Your online selling data is being collected, and sorted

The growth of online services where one can buy and sell goods has been unstoppable, such is the ease and convenience of both searching and bidding for trash and treasure alike. But with all this commercial activity taking place in cyberspace, the Tax Office is obviously concerned that participants are not meeting their tax liabilities where relevant.

As such, it has announced that it will be asking for, and collecting of its own volition, data relating to the selling and buying of goods and services of a total value of $10,000 or more covering recent income years. The main supplier of information mentioned in the Tax Office’s announcement is the online auction site eBay.

Both the Tax Office and the Department of Human Services (which governs Centrelink) have in the past asked for data from eBay, which is legally required to comply with a formal request for information. In 2012 for example, eBay was asked to reveal the identities of about 15,000 people who sold more than $20,000 worth of goods on the trading site in one year. This latest announcement’s targeted cut-off of $10,000 will obviously encompass a lot more buyers and sellers.

eBay said it can be asked to provide any available bank account information, and that it is legally obliged to comply with the requests. eBay advises such disclosure is permitted pursuant to its privacy policy.

In an email to users who have had transactions that put them above the cut-off, eBay advised that: “The ATO has requested the following information about each eBay seller that meets this threshold:

  • contact name and user ID
  • email address and IP address
  • company name/business registration
  • address
  • telephone numbers
  • date of birth
  • registration date
  • monthly sales for the relevant financial year (by value and number)
  • power seller status
  • eBay store indicator.”

The Tax Office’s data-matching program has been used to great effect in the past, with online activities just one more commercial space that it has targeted for scrutiny. Data matching enables the Tax Office to check on the compliance behaviour of individuals and businesses selling goods and services who may not be correctly meeting their tax obligations, particularly those with undeclared income and incorrect lodgement and reporting for goods and services tax (GST).

The Tax Office announcement said that it expected records relating to between 15,000 and 25,000 taxpayers per financial year to be matched.