[LINK] Tax Office selling ABN details
Mon, 05 Jun 2000 17:46:31 +1000
On Mon, 05 Jun 2000 13:30:18 +1000 stewart carter
>At 12:13 AM 6/4/00, you wrote:
>>As far as I'm aware there is no requirement on the recipient of a "tax
>>invoice" to check that the ABN stated thereon belongs to the person issuing
>>the invoice. Thus, there is no reason for the person paying the invoice to
>>be able to check details of the ABN holder.
>Whilst there may be no requirement to check the ABN for each and every tax
>invoice, it is reasonable for the ATO to expect large corporates, in
>particular, to exercise some care in this regard, and to at least do
It would be reasonable for the ATO to have prominently warned individuals
about the public disclosure of their home contact details and, at the very
least, to have provided some means for individuals potentially at risk from
such a disclosure to avoid that risk.
>Otherwise the whole GST administration becomes seriously flawed.
Well, it's the opinion of some people that it is already is.
>If corporates are not required to do these checks then black economy
>businesses that have no ABN and have not registered for the GST will be
>able to produce legitimate looking tax invoices which will be paid in full.
Yes, just like can happen right now. What difference does it make to the
business paying them whether they're paid in full or not? Why should
businesses become arms of law enforcement? Particularly given the cost will
be passed on to consumers and individuals' privacy will be infringed in the
>Hence corporates are expecting the ATO to require them to do checks, and to
>need access to the public Register of ABNs for that purpose.
Expectations. That's what the entire matter is about - what people are/were
expecting. Many individuals were not expecting their home details to be
made publicly available.
Irrespective of what corporates "are expecting", it is the ATO and/or the
DRWSB who is apparently selling/disclosing individuals' personal details
without disclosing all intended use of personal information to applicants.
This appears to be in breach of the Privacy Act 1988. If the government
was/is expecting corporates to do checks, then the government should, at
the very least, have made their intended use/distribution of information
for that purpose clear to applicants.
However, ATO literature specifically states that business do not have to
conduct checks to verify ABNs, so at this stage anyway it would appear any
corporate's expections of the need for mass checking are without
"16. Am I responsible for ensuring that a supplier's quoted ABN is correct?
A: Not usually. In general, if the ABN quotation looks reasonable to you,
you can accept it.
However, if you have reason to suspect that it might not be genuine or that
it does not belong to the supplier who quoted it, you should check it out.
Things that may alert you include:
- Wrong configuration. An ABN has 11 digits, or 14 if it belongs to a
branch of a larger business. There are no letters.
- Sequential numbers, repeating numbers or unusual number patterns. You can
check the mathematical validity of the number by referring to the fact
sheet The format of the Australian Business Number (ABN).
- Invoice details do not match the details of the person you believed was
supplying you or the type of supplies you are receiving.
You will be able to check an ABN by using the Australian Business Register,
which provides details of the names and addresses of suppliers holding
valid ABNs. To use the register, call 13 72 26.
If the ABN quoted on the invoice is not valid or the details do not match
the supplier, you should withhold 48.5 per cent of the payment."
>Moreover corporate accounts payable people tell me that the sheer number of
>invoice checks involved means that they need to be able to access the
>Register cost-effectively. And they say that having a person type in the
>details of each and every ABN into an ATO web-page will not be cost-effective.
>If the government will not provide a bulk access service for ABN searches,
>then the corporate perspective is that the government must let the data or
>some sub-set of it be provided to third party services ( like Dun &
>Bradstreet) which will support bulk access searches.
I've no doubt about the problem of checking large (or even small numbers of
ABNs). However, at this point in time there is to my knowledge (and I've
read a lot of gov. provided info about ABNs and GST) not a scrap of
evidence, or even indication, that businesses are required to check the
veracity of ABNs given to them (except in the very limited circumstances
quoted above). If anyone can point to such an indication, please do.
Executive Director - Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. (EFA)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Burning Issues: <http://rene.efa.org.au>
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