ATO set for new data and analytics strategy

​A whole-of-government multi-use list for vendors of data analytics tools and services to be opened for application requests in early January will play a central role in the ATO's data and analytics program, set to kick off next year.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is set to kick off its new data and analytics program next year, with the aim of better targeting tax cheats while maximising resources by making the most of its data and collaborating with other departments.

The move will be supported by a commonwealth government multi-use list for data analytics, comprised of pre-approved vendors of data analytics tools and services, which will be opened to request for application to the scheme in early January.

"Prospective applicants are advised that the Commonwealth of Australia, as represented by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), currently anticipates that on or around 7 January 2015, it will release a request for applications for inclusion on the ATOs multi-use list for data analytics, via AusTender," wrote ATO representative Allan Barger in a blog post this week.

The move is aimed at fulfilling one of the priorities in the ATO's corporate plan 2014-18 (PDF) -- to make smarter use of data to improve decisions, services, and compliance.

In order to achieve that aim, the ATO has commenced a "Smarter Data Program" to increase its capability in the area of data analytics.

"We will better use technology and data analytics to identify and deal with those seeking not to comply," said the ATO corporate plan document, released in June. "For most non-compliant taxpayers, it will be a matter of 'when' we catch up with them, not 'if'."

The agency has established a research and development lab (the RAD Lab) sandpit environment in which to test ideas for feasibility prior to deployment into a production environment.

"The RAD Lab is one platform used by the ATO to quickly test new technology, architectures, data, analytical methods, and/or processes to assist the ATO to achieve business outcomes," the post said.

The ATO said that the proposed data analytics multi-use list will be established to assist in the procurement of solutions, including goods, services, software, and hardware to support the Smarter Data Program.

In June, the ATO stepped up its data mining program to target offshore tax evaders, identifying individuals with undisclosed offshore income assets.

Then, in July, it moved to ramp up its real-time focus on tax cheats, enhancing its analytics capabilities in a bid to be "data smarter".

The announcement comes as Treasurer Joe Hockey warns multinational companies that they won't get away with dodging tax in Australia for much longer as the government works with the UK to crack down on profit shifting.

Google and Apple are just two of the multinational technology companies operating in Australia that have previously come under scrutiny due to their employment of the so-called "Double Irish Dutch Sandwich" tax structure, which sees companies funnel money through lower-taxation countries such as Ireland in order to pay very low taxes domestically, despite significantly high revenue from the likes of Google's advertising and Apple's products sold in Australia.