Tax experts have publicly floated the idea that Australia should follow New Zealand’s lead and introduce a public register of businesses part of the JobKeeper wage scheme to curb wrongdoing.
Pressed by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson on the viability of such a register during a Senate inquiry, ATO acting second commissioner Kirsten Fish said the JobKeeper program was protected by taxation law.
“Information that can identify an entity that has enrolled in and is participating in the JobKeeper program can’t be disclosed except under limited circumstances, and those circumstances are detailed in the legislation itself,” Ms Fish said.
“There are very few circumstances in which we can disclose the identity of eligible employers, so at the moment, under the current law, it wouldn’t be possible for us to produce such a public register.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann also noted that disclosing the names of businesses could be a disincentive for them to take part in the scheme.
“The public disclosure of businesses that are in receipt of JobKeeper could act as a disincentive also to participate in the program, which could reduce support to workers,” Mr Cormann said.
He opined that it is not necessary to publish the names of businesses to ensure that workers get paid their $1,500 JobKeeper payments.
“An employer must advise all its eligible employees that it is participating in the scheme. This is a requirement under the rules, and there are a range of penalties that could apply if a business fails to properly give its eligible employees the opportunity to be nominated for JobKeeper,” Mr Cormann said.
“We believe that we got the balance right in terms of safeguards but also making sure that the scheme was able to be implemented swiftly and efficiently in the circumstances, and that we did not provide any disincentives for businesses to take advantage of this when this is ultimately a benefit for the employees.”
As of Thursday, 4 June, JobKeeper payments worth $12.96 billion have been delivered to 872,482 businesses, covering about 3.3 million employees, with that number expected to grow further over the coming weeks and months.
At the same time, the ATO’s latest figures indicate it has applied $13.38 billion in cash-flow boost credits to 708,000 businesses, while applications for early release of super now count over 2 million totalling $16 billion.