Australian money, currency or cash
Australian money, currency or cash

What you must know about JobKeeper payment

Billions of dollars have started flowing into Australians' bank accounts each week as part of the Federal Government's JobKeeper scheme, but confusion still reigns among many workers and bosses.

"JobKeeper" was among the top-trending topics on social media last week as people wondered if and when they would receive their $1500 fortnightly payment.

As the Federal Government started sending payments to about 730,000 employers covering 4.7 million workers, the Australian Taxation Office said people with questions should first search ato.gov.au because its phone lines were swamped.

The principal of Mr Taxman, chartered accountant Adrian Raftery, said there had been confusion "without doubt" and warned that businesses and individuals deliberately doing the wrong thing were likely to be audited.

Some people will make honest mistakes, while others may see it as a sneaky grab for cash or unfairly treat workers.

"The legislation is already there to chase up people who do the wrong thing," Dr Raftery said.

Adrian Raftery says people trying to rip off JobKeeper will get caught. Picture: Simon Fox
Adrian Raftery says people trying to rip off JobKeeper will get caught. Picture: Simon Fox

HLB Mann Judd tax partner Peter Bembrick said "there definitely has been confusion on all sides".

"It was never going to be perfect, but I think it's fair to say that the ATO has done a very good job at addressing queries."

 

Here are some of the most common questions being asked

 

CAN I APPLY FOR JOBKEEPER PERSONALLY RATHER THAN WAIT FOR MY BOSS TO DO IT?

No. A business can only qualify for JobKeeper if its turnover has dropped 30 or 50 per cent, depending on its size. Some businesses may decide not to apply regardless of their turnover.

Mr Bembrick said the initial decision to seek JobKeeper help for workers rested with the employer.

"If the employer decides not to apply, unfortunately the employees will be stuck," he said.

 

WHO PAYS ME?

Businesses should pay their workers an amount at least equivalent to JobKeeper's $1500 a fortnight before-tax, and they get reimbursed from the government.

 

I'M A SOLE TRADER? DO I GET PAID?

Yes, if you meet the ATO's eligibility requirements. JobKeeper will be paid directly to you and payments started last week to about 223,000 sole traders.

 

I'M A CASUAL WORKER. CAN I GET IT?

Casuals are eligible if they were employed on a regular basis for at least 12 months at March 1 this year.

 

WHY IS MY PAYMENT NOT $1500?

The tax taken out of the payment will depend on your regular wage. However, bosses cannot withhold some of the $1500 payment because you have not worked enough hours in the fortnight.

And they can't pocket part of the payment to help their business. They are simply the conduit through which the $1500 government payments pass to the people.

JobKeeper is a huge help for employees. Illustration: John Tiedemann
JobKeeper is a huge help for employees. Illustration: John Tiedemann

CAN BOSSES FORCE ME TO WORK MORE HOURS?

No they can't, although some bosses are trying to. The ATO says the $1500 fortnightly payment "does not change based on the amount of hours you work" and suggests people contact Fair Work Australia to discuss conditions of their employment.

 

WHY HASN'T MY BOSS PAID ME JOBKEEPER?

There could be several reasons. Perhaps they were ineligible because their revenue hadn't dropped enough, or they chose not to seek it. Others can't get JobKeeper because of foreign ownership rules.

While the payments are backdated to March 30, employers only started receiving money from the government last week and had been expected to cover workers' wages until then.

Dr Raftery said many employers "just haven't had the cash".

"Their turnover hasn't gone down by 30.1 per cent - it's gone down by 80, 90 or 100 per cent in a lot of instances," he said.

There were special rules for the first month of JobKeeper allowing bosses to pay workers late and still qualify, but that ended on May 8.

Workers still have plenty of questions about how JobKeeper works.
Workers still have plenty of questions about how JobKeeper works.

CAN I CLAIM PAYMENTS FROM A CASUAL EMPLOYER IF I ALREADY WORK FULL-TIME?

No. The ATO's guidelines are clear on this: "You are not eligible to participate in the JobKeeper scheme through your casual employer if you have permanent employment".

 

WHAT HAPPENS IF I CLAIM JOBKEEPER WHEN I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO?

Expect the ATO to come after you. It has sophisticated data matching systems and most employers report wage details online every payday through the single touch payroll system.

An ATO spokeswoman said penalties applied for making false or misleading statements, and the use of tax file numbers made it easy to identify people trying to rort the system.

"We are committed to tackling any illegal JobKeeper behaviour to protect honest businesses and the community," she said.

"The ATO has established a confidential tip-off hotline, available on 1800 060 062, to report JobKeeper fraud or behaviour of concern to people."

 

CAN I CLAIM THE PAYMENT FROM MORE THAN ONE EMPLOYER?

No. You could end up with a hefty repayment bill.

"There may be a very small number of people who seek to fraudulently access money they're not entitled to," the ATO spokeswoman said.

"These people will be caught and will need to repay the money and will be subject to significant penalties."

 

WHAT IF I'VE LOST MY JOB BUT CAN'T GET JOBKEEPER?

There's still the enlarged JobSeeker unemployment benefit payment, which is not as generous as JobKeeper but still delivers about $1100 a fortnight thanks to a boost from the coronavirus supplement that will last six months.

 

WHO HANDLES DISPUTES?

Contact the Fair Work Commission rather than the ATO. The commission has a pile of information at fwc.gov.au.

@keanemoney

Originally published as What you must know about JobKeeper payment


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