Our reference: DMA14/00013

Data Matching Gatekeeper
Australian Taxation Office
By email: [redacted]

Dear [redacted]

Specialised Payment Systems 2014 Financial Year Data Matching Program Protocol

I refer to the correspondence received on 8 October 2014 from the Australian Taxation Office (the ATO), which provided the Specialised Payment Systems 2014 Financial Year Data Matching Program Protocol for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) consideration.

This program proposes to match specialised payment system merchant transaction data against the ATO’s taxpayer records to identify individuals and businesses who may not be meeting their registration, reporting, lodgement and/or payment obligations.

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 because its discrepancy matching process is iterative in nature, which means the data it collects may be used in subsequent matching processes in the future. The ATO advised that compliance with the data destruction timeframes would inhibit its 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 ATO 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. The ATO has identified a number of benefits, which support the conduct of this program, including:

  • allowing the ATO to identify breaches of taxation laws and recover taxation revenue
  • providing the ATO with the opportunity to increase taxpayers; understanding of the taxation system and deter non-compliant behaviour in the future
  • maintaining community and government confidence in the taxation system, which is central to the ATO’s role.

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 ATO’s 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 source entities, unless a further exemption is approved.

This exemption is only applicable to the data collected for the Specialised Payment Systems 2014 Financial Year Data Matching Program.

Publication on the OAIC website

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

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter please contact [redacted], Adviser, on [redacted] or at [redacted].

Yours sincerely
Timothy Pilgrim
Australian Privacy Commissioner

3 November 2014