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ATO spotlight on visa holders, sponsors and migration agents

067ATOSpotlightOnVisaHoldersSponsorsAndMigrationAgentsThe ATO has launched the latest round of their data-matching program to include all visa holders, visa sponsors and migration agents.

It will request the records of approximately 20 million individuals for compliance purposes. Find out now if you’re affected and what you can do to avoid a visit from the tax man.

Visa holders, sponsors and migration agents beware: the ATO has recently gazetted a notice indicating their intention to conduct a data-matching program. The ATO will request records of approximately 20 million individuals from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for the years 2017 to 2020. Some of the information that will be handed over to the ATO 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;
  • education providers (educational institution where a student visa holder intends to undertake their study); and
  • visa subclass name.

This rolling program has been continued year-on-year since data analysis in 2011 found support for the view that there was an elevated risk relating to non-compliance and fraud associated with the visa holding population. Previously, the data obtained was used in ATO risk detection models to select populations for investigation relating to tax return integrity, income tax and GST non-compliance and/or fraud. The program also aimed to improve knowledge of the overall level of compliance with taxation obligations by the relevant parties.

Specifically, the program in previous years was to ensure that visa holders, visa sponsors, and migration agents were:

  • completing correct tax returns and business activity statements;
  • meeting their registration, lodgment, reporting and payment obligations for PAYG withholding, fringe benefits tax (FBT) and superannuation guarantee; and
  • managing their tax obligations correctly.

The data-matching undertaken by the ATO is not perfect and is not sophisticated enough to be completely error free. According to the ATO, there may be times where discrepancy matching identifies a taxpayer as not reporting all of their income, but in fact they are reporting the income under another entity.

Before any administrative action is taken, relevant parties will have the opportunity to verify the accuracy of the information obtained by the ATO and will generally be given at least 28 days to respond.

The data obtained from the program may also be used to ensure compliance with other taxation and superannuation obligations, including registration requirements, lodgment obligations and payment responsibilities. The ATO will escalate cases for prosecution where taxpayers fail to comply with obligations after being reminded of them.

Are you affected?

How does this all affect you? If you’re a visa holder, visa sponsor or a migration agent, you should ensure that all your tax and payment obligations are up-to-date. The ATO notes that where a taxpayer has met their tax obligations correctly, the use of this data will reduce the likelihood of any ATO contact. So if you want to avoid getting caught in the net, contact us today.