeking an exemption must explain the public interest grounds that justify any inconsistency with the requirements of the Guidelines. I note that the ATO has addressed the matters outlined in Guideline 10 at Appendix A to the protocol. The ATO has identified a number of benefits, which support the conduct of the program, including:

  • the protection of public revenue through identification of non-compliance and recovery of tax revenue
  • improving voluntary compliance by educating taxpayers and deterring non-compliant taxpayers
  • promoting public support of, and confidence in, the integrity of the tax system.

Exemption approval

I have considered the information before me and agree that compliance with the data destruction requirements contained in Guideline 7 would significantly reduce the effectiveness of this data matching program.

I approve the ATO’s request to retain information collected during the data matching program for a period longer than 90 days. I have agreed to this exemption on the understanding that the information will not be retained for a period longer than three years from the date of receipt of all data files from the source entity, unless a further exemption is approved.

This exemption is only applicable to the Foreign Investment Review Board data matching program protocol 2010-11 to 2015-16 financial years.

Publication on the OAIC website

Under Guideline 10.6, it is my normal practice to make exemption requests publicly available. The ATO has not requested that this advice be kept confidential and, as such, it will be published on the OAIC website.

Should you have any questions, please contact [redacted].

Yours sincerely
Timothy Pilgrim
Australian Privacy Commissioner
25 May 2015