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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23529

Ms Burke asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 18 March 2003:

(1) How many Australian Business Numbers (ABN) have been issued by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

(2) How many ABNs have been:

(a) associated with the lodgement of a GST return in the last 12 months,

(b) not associated with the submission of a GST return in the last 12 months and (c) found by the ATO to be inactive or no longer operational.

(3) What are the criteria for determining the continuing use or functionality of an ABN.

(4) Has the ATO found cases of the issue of multiple ABNs to any registered entity; if so,

(a) is there any legitimate reason for any entity being issued with multiple ABNs,

(b) how many instances of multiple ABN issues have been found, and

(c) what is the highest number of ABNs that have been issued to a single entity.

(5) Does the issue of multiple ABNs provide opportunities to attempt the commission of taxation fraud.

(6) Does the ATO undertake any data matching to reduce the instances of multiple issue of ABNs

(7) What steps has the ATO taken to eliminate or reduce instances of multiple ABN issue.

Mr Costello (Treasurer) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) As at 8 September 2003, the ATO had issued a total of 4 751 448 ABNs.

(2) (a) There have been 1 824 850 ABNs associated with the lodgment of a GST return in the last 12 months to 8 September 2003.

(b) There are 2 434 694 ABNs not associated with GST return lodgment. It should be noted that not all entities with an ABN are required to be registered for GST. Further, GST lodgment can be monthly, quarterly or annual depending on certain criteria. Therefore a proportion of recent registrants' GST lodgment may not yet be due.

(c) The number of ABNs inactive or no longer operational ie cancelled is 491 933.

(3) In general, an entity can continue to use its ABN unless the enterprise:

has been sold

has ceased, or

is no longer carried on in Australia or not making supplies that are connected to Australia.

In those circumstances the entity is required to request cancellation of their ABN.

The Registrar can initiate cancellation of an ABN if:

the entity is registered under an identity that is not their true identity

at the time the entity was registered, they were not entitled to have an ABN

the entity is no longer entitled to an ABN, or

an ABN was issued to the entity in error.

(4) Yes.

(a) There are some legitimate circumstances where an entity can be issued with more than one ABN. For example, a person can be entitled to an ABN in their own right and another in their capacity as trustee of a trust. In each of those capacities the person is taken to be a different entity for the purposes of issuing an ABN.

(b) 12 723.

(c) These matters are sub judice.

(5) See answer to 4(a) above.

(6) Yes.

(7) The ATO's registration systems routinely validate the identity of the applicant (and associates where appropriate) as an integral part of the registration process via the matching of information with existing ATO identity data. Further data matching and detection systems are run regularly across the ATO's registers to identify potential multiple registrants.

The ATO has, and continues to undertake, data matching and cleansing activities targeting the improvement in the integrity of both the tax file number and ABN registers. This includes specific attention to the identification and elimination of existing multiple ABNs as well as further investment in enhancing their prevention and detection systems.