Macpherson Kelley principal lawyer and head of the tax team Prath Balasubramaniam said he often sees clients tripping up by failing to pay independent contractors their superannuation, calling it a “sleeper issue” for businesses.
“It’s a common mistake I see among clients,” said Mr Balasubramaniam.
“Employers think that because a worker has an ABN or claims to be an independent contractor they don’t have to pay super. But the obligation to pay super is the law and it is 100 per cent an employer’s burden – it’s non-negotiable.”
Earlier this year, the government announced a 12-month amnesty period for the historical underpayment of the superannuation guarantee, in anticipation of the full implementation of STP.
Under the proposal, an employer that has an SG shortfall amount in any period from 1 July 1992 up to 31 March 2018 has the ability to claim tax deductions in respect of SG charge payments made and contributions that offset the SG charge to the extent that the charge relates to the SG shortfall. In addition, the administrative component to the SG charge will not apply.
The amnesty will be available from 24 May 2018 to 23 May 2019, but legislation has yet to be passed, with the ATO confirming that the benefits are not yet in effect.
However, Mr Balasubramaniam has been advising clients to come forward and declare any unpaid super, noting examples of the ATO granting the amnesty.
“We are advising clients to act on the basis that the amnesty is available although the law has not been enacted,” said Mr Balasubramaniam.
“We have numerous examples of the ATO granting the amnesty. If the new law is not enacted, it is our view that the ATO will not reverse the position they have taken where they have granted the amnesty. However, they may cease granting the amnesty going forward.”
The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) general manager of technical policy, Tony Greco earlier told Accountants Daily that accountants should consider advising clients to make a voluntary disclosure despite the hold up.
“At the end of the day, if you have an SG obligation and you get caught up in audit activity, you’re going to face the full penalty regime so that is the issue is if you wait,” said Mr Greco.
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.