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  • Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme

    The Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) commenced on 1 July 2012 and is administered by the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment. The Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) commenced on 1 July 2018 and is administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They are complementary schemes.

    Current SWP approved employers can apply to join the PLS scheme by undergoing the PLS approved employer assessment process.

    If you have workers in the SWP you will need to withhold tax at a flat rate of 15% on all payments made to them.

    Workers under the SWP are non-residents of Australia for tax purposes. They may become a resident for tax purposes if they stay in Australia after they finish working on the program.

    If you have PLS workers, you withhold tax at resident rates using regular tax tables. For more information, go to Tax tables.

    PLS workers are considered to be residents for tax purposes because they can work in Australia between a minimum of one year and up to three years or longer. PLS workers are protected by Australian workplace laws, in the same manner as Australian workers.

    Seasonal Worker Program and visa class changes

    Seasonal workers can continue to be taxed at the concessional rate of 15% even where their visa class changed due to COVID-19, and they:

    • participated in the SWP on a subclass 403 visa
    • continue to participate in the SWP on a different temporary visa (for example subclass 408 visa) on or after 24 March 2020.

    See also:

    Tax file number

    Once seasonal and PLS workers have entered Australia, they can apply for a tax file number (TFN) using their passport and visa details. They will need to provide you with their TFN so that it can be given to their super fund. However, it is not compulsory for seasonal workers to complete a Tax file number declaration (NAT 3092).

    Reporting

    You must provide payment summaries (or income statements if reporting under Single Touch Payroll) to seasonal and PLS workers where you have withheld tax from payments. Seasonal workers are not required to lodge tax returns unless they have other Australian income outside of the program. Seasonal workers should not include their income from the SWP in their tax returns.

    PLS workers are required to lodge tax returns and must include other income earned in Australia and outside of Australia.

    At the end of each financial year you will need to include these payment summaries, along with any others that you have issued, when you lodge your PAYG withholding payment summary annual report. If you report under Single Touch Payroll, the income statements will need to be included for these workers along with all your other employees.

    Withholding tax from an exempt seasonal worker

    If you realise you mistakenly withheld tax from an exempt worker within the same financial year, you can refund the tax to them.

    If you have already paid the tax withheld amount to us and lodged an activity statement, you should revise your activity statement in order to receive a refund for the amounts incorrectly withheld and paid.

    If you find out about the mistake after the end of the financial year, the worker must request a refund of the withholding tax.

    See also:

      Last modified: 08 Jun 2021QC 25161