ATO data matching sees 1200 prosecuted

ATO data matching sees 1200 prosecuted

Summary: The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been hot on the trail of tax cheats, last year charging 1200 people with tax and superannuation offences uncovered using the agency's data-matching techniques.


The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been hot on the trail of tax cheats, last year charging 1200 people with tax and superannuation offences uncovered using the agency's data-matching techniques.

Data matching sees the ATO collate data from a number of third parties, including government agencies and private enterprises, matching income and welfare information against reported taxable income. The process highlights those who aren't reporting their income correctly, prompting ATO staff to take a closer look at an individual's or a business' books. The Trading Post, eBay and Centrelink have all participated in the ATO's data-matching efforts.

Commissioner of Taxation Michael D'Ascenzo said that the co-operative initiative means that tax cheats now have a greater chance of being caught.

"People deliberately committing tax evasion are often caught by the sharing of information between government departments and other third parties. Cooperation across government departments has led to increased intelligence sharing and improved information gathering, which is driving our data-matching capabilities to new levels.

"We use advanced technology to bring together information from a range of government departments and other third parties to cross-check personal and business records, such as car registrations and supply orders for businesses," D'Ascenzo said in a statement yesterday.

The ATO said yesterday that 48 people were prosecuted last year for serious offences, with sentences ranging from three months to nine years and 11 months, while 1149 individuals and 370 companies were hit with convictions for less serious offences, such as failing to lodge a tax return or providing misleading information.

Under the microscope last year were taxpayers failing to comply with the GST system — those taking part in the cash economy and not reporting cash-in-hand income — while others were pursued for not filing tax returns, including a Sydney-based investment and data consultancy firm, which copped an $11,000 fine for failure to lodge GST statements.

D'Ascenzo said that the data-matching technology ensures that Australians don't all pay the price for tax evaders.

"The community as a whole pays the price for the actions of tax cheats. We take the responsibility of protecting the community from tax cheats very seriously, and rigorously seek to identify people making false claims in their tax returns," he said.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Legal, Security

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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  • Only 1200 caught? Sounds like a case of only dealing with the most blatant attempts to rip off the tax system.

    The ATO do not regularly do any "common sense" data matching. I'm aware of individuals who have paid tax via PAYG yet don't file tax returns (some for decades). Whilst not filing a return doesn't mean you're rorting the system, a significant portion of those probably are likely suspects.

    If the ATO can't identify obvious mismatches like this (PAYG payments but no return filed under the relevant TFN) then they aren't doing data matching on any routine basis.

    You would think the largest government department in Australia could run a simply query on PAYG vs TFNs that haven't lodged returns... Makes you wonder what else is slipping past them if they can't manage the basics.

    This article is full of ATO chest beating but any quick review will show they are failing on the most obvious checks.

    FWIW I've pay my taxes (as exhorbidant as they are) and filed all my tax returns. Just disillusioned with a unfair and wasteful taxation system.
    Scott W-ef9ad
    • People who PAYG but don't put in returns are overpaying tax.

      If they try to put in the forms claiming primary source at more than one employer to get lower overall tax, that is one of the simple checks that doesn't require third-party data.
  • Think you are rather missing the point of PAYE, Scott W. These people are paying tax on their taxable income. True they are missing out on Medicare, but they are also missing out on a variety of deductions and rebates that the govt offers.

    As I understand it, the data matching is all about catching the people in the cash economy. As a PAYE I am quite happy that the ATO is spending our money seeking redress for taxpayers in this way.
    • Whether a person files a tax return or not isn't the issue here, it's just an example of how the ATO fails to perform the most basic checks.

      To claim success when 1200 people are caught, isn't much of an achievment when tens of thousands fail to file returns and the ATO doesn't even notice.
      Scott W-ef9ad
  • "charging 1200 people" is NOT the same as detecting.

    The ATO often gives the benefit of the doubt, which results in 'arrears' being paid, but no charges. There would be many, many more in that category than being charged.

    Charged are those where there is irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing, since it would be risky to mount court cases for 'may be's, as their aggregated legal costs might not cover recoveries.

    The data-matching highlights a lot of what might have fallen through the cracks otherwise.