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‘The law is really clear’: ATO allays JobKeeper eligibility concerns

Adrian Flores
Adrian Flores
14 July 2020 2 minute readShare
Andrew Watson

EXCLUSIVE: The Australian Taxation Office has addressed concerns that small businesses are needlessly dropping out of the JobKeeper scheme for fear of financial punishment or due to moral reasons, saying “the law is really clear”.

Speaking exclusively on the MyBusiness webcast, ATO assistant commissioner for small business Andrew Watson responded to concerns that small businesses are dropping out of JobKeeper as COVID-19 restrictions gradually ease and businesses resume operations which may render them ineligible.

Further, he said the ATO’s compliance approach to JobKeeper is that it’s not setting out to punish businesses.

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“The law is really clear on this. Once you’re in, youre in to the end of September. If you meet the eligibility test once, youre in it for the whole time,” Mr Watson said.

MyBusiness recently reported that businesses across Australia that have seen revenue recovery in June are choosing to voluntarily pull out of the JobKeeper scheme, mostly to avoid any assumed compliance issues down the track.

 

The ATO has previously stated that once a small business qualifies for the JobKeeper allowance, it remains qualified for the entire duration of the scheme, which currently is set to finish at the end of September.

Mr Watson believed some of the concern has come from when businesses have to put in a declaration each month, the ATO asks for a form that includes their current projected GST turnover.

“Now part of the JobKeeper design, the government asks us to collect that for statistical purposes, but it is not a retesting of your eligibility,” he said.

“If you came into JobKeeper on the basis that your month of April turnover in 2020 was dropping by more than 30 per cent compared to your month of April in 2019, you meet that part of the eligibility test and we were not bothered by then what happens in July/August/September, because the law doesnt take account for that, so we are not looking for that at all.”

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However, Anderson Tax & Consulting founder Debra Anderson said the concern from small businesses regarding the ATO is a natural one.

“I think everybody is scared of the ATO. I mean, you get a letter and youve got ATO up in the corner of it and all of a sudden your anxiety levels up. I think you wouldnt be human if you werent,” she said.

“Theyre not the bad guys. If anything, theyve been able to pull a rabbit out of the hat in these last few months, being able to disperse so much JobKeeper and cash-flow bonus to all these businesses.

“Small business wouldnt have survived without what the ATO had been able to achieve over the last few months.”

Ms Anderson said small businesses have nothing to fear and echoed earlier comments from Mr Watson that no tax problem ever went away by ignoring it.

“If anything, now is the time. If youve got a problem, put your hand up. Get some help. Theyre willing to help. And I havent had any experiences where the ATO has said, ‘Nope, too bad’, theyre throwing it out,” Ms Anderson said.

“Theyre here to help us survive. Us surviving helps the entire economy survive. Were all on the same team. Were all working towards the one goal.

“Its natural to be hesitant when the phone rings, or you get that letter, but dont be. Reach out, and theyre just human just like us.”

‘The law is really clear’: ATO allays JobKeeper eligibility concerns
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Adrian Flores
Adrian Flores

Adrian Flores is the deputy editor of MyBusiness. Before that, he was the deputy editor for SMSF Adviser as well as features editor for ifa (Independent Financial Adviser), InvestorDaily, Risk Adviser, Fintech Business and Adviser Innovation.

You can email Adrian at [email protected].

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