Centrelink and the ATO have commenced a new data matching program in relation to the use of Single Touch Payroll (STP) data. Broadly, the program will involve the exchange of STP data from the ATO to Centrelink (or Services Australia) in relation to individuals that have a client relationship with the agency.

The data will then be matched against Centrelink held records and information. For the purposes of this data matching program, clients of Centrelink include an individual who is in receipt of or claiming a payment or service such as an income support payment, family assistance payments, low-income card, and child support paying parent. a related individual of the above, whose income may have an effect on the payability or ongoing entitlement to payment of the individual above.

This includes a partner/ex-partner, or a debtor (eg a non-current client who has an outstanding debt to Centrelink and where it is their responsibility to repay a debt). The data-matching program will apply for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years and it is estimated that around 460m pay events related to STP will be exchanged in relation to approximately 10-12 million individuals.

This figure may fluctuate depending on the economic impacts of COVID-19 and associated supports (ie JobSeeker). Data exchanged in the program will consist of basic identifying information including name, date of birth, postal address, gender, and assigned CRN (or TFN for Child Support).

Once an individual has been matched using the basic identifying information, a more detailed exchange of STP information will follow including employers’ ABN and contact information, year to date salary and wages (ie income, allowances, deductions, and employment termination payments), and pay period details (ie start and end dates, and payment dates).

Note the employment commencement and cessation dates will be used to identify when the sharing of STP data is no longer necessary. Centrelink notes that data quality mechanisms will be implemented in this data matching program meaning that ATO will only provide data for mutual clients where it has “high confidence” that they have identified the correct individual.

If an individual cannot be confirmed as a mutual client of interest of both the ATO and Centrelink, no STP data will be exchanged. Safeguards will be present where key data elements fail validation or it is unexpected or out of order payroll processing of STP data. This consists of quarantining the data from the use or flagging the data to minimize misinterpretation.

According to Centrelink, matching data is one of the key controls it uses to manage the risk of fraud and non-compliance. Specifically, in this case, this data matching program will: deter behaviors so individuals adhere to their obligations; support existing enforcement and recovery activities; and enable Centrelink to provide early intervention to educate customers about what information needs to be provided to meet their income reporting obligations.