Immigration to give ATO data on visa holders

Holders of immigration visas are to be examined by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), with a data-matching exercise expected to weed out potential fraud and other breaches.

The ATO said it will be provided with personal details across 27 different types of visa by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), including working holiday makers, skilled workers, students and diplomatic staff.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), previous data-matching programs revealed there was an “elevated level of risk” for temporary working visa holders in relation to non-compliance and fraud.

The scheme is aimed at ensuring Australians do not miss out on employment opportunities that have been given to people from overseas without the correct working rights.

Details collected “will be electronically matched and analysed with certain sections of ATO data holdings to identify potential fraud, and other non-compliance with lodgement and payment obligations under taxation law”, ATO stated.

Information will include place of study for student visa holders, details of immigration agents, overseas travel movements, and whether immigration visas remain valid.

The program will check that tax returns and business activity statements are being correctly completed by company sponsors and the visa holders, indicating they are meeting obligations set out in the visa conditions.

The 27 visa subclasses are: 406, 410, 411, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 426, 427, 428, 442, 457, 462, 570, 571, 572, 573, 574, 575, 576 and 580.

People found to be breaching conditions will be sent a letter and given 28 days to resolve any discrepancies – after which the ATO will take administrative action.

The agency said it will be sharing any information regarding visa holders not following the rules with the DIAC, which could result in visa cancellation and removal from Australia.

The SMH noted that the ATO has requested an extension to deadlines that force all personal information not leading to a match being destroyed after 90 days, in accordance with guidelines set out by the Australian Information Commissioner.

The tax office said this is due to some visa subclasses spanning many tax years, arguing that it should be able to hold onto the data for up to three years.

Holders of 457 temporary skilled immigration visas have particularly been in the spotlight recently, with the Gillard government announcing it will be making reforms to the system to prevent alleged rorting by employers.

However, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group Innes Willox said: “This debate should be paused to allow some facts to be injected. No systemic rorting of the system has been uncovered.”

Source: Migration Alliance