The Parliament has passed the Treasury Laws Amendment (Recovering Unpaid Superannuation) Bill 2019, providing a one-off amnesty to encourage employers to self-correct historical SG non-compliance dating from 1 July 1992 to 24 May 2018.
It will allow employers to claim tax deductions for payments of SG charge or contributions made during the amnesty period to offset SG charge, as well as remove the administrative component and the Part 7 penalty that may otherwise apply in relation to historical SG non-compliance.
While the new rules apply retrospectively, once the bill receives royal assent, employers will have six months to come forward and pay any unpaid superannuation in full.
“This policy is all about reuniting hardworking Australians with their super,” Assistant Minister Jane Hume said. “We anticipate at least $160 million of super will be paid to Australian workers who would otherwise miss out.”
Since the one-off amnesty was originally announced back in 2018, over 7,000 employers have already come forward to voluntarily disclose historical unpaid super.
Treasury estimates that an additional 7,000 employers will come forward in the next six months before the amnesty ends.
Ms Hume reiterated that the passing of the bill does not mean employers are off the hook.
“To use the amnesty, they must still pay all that is owing to their employees, including the high rate of interest. However, the amnesty will make it easier for workers to secure the super they are owed by not hitting employers with the penalties usually associated with late payment.
“If employers do not take advantage of the amnesty, they will now face significantly higher penalties when they are caught — in general, a minimum 100 per cent penalty on top of the SG shortfall they owe, and up to 200 per cent for the most serious cases.
“In addition, throughout the amnesty period the ATO will still continue its usual audit and enforcement activity against employers for historical obligations they do not own up to voluntarily.”
The amnesty complements recent changes to the superannuation system to improve the visibility employees have over their superannuation.
“We encourage employers to check they don’t owe outstanding super — and if they do, to take advantage of this once-only opportunity to set things right before much tougher penalties apply,” Assistant Minister Hume said.
Amnesty garners applause
In welcoming the super amnesty extension, both the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, and the Institute of Public Accountants called on small businesses to make the most of this opportunity and get up to date with outstanding payments to current and past employees before the harsh penalties kick in.
“It is vital that small businesses understand that although they will have a short window of time to declare any errors to the Australian Taxation Office, the amnesty only applies to missed superannuation payments up to 31 March 2018,” Ms Carnell said.
“Small businesses should speak to their trusted financial advisers now to get their affairs in order.”
While the CEO of the IPA recognised that most small businesses do the right thing in this area, he acknowledged that they can sometimes experience cash-flow issues, making them vulnerable when it comes to meeting their SG obligations by the required due date.
“This amnesty gives them time to atone. At the end of the day, money is being directed into employee’s superannuation accounts with some interest added and that’s a good thing,” Andrew Conway said.
“Those that do not take advantage of this one-off amnesty will face significantly higher penalties if they are subsequently caught.”