Our reference: DMA15/00003

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 2 April 2015 regarding the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Online selling data matching program protocol (the data matching program).

The purpose of the data matching program is to identify individuals and businesses engaged in online selling that may not be complying with their taxation obligations. The ATO aims to identify possible non-compliance by comparing data provided by eBay Australia and New Zealand Pty Ltd with its own data holdings.

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.

The ATO states that the previous online selling data matching programs demonstrated that access to historical data is crucial for monitoring tax compliance and ensuring that transactions are being correctly reported. In order to achieve this, the ATO needs to retain data for longer than the 90 day timeframe mandated by Guideline 7.

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
  • enabling the ATO to conduct longer term analysis and risk profiling of the data set to identify emerging trends and risks in the online selling market
  • improving voluntary compliance by educating 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 data files from source entities, unless a further exemption is approved.

This exemption is only applicable to the Online selling data matching program protocol 2013-14.

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
29 April 2015