The AIST’s Fiona Reynolds speaks for much of the industry in applauding this move when she says “we agree and welcome the support of the Privacy Commissioner in this area. Allowing funds to use TFNs for matching purposes is exactly what we’ve been campaigning for, and this will drive efficiency in account repatriation. In risk mitigation, we also support the use of standards or operational guidelines on how the TFN can be used and when.” Jeremy Cooper, speaking at the Conference of Major Super Funds in Brisbane last month, seemed to be placating everyone in his cautious hopes for the TFN. He hinted at the use of TFNs in rollovers and ERFs, but warned this would not happen “next week, [it] will take some time for us to harness and use the TFN”. In a remark which came completely from left-field, he floated the idea of a person’s mobile phone number being their identifier.
“I’ve heard that girls would rather lose their boyfriend than their mobile number,” he told bemused CMSF delegates. Cooper suggests clearing houses could be licensed to use the TFN, with possible savings of $1 billion a year which could then be kept in members’ accounts to increase their balances. He decried the lack of industry standards, saying “people who take electronic banking for granted are surprised to find super still trapped in a world of faxes and cheques”. Simultaneously though, he acknowledges the “capital-hungry nature of back-office services … for wholesalers, there’s a lack of earlyadopter benefits because benefits only accrue when the last person joins”. SuperChoice’s Mike Fielding takes the efficiency argument further, and applauds Cooper’s suggestion that use of the TFN be extended to all Australian Financial Services-licensed private sector superannuation clearing houses, which act as the capture agent for employers of large quantities of employer/employee data [including the TFN]. “It would not be a level playing field for Australian employers and employees if this right is restricted to Medicare as the Labor Party’s only proposed Approved Clearing House, when its services will be restricted to 2 or 3 million employees of SMEs with fewer than 20 staff.
The same protections should be afforded across the other 7 to 8 million working Australians and their associated employers.” The ATO has allowed extensions of TFN usage before, when chief operating officer Raelene Vivian pioneered giving TFNs to funds in 2007 unless the individual objected. The advent of ‘simpler super laws’, also in 2007, mandated that employers had to supply the TFN of all eligible employees within 14 days or next payroll contribution, regardless of whether those employees stayed in the default fund or exercised choice. Fast-forward to 2010 where more super funds which offer electronic clearing services to their employer customers are mandating the supply of the TFN by employers, whether the employee is defaulting into a preferred employer fund or exercising choice. Administrator SuperChoice deals with 100 of about 220 employer-sponsored super funds, and Mike Fielding says those employer customers are reporting 99 per cent capture of the TFN in their default fund membership. “But, we’re now seeing a groundswell of activity in regards to the provision of the TFN to choice funds,” he says.