• Promoting a level playing field for business

    Some businesses are breaking the law by incorrectly treating their employees as contractors and avoiding their required tax and super obligations.

    By incorrectly treating their employees as contractors, these businesses illegally reduce their labour costs, allowing them to undercut compliant businesses and obtain an unfair competitive advantage.

    Often these businesses will request or pressure their employees to obtain an Australian business number (ABN) to create the appearance the workers are conducting their own business as contractors.

    The workers who are forced to become contractors can be disadvantaged as they can miss out on their employee rights and entitlements such as super, workers compensation and award wages and conditions.

    This practice of businesses incorrectly treating their employees as contractors occurs in a wide range of industries and is affecting many different sectors of our community.

    What we are doing

    To tackle the issue of businesses incorrectly treating their employees as contractors, we use a combination of education and compliance.

    We support businesses that want to do the right thing, helping them understand and fulfil their obligations to their workers.

    We also use a range of compliance strategies to identify and take action against businesses that want to avoid their obligations to their workers.

    Our aim is to promote a level playing field that is fair for all.

    Helping businesses to get it right

    We want to make it as easy as possible for businesses to understand and fulfil their obligations to their workers.

    Awareness campaign

    We are undertaking an awareness campaign to ensure businesses understand how to correctly determine whether their workers are employees or contractors and the obligations they need to meet.

    As part of this campaign, we are also working with industry associations and peak bodies to help raise awareness and address the issue.

    Find out about:

    Compliance activities

    We identify and take action against businesses that avoid their tax and super obligations by incorrectly treating their employees as contractors.

    We use a variety of factors to identify high-risk businesses. These include:

    • data matching
    • comparing business information
    • reports from the community
    • information provided by other government agencies.

    We contact high-risk businesses to review how they have set up their employment and contracting arrangements.

    Where businesses have incorrectly treated their employees as contractors, we take action to ensure these businesses engage the workers as employees and meet their tax and super obligations. These businesses also face penalties and other charges for not meeting their obligations for their workers.

    We also monitor high-risk businesses we have previously contacted to ensure they continue to meet their obligations to their workers.

    Our compliance activities cover all types of businesses across all industries and in all capital cities and regional areas.

    Work with the Australian Business Register

    As part of our compliance activities, we also work with the Australian Business Register (ABR).

    Where we find workers being incorrectly treated as contractors (when they are employees), we send the details to the ABR to review whether their ABN should be cancelled.

    Workers who have made false or misleading statements on their ABN application can face penalties.

    The ABR also regularly reviews registrations and cancels the ABNs of those who are not entitled to an ABN.

    We use information from the ABR about workers trying to register for an ABN when they appear to be employees to help us identify and take action against businesses that are incorrectly treating these workers as contractors.

    What you can do about businesses incorrectly treating employees as contractors

    If you suspect, or know of, a business that is incorrectly treating their employees as contractors it is important you let us know. The details you provide are an essential source of information to help us address the issue.

    Next step:

    More information

    The following information will help clarify if a person is an employee or a contractor and when they are entitled to an ABN:

      Last modified: 10 Feb 2016QC 26281