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ATO reclaims $120m in JobKeeper payments from ineligible businesses

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
28 October 2020 1 minute readShare
JobKeeper payments from ineligible businesses

The ATO has clawed back $120 million in JobKeeper payments from employers that were found to have committed “deliberate” or “reckless” errors.

Speaking before the Senate estimates hearings on Tuesday, ATO second commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn disclosed that $120 million out of the total $69 billion JobKeeper payments has been reclaimed from businesses deemed ineligible.

Mr Hirschhorn explained that while a vast majority of businesses have done the right thing, the ATO had caught several employers red-handed, noting that the misuse of the program appeared to be more “opportunistic” rather than high-level systemic fraud.

Aside from requiring these employers to repay JobKeeper overpayments, the ATO has also applied administrative penalties and pursued offences for false and misleading statements.

But while those found to have made a genuine mistake haven’t been financially punished, Mr Hirschhorn confirmed they will be barred from claiming JobKeeper payments in the future despite the ATO finding their mistake was made in “good faith”.

Earlier this week, the ATO issued a notice outlining its JobKeeper extension focus areas and revealing the most common mishaps business owners have committed to date, including those of the malicious nature.

The Tax Office gave several examples of malicious behaviour including:

  • large businesses that applied the 30 per cent decline in turnover threshold when they were required to apply the 50 per cent decline in turnover threshold
  • businesses that manipulated their sales in order to change their projected GST turnover to meet the decline in turnover test
  • businesses that backdated employment relationships to misrepresent employee eligibility in order to claim more JobKeeper payments
  • businesses that failed to meet the wage condition in relation to their employees by not paying them the full JobKeeper amount
  • individuals who controlled multiple businesses and deliberately claimed JobKeeper for themselves as the eligible business participant multiple times

But as the extended JobKeeper payment hits employers’ pockets, the ATO underlined its continued focus on the scheme’s integrity.

As such, the Tax Office will be looking for businesses that do not meet the decline in turnover test; that have disregarded the wage condition; and that have claimed JobKeeper for ineligible individuals, including for more than one business participant.

“We will also be monitoring the new requirements introduced under the JobKeeper extension,” the ATO said.

“In particular, we will be reviewing businesses that appear to have contrived eligibility for the JobKeeper extension by manipulating their GST turnover to meet the actual decline in turnover test; have claimed the incorrect, higher-tier rate for their employees, eligible business participants or religious practitioners when they should have been on the lower tier.”

ATO reclaims $120m in JobKeeper payments from ineligible businesses
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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business. 

Maja has a decade-long career in journalism across finance, business and politics. Now a well-versed reporter in the SME and accounting arena, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies and enabling citizens to influence decision-making.

You can email Maja on [email protected] 

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