Many of the government’s stimulus measures operate on a self-assessment basis, but the Australian Taxation Office has now made it clear that it is coming for wrongdoers using access to a wide range of data, from Single Touch Payroll to information held by Services Australia.
While the ATO is due to deep-dive into identification details of million of Aussies, and any JobKeeper and JobSeeker niceties, the Institute of Public Accountants general manager of technical policy, Tony Greco, told MyBusiness that the Tax Office is not doing anything out of the ordinary.
“The various stimulus measures were put in place very quickly, and the ATO, to their credit, have done a fantastic job putting all the infrastructure in place to facilitate the payment of benefits,” said Mr Greco, noting that a stimulus-dispersal review was very much on the cards from the beginning.
Mr Greco opined that the ATO has become the Centrelink to businesses, and now, expectantly, it is taking a compliance focus on the stimulus measures.
The type of people the ATO will be coming for, Mr Greco noted, are those that have backdated their PAYG withholdings to rig their cash-flow boost eligibility.
“A lot of people who put their hand up for the cash-flow boost are receiving letters that say they’re ineligible, because one particular issue was the backdating of PAYG withholdings,” Mr Greco said.
“That particular stimulus payment relied on the fact that you were paying wages and those wages were subject to withholding. Now, the ATO has seen a lot of people backdate their registrations, so that was a red flag.”
When it comes to JobKeeper, Mr Greco noted that the ATO is aware that some individuals may be double dipping — receiving both the JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments at the same time.
“By going to Centrelink, they’re making sure that someone is not in receipt of JobSeeker, while at the same time they’ve signed a declaration and they’re on someone’s payroll for JobKeeper.”
As for the employers, the ATO will be asking questions about the existence of particular entities, having seen plenty of “resurrections” of previously sedentary firms. The Tax Office will also tackle employee declarations.
“Every employer has to have received a declaration from their employee, stating that they themselves are eligible. Now, the ATO can find out afterwards that some of those employees on someone’s payroll are also on someone else’s payroll. Therefore, these is a problem,” Mr Greco explained.
“So, we’ve got employers receiving JobKeeper for ineligible employees, and we’ve got employees that shouldn’t have signed that declaration because they didn’t meet the eligibility criteria.
“So, what we’re seeing now is the ATO doing what it normally does.”
The ATO is catching up
He believes that the ATO cannot be criticised for not doing their sum earlier in the cycle, because it did not have the luxury of time.
“Even though some of these entities and employees have received some of these benefits, it doesn’t mean it’s all OK. All it means is that the system is now catching up,” Mr Greco continued.
He noted that the early release of super measure is not an exception.
“Unfortunately, people think that because they got the money, then the ATO must have approved their early release. Nothing could be more false. The checking happens afterwards,” Mr Greco warned.
He advised anyone that thinks they might have done the wrong thing to ring up the ATO and admit their mistake.
For more insights into the ATO’s compliance approach, tune into next week’s podcast with Mr Greco.