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  • Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme

    The Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP), which began on 1 July 2012, is administered by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment. The Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS), which began on 1 July 2018, is administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. These are complementary schemes and apply to existing workers.

    From 4 April 2022 the SWP and PLS merged to form the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. This scheme applies to new workers employed from that date. It's administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. If you employ workers under the PALM scheme see employers of PALM workers.

    The arrangements for existing workers employed under the SWP or PLS will continue to apply. Therefore, if you employ such workers you may refer to the information on this page.

    On this page

    Seasonal Worker Programme

    If you have workers in the SWP, you must 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.

    Pacific Labour Scheme

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

    PLS workers are considered to be Australian residents for tax purposes. They are protected by Australian workplace laws, in the same way as Australian workers.

    Seasonal Worker Programme 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.

    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 you can work out how much tax to withhold. Their TFN can also be given to their super fund. However, it is not compulsory for seasonal workers to complete a Tax file number declaration (NAT 3092).

    Reporting

    Every time you pay seasonal and PLS workers, you must report the amounts you pay and the tax you withhold using Single Touch Payroll (STP). At the end of each financial year, you will need to finalise your reporting through STP along with your reporting for all other employees (see End-of-year finalisation through STP).

    If you have an exemption from STP reporting, at the end of each financial year you must provide payment summaries to seasonal and PLS workers. You will also need to include copies of these payment summaries – along with any other you have issued – when you lodge your pay as you go (PAYG) withholding payment summary annual report (see Annual reporting).

    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.

    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 from us a refund of the withholding tax (see Refund of over-withheld withholding: how to apply).

      Last modified: 13 Dec 2022QC 25161