Employers should take note that the ATO is now back to its pre-COVID-19 setting in relation to late or unpaid superannuation guarantee (SG) amounts. Firmer SG-related related recovery actions that were suspended during the pandemic have now recommenced, and the ATO will prioritise engaging with taxpayers that have SG debts, irrespective of the debt value.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) recently issued a report on the results of an audit on the effectiveness of ATO activities in addressing SG non-compliance. While the ANAO notes that the SG system operates largely without regulatory intervention, because employers make contributions directly to super funds or through clearing houses, the ATO does have a role as the regulator to encourage voluntary compliance and enforce penalties for non-compliance.
Overall, the ANAO report found that the ATO activities have been only partly effective. The report notes that while there is some evidence that the ATO’s compliance activities have improved employer compliance, the extent of improvement couldn’t be reliably assessed.
Among other things, the ANAO recommends that the ATO maximise the benefit to employees’ super funds by making more use of its enforcement and debt recovery powers, and consider the merits of incorporating debtors that hold the majority of debt into its prioritisation of debt recovery actions.
The ATO has responded to say that while it paused many of its firmer SG related recovery actions through the COVID-19 pandemic, those have now recommenced, and its focus will generally be on taxpayers with higher debts, although it will be prioritising taxpayers with SG debts overall, irrespective of the debt value.
The ATO says it’s already begun implementing a preventative compliance strategy using data sources such as Single Touch Payroll (STP) and regular reporting from super funds. It will continue to investigate every complaint in relation to unpaid SG amounts, and take action where non-payment is identified. The actions available include imposing tax and super penalties, as well as recovering and back-paying unpaid super to employees. The ATO will also be increasing transparency of compliance activities and employer payment plans, so that affected employees can be aware when to expect super back-payments.
TIP: If you have issues with making super guarantee payments to your employees or would like to make a voluntary disclosure before a potential ATO audit, we can help. Contact us today.