ATO privacy policy - personal information

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) collects and uses personal information about Australian taxpayers for various purposes, including to facilitate white collar crime investigations.

On its website, the ATO outlines how it protects the privacy of the personal information it collects, as well as how it collects and uses it, and to whom it discloses this information.


The ATO’s privacy policy

The ATO complies with the Australian Privacy Principles set out in Schedule 1 of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to protect the personal information it collects, holds, uses, and discloses to partners.

Under the Privacy Act, the ATO has a Privacy Champion and a Privacy Officer and undertakes regular privacy impact assessments.

The ATO endeavours to:

  • Collect personal information in a fair and lawful way and in a manner that is not unreasonably intrusive.
  • Respect the privacy of individuals and keep personal information confidential.
  • Be transparent and open about what personal information it deals with.


What ‘personal information’ does the ATO deal with?

Under the Privacy Act, “personal information” means “information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable, whether the information is true or not and whether the information is recorded in a material form or not”.

This includes:

  • Taxpayer records – in addition to basic information such as name, address and date of birth, this includes income, business information, and AUSTRAC reports.
  • Superannuation records – this includes super guarantee obligations and entitlements of employers and employees.
  • Tax file numbers.
  • Identify documents.
  • Biometric voiceprints – where you have given consent and have provided voice recordings that can be used to identify you.
  • Tax practitioner records.
  • Employee records.
  • Web browsing records – the ATO collects information from your browser when you visit its website. No attempt is made to identify you or your browsing activities except in the event of an investigation where a law enforcement agency may exercise a warrant to inspect the ATO’s internet web server logs.


How does the ATO collect and use personal information?

The ATO may collect personal information:

  • Directly from you.
  • From other persons acting on your behalf.
  • From third parties, including other government agencies, employers, your clients or customers (if applicable), and publicly available sources.

The ATO may also obtain personal information by using its formal access powers.

This information is used to facilitate data matching where information from a variety of sources is brought together. The ATO matches its own information with that of other sources such as investment income information from banks and employment information. The combined data is used to perform audits which determine whether taxpayers are complying with relevant laws and help to detect fraud.

Data matching also helps to identify other instances where taxpayers are not meeting their obligations such as lodging documents, paying debts, and meeting super obligations.


Disclosure of information to aid investigations

The ATO receives requests for personal information from law enforcement agencies in relation to both taxation and non-taxation matters. Information may be disclosed to a partner agency in accordance with the legislative provisions of such a request, or of the ATO’s own volition.

While most information obtained by the ATO remains within Australia, there are instances in which personal information is provided to overseas recipients in accordance with tax treaties and information exchange agreements to combat tax fraud and tax evasion.


Key takeaways

The ATO deals with personal information about Australian taxpayers to enforce tax laws. Although the ATO has significant information gathering powers, it abides by the Australian Privacy Principles to ensure that personal information is collected in a fair and lawful way.