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Visa holders data matching program exemption

Our reference: DMA15/00007

[redacted]
Data Matching Gatekeeper
Special Purpose Data Steward Team
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 20 July 2015 regarding the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Department of Immigration and Border Protection Visa Holders data matching program protocol (the data matching program).

The purpose of the data matching program is to assist the ATO in detecting and dealing with compliance risks with the visa holding population. The ATO aims to identify possible non-compliance by comparing data provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the source entity) for the past period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2015, and the future period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2017.

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 that support the conduct of the program, including:

  • the development of new models for identifying compliance risks
  • refinement, combination and testing of existing models for identifying compliance risks
  • monitoring the visa holding population for new and emerging compliance risks.

I consider that the ATO has provided appropriate reasons justifying a variation to the data destruction requirements in the context of this DMP. Specifically, compliance with the data destruction timeframes in the case of this DMP would:

  • inhibit the ATO’s ability to detect fraud and avoidance of tax obligations
  • minimise the ATO’s ability to educate taxpayers and deter non-compliant behaviour
  • result in a loss of public revenue
  • undermine 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 Department of Immigration and Border Protection Visa Holders data matching program protocol.

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
Acting Australian Information Commissioner
5 August 2015