The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is following up on more than 200 cases of possible cheating of the country’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme introduced last year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

So far it has identified A$284m (US$211m, €179m) of overpayments, clawed back about A$138m and discovered some businesses invented wages for a cash flow boost. They are being pursued, broadcaster ABC reported.

In addition, the national police service is leading nine operations which focus on tackling alleged crimes against the stimulus measures, five related to the JobKeeper Payment Scheme and four to Early Release of Superannuation.

To date, two people have been convicted under the Taxation Administration Act, two more are before the courts facing similar charges and seven other cases are being considered for criminal prosecution, an ATO spokesman said.

The agency has also applied penalties in more than 115 JobKeeper matters.

Of the remaining A$146m considered overpaid, the office is chasing A$82m but will not purse A$64m because it considered it was claimed in good faith and passed onto employees, he added.

Almost 3.8m employees in more than 1m businesses have received A$89bn-plus in payments since JobKeeper was introduced.

As for early release of superannuation, about 4.55m applications worth A$38bn for more than 3m people have been approved by the ATO. Around 2,800 applications worth less than A$18m are considered fraudulent by claimants via identity theft.

On the question of invented wages, the agency paused cash flow boost credits for about 29,500 entities while verifying their eligibility. The result was payments were adjusted to about 5,500. One suspected criminal offence is being investigated.

The ATO supported 817,000 small businesses with A$35.5bn, the spokesman said.


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