Annual Report 2016-17

Appendix B - Data matching

Report under the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990

The legal authority for the Data-matching Program is governed by the Data matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 (DMP Act). Under section 12 of the DMP Act participating agencies are required to table reports in both houses of Parliament.

The department ceased using the Data-matching Program under the DMP Act to detect recipients at risk of overpayment during 2015-16. The department has completed all residual Data matching Program reviews during 2016-17 and details of these are set out below. As required by the legislation the costs and benefits of the Data-matching Program are included.

The department continues to act as the Data-Matching Agency (DMA) as defined in the legislation. The sole activity of the DMA for 2016-17 was to undertake Data‑matching Program activities on behalf of DVA.

Replacement of the data-maching program

In 2016-17 the department undertook enhancements to address compliance risks previously covered by the Data-matching Program. The new approach replaced the department’s component of the activity governed by the Data matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990. The change brought the activity in line with the department’s other data matching activity and the Guidelines on Data Matching in Australian Government Administration (voluntary data matching guidelines), issued by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

Pay as you go data matching

The original program protocol for Pay As You Go (PAYG) data matching was implemented in 2004 following consultation with OAIC. The process for this data matching activity has not changed since 2004.

The program protocol was revised in 2017 to reflect: changes to the names of applicable privacy principles and data-matching guidelines; changes to the name of relevant entities, such as Centrelink becoming part of the department; changes to the department’s business processes; technological changes; and other minor changes. The Data Matching Guidelines contemplate that protocols will be reviewed and updated as necessary. The updated protocol took effect in April 2017.

Non-employment income data-matching

The Non-Employment Income Data-Matching (NEIDM) measure was developed in 2016 to better address a compliance risk which is only partly dealt with by the department’s PAYG data matching activity. In particular, the NEIDM measure allows the department to data match on non-employment related income reported to the ATO (which may include income received by independent contractors or income obtained through investments).

As with PAYG data matching, the department conducts NEIDM in accordance with the Data Matching Guidelines. The department developed a program protocol for the NEIDM measure in August 2016, in consultation with OAIC.

Data-matching agency

The department continues to monitor the current operation of the program. This is predominantly around the activities of the DMA as it completes activities on behalf of DVA. This is undertaken to ensure strict compliance with the legislation.

The statistical details of the results of DMA activities required under guideline 12 of the Schedule to the Data matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 are published in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Annual Report 2016-17.

The table below shows the number of residual matches completed for discrepancies identified in previous financial years.

Table: Results of discrepancies released for action in 2016–17

Number and percentage (where applicable)

Discrepancies which resulted in a notice under section 11 of the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 being sent(a)


Discrepancies which resulted in action being taken(b)


Cases in which action proceeded despite a dispute about the accuracy of the data(c)


Discrepancies which did not proceed to action after the individual was contacted(d)


Cases where an overpayment was identified(e)


Cases where recovery action was initiated(f)


Cases where the debt was fully recovered(g)


  1. Section 11 of the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 requires that people must be given written notice of any proposed action as a result of information gained through the program. People have 28 days to respond.
  2. Following the completion of a cycle, departments undertake further refinements before releasing the discrepancies for follow-up action. These refinements are to reduce the number of unproductive discrepancies that are released.
  3. In any year a small number of people challenge the accuracy of the information on which the proposed action is based—usually because they do not fully understand conditions of eligibility for payment.
  4. There will always be a number of cases where people are sent a notice of proposed action but the action does not proceed. In these cases people or a third party such as an employer are able to provide details to show that the payments received were correct.
  5. The number of overpayment cases identified, including the number of debts waived.
  6. The number of cases where recovery action was commenced on a debt. The department recovers debts in two ways—either through withholding part of a recipient’s entitlement or through cash repayments.
  7. Recovery of a debt can take place over a number of years and the number and value of debts raised in a year does not necessarily correspond to the number and value of recoveries.

Cost benefits

This section sets out the savings and other benefits of the Data matching Program. It includes details of direct savings in outlays and the actual direct costs of the program. See the table below for cost-benefit information.

Direct savings methodology

There are three direct savings components from the program:

  • downward variations in rate or stopping payments
  • raised debts
  • ceasing payments to new recipients for failure to comply with Tax File Number requirements.

The program is also used to match details of former recipients of each assistance agency who owe a debt to the Australian Government. Detection of these recipients means that withholdings can be made from their current entitlement to assist in repaying their debt.

Direct savings achieved

In 2016-17 the Data matching Program achieved $29.3 million in savings.

Direct cost methodology

Administrative costs

Administrative costs included computer and associated costs. The equipment used to run the program cycles has some ongoing administrative costs associated with computer hardware and software maintenance.

Salary costs

The program’s main salary costs were costs associated with:

  • managing and supporting the program within the department
  • the department’s network review activity, including its management and coordination.

Direct cost-benefit summary

When the costs and benefits (direct savings) are compared, the net benefits of the program are significant. In 2016-17 the net benefit of the program was $27.6 million.

Table: Direct cost-benefit summary


2014-15 actual

2015-16 actual

2016-17 actual









Net benefits(b)




Cost-benefit ratio(c)




  1. Net savings, including the effect of upward variations.
  2. Calculated by subtracting costs from benefits.
  3. Calculated by dividing benefits by costs.


The events listed below include data-matching cycles run in accordance with the Data matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 and consultation with the OAIC over the period 2016-17.

  • 25 July 2016 Cycle 3/2016 commenced
  • 19 August 2016 Cycle 3/2016 completed
  • 17 October 2016 Cycle 4/2016 commenced
  • 10 November 2016 Cycle 4/2016 completed
  • 6 February 2017 Cycle 1/2017 commenced
  • 6 March 2017 Cycle 1/2017 completed
  • 1 May 2017 Cycle 2/2017 commenced
  • 26 May 2017 Cycle 2/2017 completed.
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Page last updated: 11 July 2018