More than 6,500 Australians have been rejected for JobKeeper by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) since the scheme commenced, new reports reveal.
The applications have been rejected for various reasons, raging from genuine error to deliberate fraude, the ATO told ABC news.
Earlier this month the ATO warned it would be conducting checks on businesses wrongly claiming JobKeeper for employees, after nearly 900,000 businesses had claimed the $1,500 fortnightly wage subsidy.
“Our tax system works on a self-assessment model. We will generally operate on the basis Australians are honest, meaning we will accept the information we are provided with as true and correct and make payments,” ATO deputy commissioner Will Day said earlier this month.
“However, we will be conducting checks later, so if you've received a benefit as part of the Covid-19 stimulus measures and we discover you are ineligible, you can expect to hear from us. If you think this may apply to you, you should contact us or speak to your tax professional.”
At any particular time, between 2 and 3 per cent of JobKeeper applications were being reviewed, the ATO told ABC News.
And, if it detects any foul play, the ATO flagged serious consequences.
"We will identify those who are intentionally defrauding the system and we will use the full force of the law [to punish them]."
Sole traders cop ‘robodebt 2.0’
The tax office also revealed more than 8,000 businesses were told they may have to pay back the JobKeeper payments they received, after “compliance” checks revealed they were never eligible for the subsidy in the first place.
The ATO sent emails to businesses, stating that because they “started business on or after 1 January 2020”, their “entity would not have assessable business income” from the previous financial year, and couldn’t verify they saw a 30 per cent reduction in revenue.
"We are unable to pay businesses that do not meet the requirements of the law," the ATO told ABC, but small businesses have been told if they believe they are still eligible for the payment, they should contact the ATO with supporting documents.
Some small business owners told The Guardian the warning was “vague”, and said they’d already spent the JobKeeper income they received.
“I have no other income coming in, I don’t know how I’d pay it back,” one sole trader said.
“I can’t help but feel this is some kind of Robodebt 2.0, like there’s been a data-matching exercise and then automated emails sent out.”
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