Our reference: DMA14/00012

Australian Taxation Office
By email: [redacted]

Dear [redacted]

Taxable Government Grants and Payments 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) Taxable Government Grants and Payments data matching program protocol (the data matching program).

The purpose of the data matching program is to monitor taxpayers’ reporting of grants and payments made by Federal, State and Territory government departments and agencies and local government authorities. Through the program, the ATO will identify taxpayers who may not be meeting their registration, reporting, lodgement and payment obligations and may take appropriate actions (including possible prosecutions) if required.

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 has advised it anticipates data acquisition for the program will occur until mid-2017.

The ATO considers that an exemption from the usual data destruction timeframes is necessary as taxpayers may be receiving payments and/or grants from multiple agencies and the ATO will not be able to make decisions about taxpayers’ compliance until it collects all of the data from its source entities. Hence, the ATO advised 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 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. 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
  • 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 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 Taxable Government Grants and Payments 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 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] email at [redacted].

Yours sincerely

Timothy Pilgrim
Australian Privacy Commissioner
3 September 2014