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ATO readying to collect on $4 billion in underpaid or late superannuation.
A renewed government focus plus Federal Budget funding will enable account matching technology to compare STP reported super with that supplied to the ATO by super funds at scale. The foundations have been set to reverse a decades long ATO tradition of wrist slapping for superannuation errors and a reactive approach to SG compliance.
This ATO new tech initiative announcement follows a raft of others last year showing them cracking down on small business debt. Within that same context of post-pandemic enthusiasm to recoup tax, it is predicted the ATO is equally readying themselves to collect for employees on the estimated near $4 billion in under paid superannuation.
The Australian Bookkeepers Network (ABN) Director, Peter Thorp, says there is no more time to waste for bookkeepers to insist their clients get their books sorted around super, or risk their business.
“This matching technology is the key to open the black box of what should have been paid and what actually was paid,” said Peter “the necessary data had been available to the ATO for some time but the missing part of the puzzle was the IT resource to match the data, at scale”. “Now the ATO has a clear view of where the gaps are and all businesses who have got it wrong are potentially in the firing line.”
The Member Account Transaction Service has superannuation houses providing details of superannuation payments to the ATO. For those businesses who are found to have not paid, paid incorrectly or paid late, heavy penalties could be applied. STP reporting provides the ATO with a clear line of sight to the Super that should have been paid.
While the penalties have been there for some time, with more certainty over such a larger number of employee accounts, Peter says business owners can expect a change in the ATOs past approach.
“There was a superannuation amnesty in 2018 that signalled the mood was changing around the previously relaxed collections approach,” said Peter. “Now the pandemic is over we can expect that sentiment to ramp up and interrogation of accounts may go back in time.”
“We can expect no further sympathy for those deliberately averting their responsibilities and perhaps even those who habitually don’t pay on time,” said Peter. “But we are unsure of how the ATO will be drawing the line on those businesses who are trying to do the right thing but inadvertently making mistakes.”
“The penalty regime is prohibitive with Part 7 penalties of up to 200%, plus admin fees, plus interest plus loss of tax deduction.” It is possible we could see results where the punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” continued Peter. “One business, whose $100,000 quarterly super liability for 50 employees, may need to foot a $230,000 plus bill on which they could no longer claim a tax deduction.” “inadvertent late payment caused by factors outside the employer’s control such as Clearing House or Super Fund delays could put employers in a tough position”.
For bookkeepers who are trying to take action to support reluctant clients used to doing things like they’ve always done, are encouraged to refer their clients to ABN resources to explain the repercussions.
“Some ABN members have been trying for ages to get their clients to take notice,” said Peter. “Some business owners simply think nothing much will happen because historically nothing much has happened”.
“We’re here to help bookkeepers help their clients with resource that explain what they need to do and what will happen if they don’t.”
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