Our reference: DMA16/00002

Data Matching Gatekeeper
Special Purpose Data Steward Team
Australian Taxation Office

By email: [redacted]

Dear [redacted]

Request for variation from the Guidelines on Data Matching in Australian Government Administration

I refer to your correspondence of 28 January 2016 regarding the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Lifestyle assets 2013–14 and 2014–15 data matching program (the data matching program) and associated protocol.

The purpose of the data matching program is to assist the ATO in developing profiles of taxpayers based on insurance policies for assets including marine vessels, enthusiast motor vehicles, thoroughbred horses, fine art and aircraft. Data relating to these insurance policies will be obtained from a range of insurance companies, specified in the protocol.

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 just over three years (to 30 June 2019) from the collection of data from source entities.

Consideration of issues

Under Guideline 10, an agency seeking an exemption must explain the public interest grounds that justify any variation from the requirements of the Guidelines. I note that the ATO has addressed the matters outlined in Guideline 10 in the protocol. The ATO has identified a number of beneficial objectives that support the conduct of the data matching program, including:

  • assisting in taxpayer profiling, providing ATO compliance staff with a holistic view of a taxpayer’s wealth
  • identifying possible compliance issues relating to income tax, capital gains tax, fringe benefits tax, GST and superannuation obligations
  • identifying avenues available to assist in debt management activities
  • promoting and ensuring compliance and supporting community confidence in the taxation and superannuation systems.

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

  • limit the ATO’s ability to develop profiles of taxpayers
  • limit the ATO’s ability to identify taxpayers who may be subject to administrative action, resulting in loss of public revenue.

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 the proposed 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 beyond 30 June 2019, unless a further exemption is approved.

This exemption is only applicable to the Lifestyle assets 2013–14 and 2014–15 data matching program.

Publication on the OAIC website

Under Guideline 10.6, it is my normal practice to make exemption requests publicly available. I note that the ATO has stated in the protocol that is does not require the variation request to be kept confidential and, as such, this letter will be published on the OAIC website.

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

Yours sincerely

Timothy Pilgrim
Acting Australian Information Commissioner

27 April 2016