The Australian government’s JobKeeper scheme has had its estimated cost revised down from $130 billion to $70 billion following a major reporting bungle.
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The Australian Tax Office and Federal Treasury on Friday announced that due to “significant errors” in businesses’ reporting, the correct number of Australian employees accessing the $1,500 fortnightly wage subsidy is actually 3.5 million rather than 6 million.
The two institutions said around 1,000 businesses had made errors reporting the number of employees due to receive help, with most of the problems coming from businesses reporting the amount of assistance they thought they would receive, rather than the number of eligible employees.
For example, a business would mistake one eligible employee for 1500, confusing the sum of the payment with the number of eligible employees.
Nearly one million businesses have completed enrolment forms, with one-in-ten businesses making the mistakes.
“This reporting error has come to light as the ATO and Treasury have been analysing the amounts being paid out under the scheme, reconciling these with the estimates provided by enrolled businesses of the likely number of eligible employees,” the ATO and Treasury said in a statement.
“It was not picked up by the ATO earlier as their primary focus in the first fortnight of JobKeeper payments was on ensuring that JobKeeper payments were paid promptly to those eligible for them, and not paid to those who were ineligible.
“These initial estimates from businesses of employees covered are not linked to payments, and so were not as carefully analysed.”
Will my JobKeeper payment be affected?
The reporting error will have no consequence for JobKeeper payments.
“Payments under the scheme depend on the subsequent declaration that an eligible business makes in relation to each and every eligible employee. This declaration does not involve estimates and requires an employer to provide the tax file number for each eligible employee.”