Our reference: DMA14/00011
Australian Taxation Office
By email: [redacted]
Exemption Request for the Banking Transparency Strategy Data Matching Program Protocol
I refer to your correspondence of 31 July 2014 to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) regarding the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Banking Transparency Strategy data matching program protocol (the data matching program).
The purpose of the data matching program is to identify taxpayers who are not complying with their taxation obligations by utilising offshore bank accounts to conceal income and assets. The ATO aims to identify this non-compliance by comparing data reported by taxpayers with data on offshore accounts provided by financial institutions.
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 source entities.
The ATO considers that an exemption from the usual data destruction timeframes is necessary due to the time taken to analyse deliberately complex and non-transparent offshore tax avoidance arrangements. The ATO advised that compliance with the data destruction timeframes would inhibit the ability to identify taxpayers who may be subject to administrative action and therefore result in loss of public revenue.
Consideration of issues under Guideline 10
Under Guideline 10, the requesting agency 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 contained in Guideline 10 at Appendix B to the protocol. The ATO has identified a number of benefits, which support the conduct of this program, including:
- the protection of public revenue through identification of non-compliance and recovery of tax revenue
- promoting public support of, and confidence in, the integrity of the tax system, and
- changing the behaviour of banks that are facilitating concealment and non-compliance.
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 data files from source entities, unless a further exemption is approved.
This exemption is only applicable to the Banking Transparency Strategy 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, I will consider making it publicly available on the OAIC website.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact [redacted], Adviser, Regulation & Strategy Branch on [redacted] or by email at [redacted].
Australian Privacy Commissioner
28 August 2014