14 June 2024
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ATO now a bigger Big Brother thanks to AI

Peter Switzer
22 May 2024

The downside of the Artificial intelligence (AI)/internet age is that our ‘big brother’ called the Australian Tax Office is gaining superpowers to monitor us and our spending like never before. And it comes at a time when their checking ability has been enhanced by the post-pandemic world that sees us all using a lot less cash and a lot more card-tapping when it comes to purchases.

It's also a new age where many Aussies are getting income on the side, which Americans call “side hustles”, thanks to Uber, Airbnb and the like. But there’s also data/information from insurance companies and investment providers, which all improves the picture the ATO can look at that better defines our income and the tax we should be paying.

The Australian’s Anthony Keane explained how the Tax Office’s monitoring of us has gone up a notch. “New laws started this financial year requiring sharing economy platforms to report transactions to the ATO, beginning with taxi services last July, then ride-sourcing and accommodation platforms since January. From July 1 this year all other platforms, including Uber Eats, Airtasker and storage sharing, must report to the ATO,” he revealed. “The ATO also recently extended its data matching programs in areas such as cryptocurrency transactions, novated leases for cars and rental bonds.”

It means if you over-claim tax deductions or understate income, sophisticated data matching analytics could mean the ATO’s computer will find you out! “By data matching, last year we did adjust about 499,000 taxpayers’ tax returns,” said ATO assistant commissioner Rob Thomson.

What it means is that tax avoiding practices that have worked in the past, now might be found to be out-of-date. Accountants say data from the Department of Home Affairs for things such as pensions, non-resident tax rates and HECS/HELP debts, rental properties and investment loans, and capital gains and losses, means it’s a new tax world for taxpayers and the ATO.

Keane reveals money movements in and out of Australia, car rego information, property loans, income protection insurance, health insurance and visa data from the Department of Home Affairs all helps the ATO to know our money world better.

And if you have made money out of bitcoin, the Tax Office wants its share and the records from the crypto exchanges could bring you undone if you fail to admit to gains.

We certainly are living in a more taxing world and AI will only make it even more intrusive and revealing for the ATO.

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