The Australian Taxation Office has said it is owed hundreds of millions of dollars from businesses and individuals who claimed JobKeeper payments or early super release money that they weren't eligible for.
Over the course of nearly a year, the ATO has paid nearly 3.8 million employees more than $80 billion in JobKeeper payments.
The tax body has had to reject over 31,600 applications for the wage subsidy scheme and roughly 231,000 applications for the early withdrawal of super scheme over ineligibility of fraud, ATO second commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn told ABC News.
About $135 million in JobKeeper payments have been recouped – but a further $155 million is still outstanding.
While millions have been clawed back, Hirschhorn warned that compliance action is still ongoing.
Twenty Australian companies that received the wage subsidy on a legitimate basis have said they would repay a combined $144 million, but only $20 million has been received by the ATO, Hirschhorn said.
Around 12,000 businesses have mistakenly received too much JobKeeper, but the ATO will not claw back $50 million it is owed because they were "honest mistakes".
The JobKeeper scheme has benefited some of Australia's richest, with research commissioned by Labor MP Andrew Leigh finding that at least 11 billionaires received dividends worth tens of millions of dollars from companies that received the wage subsidy payments.
“The extraordinary increase in the wealth of Australia’s billionaires comes at a time when most Australian workers are struggling to get any pay rise at all, and two million are unemployed or underemployed,” Leigh told The Guardian.
“JobKeeper was meant to protect the jobs of battlers, not boost the wealth of billionaires.”
Businesses that received JobKeeper but paid out bonuses to executives or dividends should be scrutinised, Leigh added, and companies that made profits but received JobKeeper should return the money on the basis of morality, not legality, he said.
What's next for JobKeeper?
The wage subsidy scheme, which was extended twice but reduced in payment each time, is due to wind down permanently on 28 March.
Experts have made several predictions about job losses that will emerge from the scheme's end, with economists and a Treasury official putting this figure at 100,000.
The tourism sector has received a $1.2 billion rescue package, announced yesterday, amid lobbying from the industry which has been one of the hardest-hit in the pandemic.
But a spike in unemployment will likely not materialise and the dreaded "fiscal cliff" looks more like a "fiscal slope", though there may be some mortgage defaults, experts have warned.