The Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Income Reporting and Other Measures) Bill 2020 has now passed both houses, paving the way for Services Australia, formerly the Department of Human Services, to use the ATO’s STP data to prefill employment income for Centrelink recipients.
From 1 July 2020, social security recipients will report their income to Centrelink when it is paid by their employer, instead of when it is earned.
Currently, recipients who earn employment income must make a calculation to report their, or their partner’s, earnings based on the number and value of shifts they have worked in a fortnight.
Under the amendments in the bill, Services Australia will use the employer-reported STP payroll information to prefill payroll information into income support recipients’ fortnightly reports, in a similar way to how the ATO prefills tax returns.
Income recipients will be prompted to review, confirm or update the STP data, before it is used to assess their entitlements.
Where a recipient works for an employer who is not covered by STP, they will continue to have to report their income, using their payslip.
The bill, which was referred to a Senate committee, had faced concerns that it would spiral into another “robodebt” disaster.
“It is critical that the government learns from the lessons of robodebt before implementing further automation and data matching processes within the social security system,” said Greens Senator Rachel Siewert.
The Australian Council of Social Services had also called for more testing and consultation before the rollout of the new scheme.
“We want to see testing with social security law experts and not just people who could be affected down the road,” said the Australian Council of Social Services.
“That’s because they can often identify issues that people who would be using the scheme may not be aware of, simply because they have a decent understanding of social security law.
“If we compare it with what happened with robodebt, there was no consultation there with experts at all.”
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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.