Last month, the government introduced a one-off, 12-month amnesty period for small businesses to address any historical underpayment of super guarantee package.
The amnesty began on 24 May under its Treasury Laws Amendment (Superannuation 2018 Measures) Bill 2018, subject to the passage of the legislation.
Institute of Public Accountants chief executive Andrew Conway backed the initiative, saying it incentivises employers to come forward and do the right thing by their employees by paying any unpaid superannuation in full.
However, he also noted that employers will not be entirely off the hook and should use the amnesty to pay all that is owing their employees, including the high rate of nominal interest.
“The amnesty will make it easier to secure outstanding employee entitlements, by setting aside the penalties for late payment,” Mr Conway said.
“Employers that do not take advantage of the one-off amnesty will face significantly higher penalties if they are subsequently caught — a minimum 50 per cent on top of the SG charge they owe. In addition, throughout the amnesty period the ATO will still continue its usual enforcement activity against employers.
“This one-off amnesty should be supported to allow employers to wipe the slate clean and pay their workers what they’re owed, as all Australian workers should be paid their entitlements in full.”
The IPA said employers are obligated to make SG payments on behalf of their employees, and that any non-payment of this entitlement represents wage theft and is a practice that should never be condoned.
“From time to time, small businesses can experience cash flow issues, making them vulnerable when it comes to meeting their SG obligations by the required due date,” Mr Conway said.
“Any small business employer who is late in paying the SG obligation faces a plethora of harsh penalties which are disproportionate to the mischief.
“We recognise that a penalty regime is required but the draconian way the existing system works acts as a disincentive for mainly compliant employers,” he said.
“The government is further strengthening the ATO tools available in future to enforce compliance so the timing of this amnesty is appropriate.”
The IPA noted Labor would strongly oppose the government’s planned amnesty for businesses that failed to make SG payments, something that it believes could cause problems for the government trying to get the legislation through Parliament.