Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan has argued public interest immunity against a Senate order that would have required the ATO to publish a list of businesses with a turnover of more than $10 million who were recipients of the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

The Senate order, moved by independent senator Rex Patrick, would have also obliged the commissioner to reveal how much these businesses received and how much they had moved to repay.

Chris Jordan, however, failed to comply with the order, as he believes that revealing such details would undermine public confidence in the ATO’s ability to keep tax information confidential. 

“Requiring disclosure of protected taxpayer information to the Parliament will harm the public interest by undermining public confidence in the commissioner’s ability to keep taxation information confidential and the administration of the tax system beyond the administration of the Coronavirus Economic Response Package more generally,” said Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan in his reply to the Senate.

“That harm outweighs any public interest in disclosing the information in a public forum, including through parliamentary processes,” continued Chris Jordan.

Chris Jordan, said that roughly 10,000 businesses including public and private companies, trusts, sole traders, and partnerships would have made the list and argued that there was insufficient time to advise them that their information was going to be disclosed.

“We are mindful of the gravity of the order of the Senate. However, we are concerned to ensure that the Senate is fully cognisant of the potential and serious implications for taxpayer confidentiality and confidence in providing information to the commissioner, not just in the immediate case, but as a general precedent, in making such an order,” said Chris Jordan.

Independent Senator Rex Patrick rejected the claim, stating that tax information had not been sought.

“The information the Senate is asking for is not related to an employers’ business or taxation information, it is related to the amount of public money they were provided. In that respect, it is no different to grant money or the total amount of money received under a government contract, which is already published information,” said Senator Rex Patrick.

To make his case Senator Patrick argued that JobKeeper has attracted copious amounts of criticism and controversy since it was revealed that some companies received the wage subsidy and went on to book major profits, when that was not what the measure was intended for.

“There is huge controversy around the abuse of the JobKeeper scheme, a program set up to assist struggling businesses during the pandemic. JobKeeper was a wage subsidy scheme for businesses significantly affected by COVID-19. And yet some businesses took it, improved their profits and then paid larger dividends to their shareholders and bonuses to their executives,” said Senator Rex Patrick.

Rex Patrick has now asked for the Senate to reject Mr Jordan’s public interest immunity claim and to compel the commissioner to comply fully with the order by 4.30pm on Saturday 26th August.

Mr. Patrick stating that the employers who didn’t use the subsidy to maximise profits should take no issue with the list’s publication only those that rorted it. 

“Those employers that used the money in a manner consistent with the intent of the JobKeeper program need not be concerned in any way by the proposed disclosure, only those that rorted the system,” said Senator Rex Patrick.

Centrelink Goes After 11,000 Australians for $33 Million Worth of JobKeeper Related Debts

Over 11 thousand Australians have been sent debt notices which total close to $33 million associated with JobKeeper wage subsides.

Services Australia has announced that since April 2021 11,771 welfare recipients had debts raised, following a review of JobKeeper and income support payments. 

Employment Minister Stuart Robert told parliament that it was the governments responsibility to make sure that debts were recovered fairly and respectfully under the law.

“When JobSeeker and JobKeeper were put into the Australian population, it was quite clear that Australians knew that you could not claim both,” said Employment Minister Stuart Robert.

Stuart Robert said everyone who was receiving the payments had to state they were not receiving both payments.

Despite the JobKeeper related debts for everyday Australians, the federal government has continued to resist calls to crack down on businesses that won’t hand back payments despite generating massive profits.

Opposition frontbencher Bill Shorten said that he believes the federal government is targeting ordinary Australians whilst refusing to demand refunds from big companies that banked $13 billion in JobKeeper while profits grew.

Services Australia compliance general manager Chris Birrer said people on JobSeeker and other payments had an obligation to report JobKeeper as income.

“It could impact whether or not they were eligible for a rate of JobSeeker or other income support payment or what the correct rate would be,” said Chris Birrer.

The team at C&D Restructure and Taxation Advisory are here to help. As part of the Vault Group we can offer the full suite of financial products and advice to help you navigate the business landscape. Schedule a meeting here via Calendly or give us a call on 07 36086800. 

The team at C&D Restructure and Taxation Advisory are here to help. As part of the Vault Group we can offer the full suite of financial products and advice to help you navigate the business landscape. Schedule a meeting here via Calendly or give us a call on 1300 1 VAULT (1300 182 858)

Post Author: Craig Dangar

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