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ATO ‘not pursuing’ $180 million in JobKeeper overpayments

·3-min read
Australian currency and the ATO logo on the door of the ATO building.
The ATO said it will not be pursuing JobKeeper overpayments that have been deemed to be a honest mistake (Source: Getty)

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has confirmed it will not be pursuing $180 million in wrongfully awarded JobKeeper payments.

ATO Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan told the Economics Committee that small businesses which received overpayments due to an honest mistake will not be chased.

“We have determined not to pursue $180 million, mostly from small businesses, where there have been honest mistakes: usually because the employers claimed it in good faith and passed it on to their employees,” Jordan said in his written statement to the committee.

Jordan said the ATO had stopped more than $767 million in payments through its own pre and post payment reviews.

“To date, we have also reviewed more than 114,000 entities to the value of approximately $12.5 billion,” he said.

From this, we have identified $470 million in overpayments of which we have recovered $194 million and are pursuing $89 million, with $6 million in dispute.

In total, close to $89 billion in JobKeeper payments were made to more than a million eligible businesses.

The ATO said because of these payments, around 3.8 million Aussies saw that money being passed on to them.

Big businesses taking advantage?

The ATO has suggested concerns in the community about JobKeeper payments being made to large companies that then went on to make a profit, is not as bad as it may seem.

Jordan said the vast majority (97 per cent) who received the payments were small to medium businesses with a turnover of less than $250 million a year.

Small to medium businesses received about $70 billion of all the JobKeeper payments.

Only 0.2 per cent of claims were for large businesses and they received around $9 billion (10 per cent) of the JobKeeper payments.

“Throughout our administration of JobKeeper, significant attention was given to ensuring payments were made only to those who were eligible,” Jordan said.

“To date, 75 businesses have approached us to voluntarily repay JobKeeper amounts, and of those, 62 have already repaid $203 million. These payments are voluntary as there is no legal obligation for these businesses to return JobKeeper payments.”

21 ASX companies vow to return JobKeeper

While the ATO has refused to publish the list of every company that took JobKeeper payments, some ASX listed companies have promised to return the funds.

Having applied for the Government scheme at the start of the outbreak in 2020, these major Aussie companies have voluntarily decided to return the funds.

This includes, SEEK, Premier Investments, Domain, Nick Scali, Nine Entertainment and Dominos to name a few.

Recently, Harvey Norman promised to return over $6 million in JobKeeper support after chairman Gerry Harvey previously defended his decision to keep the money.

Those critics argued the money was supposed to help struggling businesses retain staff during the pandemic, and Harvey Norman was not struggling.

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