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Early release of super JobKeeper payments clawed back by ATO opens up the possibility of financial exploitation

Early release of super JobKeeper payments clawed back by ATO opens up the possibility of financial exploitation

Pic Credit: news.com.au

Out of $69 billion in Job Seeker payments from companies it considers ineligible, the Tax Office has clawed back about $120 million but has not found systematic fraud linked to government stimulus initiatives.

Jeremy Hirschhorn, the second ATO commissioner, told Senate budget estimates that the recovered payments came from applications of either “deliberate” or “reckless” errors.

The proof by Mr Hirschhorn followed the commitment of Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan to investigate the early release of the superannuation scheme by the ATO administration to ensure that it is not abused by domestic violence and financial exploitation perpetrators.

When it came to JobKeeper, Mr Hirschhorn said that employers had made truthful errors much of the time.

He said the ATO also did not seek funds to be returned in such situations but prevented workers from being able to sue in the future. He took note of a concern as to how many employees had either made deliberate or unintentional mistakes.

The ATO said earlier this year that since the program started in March, more than 6,500 applications for JobKeeper have been denied, either due to ineligibility or fraud and thousands more Australians may see their payments docked.

However, Mr. Hirschhorn assured the hearing that there was no systematic high-level systemic fraud in the government’s aid packages. He said there were more ‘opportunistic’ instances found by the ATO of individuals misusing these schemes.

The JobKeeper wage grant is given to employers to pass on to qualifying workers. The Morrison Government paid a flat $1,500 per quarter to anyone qualified for JobKeeper from late March until September 28.

The outcome was then reduced to $1,200 per quarter per full-time worker and $750 per part-time worker. Next year, the salary allowance will be cut again. Businesses can demand $1000 per quince per hour per full-time employee and $650 per part-time employee between January 4 and March 28.

Consumer advocates have also raised outrage at the early access program of the Morrison Government that allows citizens to borrow up to $20,000 from their own super in two different transaction amounts of $10,000 each.

According to data published on 18 October by APRA, over 4.5 million people were cut out of their savings by a total of 34,4 billion dollars.

But customers, including Chief Executive Officer Fiona Guthrie, Financial Counseling Australia cautioned that their partners could pressure women to take their money out of their retirement.

It became clear that no alerts had been issued to individuals accessing their super about the danger posed by financial harassment in response to questions from Labor Senator Jenny McAllister.

It would be difficult to decide whether it was occurring because individuals used their own MyGov accounts to apply, Mr Hirschhorn said. Mr Jordan said it was difficult to monitor cases of financial exploitation because of the “sheer number” of individuals using their super early access.

But questioned on the matter by Senator McAllister, Mr. Jordan said that after saying it would be “shocking” and “intolerable,” he would investigate it.

But the Federal Government’s handling of the super scheme was defended by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, saying you have to consider some trade-offs when speed is required.