ATO gathers data on visa holders ahead of crackdown

ATO gathers data on visa holders ahead of crackdown


The Australian Tax Office’s data-matching program has been expanded to include visa holders. Data-matching has become a major part of the ATO’s compliance activities over recent years and the amount of data the ATO now collects is staggering. Maybe it will need a bigger computer!

The ATO has announced that it will acquire names and addresses and other details of visa holders, their sponsors, and migration agents for the following four financial years – 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. It will seek this data from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. It is estimated that records relating to approximately one million individuals will be obtained.

The program is looking to detect non-compliance with tax obligations e.g. tax return lodgment, etc. It will also seek to identify potentially new or widespread fraud methodologies.

The information that will be collected includes:

  • address history for visa applicants and sponsors
  • contact history for visa applicants and sponsors
  • all visa grants
  • visa grant status by point in time
  • migration agents (visa application preparer who assisted or facilitated the processing of the visa)
  • address history for migration agents
  • contact history for migration agents
  • all international travel movements undertaken by visa holders (arrivals and departures)
  • sponsor details for 457 visas – officially known as the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (Subclass 457), this is the most commonly used program for Australian or overseas employers to sponsor skilled overseas workers to work in Australia temporarily
  • education providers (educational institution where the student visa holder intends to undertake their study)
  • visa subclass name

The records will be electronically matched with certain sections of ATO data holdings to identify non-compliance with tax obligations. The objectives of the data-matching program are to:

  • improve intelligence on the overall level of compliance with taxation obligations by visa holders, sponsors, and migration agents
  • test the veracity and strengths of existing risk detection models and treatment systems and identify areas for improvement in the ATO’s suite of compliance models and treatment systems and practices
  • improve the integrity of the data on the Australian Business Register (ABR) by cancelling ineligible registrants
  • identify potentially new or widespread fraud methodologies and those entities controlling or exploiting those methodologies
  • assist in developing and implementing administrative strategies to improve voluntary compliance by visa holders, sponsors, and migration agents
  • ensure compliance with registration, lodgment, correct reporting and payment of taxation and superannuation obligations

SMEs may be a little over hearing about more ATO data-matching, but if they have sponsored someone via a 457 visa, might be prudent to check that all the right boxes have been ticked.


Terry Hayes is the editor-in-chief of tax news reporting at Thomson Reuters, a leading Australian provider of tax, accounting and legal information solutions.


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