The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has sought to clarify media reports that suggested JobKeeper payments may have been made to fictitious employees, including dead people.
Last week, the ABC reported that documents obtained under freedom of information laws had shown that as at September, the ATO was investigating 5,974 cases of potentially fictitious employees who had applied for the wage subsidy scheme. This included people who were overseas, the deceased and prisoners.
Lawyer Niall Coburn told the ABC that the ATO “cannot check every application”, and so some things may have initially been overlooked by the government.
The ATO has issued a statement confirming that no JobKeeper payments have been made to fictitious employees, where they have been identified.
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“Contrary to the impression given by some media coverage, the 6,000 red-flagged cases under investigation relate to all attempted claims stopped for investigation prior to payment,” it said.
“There have been very few attempted claims for fictitious employees. The ATO is not aware of any ultimately successful claim for deceased or other fictitious employees.”
The agency said it has an effective compliance program to support the JobKeeper scheme.
“Not only does this involve checking the ABN of every business and the tax file number of each and every employee claimed, the ATO also has red-flag checks to stop claims for fictitious employees including deceased, jailed and those overseas, and also fictitious employing businesses,” it said.
“This is over and above the use of Single Touch Payroll and other data sources.”
The ATO also noted that its fraud management processes were recently given a thumbs up by the Australian National Audit Office.
The wage subsidy program is set to end on March 31, despite Labor, unions, mental health experts, and other organisations calling for the scheme to be extended.