The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has stepped up its efforts to help IT contractors and other workers affected when Plutus Payroll became embroiled in a landmark $165 million tax fraud investigation.
The ATO said on 21 June that it is implementing a range of support measures to ensure that contractors who were, or still are, on the heavily IT industry-focused outsourced payroll company’s books have clarity on their circumstances.
The measures the ATO plans to take to assist affected contractors at tax time could include an extension of time to prepare and lodge monthly, quarterly and annual obligations, treatment of unpaid entitlements such as super guarantee, salary sacrificed amounts and fringe benefits, redundancy payments, and potential GST implications.
The ATO also issued fresh advice for employers that had used or still use Plutus Payroll to pay contractors.
“If you were a business using Plutus payroll services to make super guarantee payments to your employees' super fund, you will need to take steps to check if all amounts have reached their fund. This may involve asking your employees to check with their fund,” the ATO said.
“If there are any super guarantee amounts paid through Plutus payroll services that have not been received by a super fund, please contact the provisional liquidator of the Plutus group of companies,” it said.
The ATO said it is currently working with the provisional liquidator of the Plutus group of companies, Deloitte, on possible ways to identify and address any outstanding employee entitlements, including super guarantee amounts.
The latest advice from the ATO comes after the agency told contractors that had been on Plutus Payrolls’ books, when the company made headlines over its alleged involvement in the tax fraud, that they will not be penalised when their pay as you go tax withholding (PAYGW) amount reported as being withheld is not actually paid to the ATO.
In general terms, the ATO said, employees who previously had PAYG withholding amounts withheld from their salary or wages are entitled to receive a credit for that amount when they lodge their tax return.
The guidance also included information on what workers need to do to lodge their 2016-17 tax return, as well as how to check their superannuation entitlements.
Affected contractors and business owners can find out more about the ATO’s concessions here.
The ATO’s assistance to those affected by Plutus Payroll’s entanglement, in what has been described as the largest tax fraud investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in the country’s history, comes just over a month after law enforcement officials descended on the company and its leadership team.
The outsourced payroll management service company left hundreds of IT contractors around the country without wages for weeks after its accounts were frozen by the ATO in late April.
In May, the company was subsequently named by the AFP as allegedly being run by several members of a syndicate alleged to be responsible for a $165 million tax fraud against the Australian Government. The scam allegedly involved the siphoning of tax payments for contractors.
While the ATO ultimately agreed to allow the release of wages owed to the affected contractors, it remains to be seen whether contractors on Plutus Payroll’s books will receive all of their entitlements.
The ATO has told contractors who are unsure whether their superannuation guarantee entitlements have been made to check with their employer or super fund to see if they’ve received anything.
“If, after checking with your employer and super fund, you believe that your full super guarantee payments have not been made you should contact the provisional liquidator of the Plutus group of companies to let them know,” the ATO said.