No firms to be made to hand back JobKeeper

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Companies with soaring profits that also received wage subsidies will not be forced to repay JobKeeper despite intensifying scrutiny of the scheme.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has ruled out compelling profitable firms to hand back taxpayers' cash despite new data showing some didn't need it.

About 35,000 companies doubled or tripled revenue while receiving $690 million in JobKeeper payments.

Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh, who has led the charge against waste in the scheme, said some of the money went to billionaire shareholders and high-paid executives.

"Given the government is chasing pensioners to return welfare overpayments, why is the government letting these businesses keep millions of taxpayer dollars they clearly didn't need?" he said.

Mr Frydenberg said it was misleading to contrast the government's welfare debt collection program with wage subsidies.

He said the tax office chased down people who broke laws just as Services Australia pursued debts.

"The first six months of the program was based on an anticipated decline in turnover," the treasurer told parliament.

"The reason why we took Treasury's advice on that key point was because the economy was staring into an economic abyss"

Labor is pressuring companies that turned big profits to repay funds from the $90 billion scheme.

Mr Frydenberg said he welcomed companies choosing to do that but would not legislate to force their hand.

Dr Leigh said the idea of giving taxpayer cash to firms doubling or tripling revenues was reprehensible.

"This is the sort of flagrant misspending of money that you'd expect to see in some tin-pot dictatorship, not in a well-run economy like Australia's," he said.

Harvey Norman repaid $6 million in JobKeeper payments this week after months of pressure.

Independent senator Rex Patrick has threatened ATO Chris Jordan with contempt of parliament proceedings for declining an upper house order to disclose big companies' JobKeeper receipts.

Businesses qualified for the JobKeeper wage subsidy based on government-determined falls in turnover due to the pandemic.

An attempt to force firms turning over more than $10 million annually to disclose payments received was defeated in the Senate on Thursday after One Nation sided with the government.

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