Taxing task for warehouse builders

Plans by the Australian Tax Office to track the purchase and sale of investment properties might make a few money-minded Australians nervous, but they represent a potential bonanza for storage vendors and business intelligence firms.

Plans by the Australian Tax Office to track the purchase and sale of investment properties might make a few money-minded Australians nervous, but they represent a potential bonanza for storage vendors and business intelligence firms.

In order to ensure that investors don't falsely declare the amount of rental income they receive or try and avoid capital gains tax when they sell properties, the ATO is planning a massive data matching exercise in which it will link investment property income to state records on revenue and land titles. The scheme was announced as part of its compliance program for the new financial year.

Data matching is not a new activity for the ATO, of course. It already cross-checks to verify figures such as salaries and health insurance premiums for individuals, and will cover 50 million pieces of data in that area alone in the next year.

However, the shift into title records represents, as it notes, a major expansion of those kinds of activities. "We obtain information on asset transactions from state title and revenue offices, securities exchanges and share registries, as well as reports from managed funds," the compliance outline reveals.

The ATO also plans to "increase our use of data matching to identify taxpayers who fail to disclose or significantly under-report GST on real property transactions".

Building a datacentre which can house details of every investment property transaction in Australia will be a major undertaking. The pure storage volumes involved would be enormous, but the biggest challenge will undoubtedly be ensuring that the information is fed into the warehouse in a meaningful and cross-checkable form.

As a data cleansing exercise, it'll be a doozy. Anyone with extensive skills in BI template development and a perverse desire to work in government probably ought to be forwarding their resume right now.