Bosses who deliberately underpay or withhold compulsory superannuation payments from their staff are being warned by the Australian Tax Office to end the rip-off or face steep fines.
The crackdown will target known offenders in the super rip-off, including cafes, restaurants, clubs, supermarkets and tradie subcontractors in the construction industry, but also architectural, legal and advertising firms.
Deputy Tax Commissioner James O’Halloran told the ABC’s AM program that employers who failed to lodge superannuation guarantee payments were robbing their staff and would be asked to explain the non-payment.
“It does seem to be in a range of service-type industries. Sometimes it’s obviously some cashflow pressures. But ultimately, by not paying the superannuation guarantee, the employee misses out on money for their retirement future,” Mr O’Halloran said.
“We still encourage people to come forward to the ATO, should they believe that they have not been paid their super guarantee. But of course, we can match patterns now and look for people who continually pay late or don’t pay the correct amount.”
The ATO’s pursuit of dodgy employers who hold back compulsory super has been boosted by the introduction of Single Touch Payroll where nearly 500,000 employers now report every payday for 11 million employees rather than annually.
Under the mandatory superannuation guarantee, employers are required to contribute the current minimum 9.5 per cent into the super funds of any worker aged 18 and over, earning $450 a month.
Mr O’Halloran said the ATO recently scrutinised 75 million transactions for 400,000 businesses using cross-matching systems including Single Touch Payroll.
“There will be 500 businesses that we will be following up who do not appear to be paying what they are committed to pay.
“So their employee does not appear to have got the payment that they should have got, that was promised to them,” Mr O’Halloran said.
You don’t have to be a mathematician to understand the benefits of compound interest.
“We think there’s about 4 or 5 per cent of businesses that appear not to be paying.
“Depending on the response we get from people, there will be some follow-up, as well as the possibility of some reviews and audits and, therefore, some penalties.”
The ATO estimated in 2017 that rogue employers short-changed staff by an average $2.81 billion every year between 2009 and 2015.
Industry Super Australia has claimed that around a third of Australian workers have been ripped off by bosses who withhold all or some of the superannuation guarantee.
Mr O’Halloran said the ATO was at the beginning of a “very proactive and very intentional follow-up” with employers.
“Come forward now, or the penalties and the sanctions will be more serious. Do the right thing: pay your employees what they are entitled to,” Mr O’Halloran warned.
The ATO has recovered $805 million in unpaid super from 23,000 businesses over the past year.