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  • Private Groups Stewardship Group special briefing 29 April 2020

    COVID-19

    This meeting focused on members insights and experiences in relation to the Government's COVID-19 economic responses including early release of superannuation, cash flow boost, JobKeeper and other stimulus measures and the ATO’s administrative support.

    Members were welcomed and thanked for attending at short notice.

    Early release of superannuation

    Tim Dyce - Deputy Commissioner, Private Wealth, ATO

    Early access of superannuation has been heavily subscribed.

    System checks are in place and the majority of issues are around duplicate claims. These are being resolved through engagement based on support and awareness.

    Behavioural Insights

    Will Day - Deputy Commissioner, Integrated Compliance, ATO

    Integrated Compliance business line focusses on behaviours across markets, with a mindset on policy design. While the ATO has an imperative to pay the stimulus money quickly, there are some quick but insightful integrity checks required. Post issue checks may also be considered.

    Cash flow boost

    Kasey Macfarlane - Assistant Commissioner, Cash Flow Boost Program, ATO

    The automated system has been active since 21 April 2020 and cash flow boost credits were being issued from late in the same week.

    There are a small number of clients who may be asked for more information before cash flow boost amounts are credited to the activity statement system. The ATO web guidance has been updated to cover this point. Private Wealth is reaching out to those who may be eligible where our information may not be complete.

    Given this is an automated system, a small number of clients who did not think they were entitled have advised that they received cash flow boost credits. The ATO was grateful to those who advised that, and we encourage others to call the ATO if they think that this may have happened. The ATO will work with these clients to determine eligibility. The ATO automated system has since been refined to reduce this from occurring.

    As per Private Wealth’s usual processes, where refunds may be paid, we are undertaking a small number of pre-issue engagements. We follow the general timeframe of 14 days unless there is something we need to follow up.

    There is anecdotal evidence that there is some turnover manipulation to construct eligibility for cash flow boost.

    Members noted that there is some uncertainty relation to circumstances where aggregated turnover for the current year and what will be considered 'reasonable' if your estimate is significantly different at the end of the year.

    The ATO confirmed we are considering our position on this issue.

    Deferrals

    Members noted that a number of advisers were marketing to members to make requests for deferral of lodgment and payment. This was being marketed even where companies were in a profit position.

    It was recognised that an announcement by either the Commissioner or a Second Commissioner came at the right time where it was clarified that applications for deferrals are only for those on the 'edge' which appears to have stopped that adviser behaviour.

    The ATO was aware and have updated the web guidance and will circulate this further guidance to members. The ATO is engaging with a number of clients to request that they reconsider their pay as you go withholding deferral requests on a prospective basis.

    JobKeeper payment

    Amy James-Velagic - Assistant Commissioner, Private Wealth, ATO

    Private Wealth is currently focussing on proactively contacting large employers who use Single Touch Payroll (STP) and have greater than 200 employees, or employers who do not use STP and have more than 40 employees to provide assistance in their enrolment process as additional steps in the process may be necessary. We are also assisting them with any technical queries that they may have in relation to their eligibility.

    There has been some work in the expansion to employees aged 16 or 17 years based on their full time student status and financial independence.

    Members asked for clarity around the following situation:

    • The employer has paid an employee $1500 for the April fortnight.
    • The employee has not returned their form so are not included in the eligible employee listing for the employer when the claim is lodged.
    • The employee provides the form at a later date (before 31 May).

    Will the employer receive the JobKeeper payment for that employee?

    The ATO agreed to provide advice.

    Members noted that it is understood that the government is considering extending registration for JobKeeper to 31 May 2020. Members queried whether this been confirmed. ATO advised that this is a policy matter for Treasury.

    Members raised, where a subsidiary of a group might be eligible for JobKeeper based on turnover in its own right, it is not eligible as part of the whole group.

    Members suggested that this would be an appropriate time for some 'hard' messaging from the ATO on integrity.

    The ATO is mindful of the difference between people who are struggling as opposed to attempts at manipulation.

    Members advised that guidance should be provided on circumstances where projected 'reasonable turnover at the time' is substantially different to actual future turnover. ATO confirmed this is currently being considered and guidance is being developed.

    ATO is not considering further 'alternative turnover' categories but may provide clarification of existing guidance.

    Wrap up and close

    ATO Co-chair Tim Dyce thanked members for their attendance and contributions.

      Last modified: 18 May 2020QC 62652