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Unpaid super amnesty bill passes Parliament

Parliament has passed legislation to encourage employers to catch-up on paying superannuation entitlements to staff.

Unpaid super amnesty bill passes Parliament
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  • Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
  • February 25, 2020
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The Treasury Laws Amendment (Recovering Unpaid Superannuation) Bill 2019 gives a one-off amnesty to employers, offering them an opportunity to get up to date with outstanding super payments to current and past employees, without being slugged with the harsh penalties that usually apply.

"This policy is all about reuniting hardworking Australians with their super," Assistant Minister Jane Hume said. "We anticipate at least $160 million of super will be paid to Australian workers who would otherwise miss out."

Since the one-off amnesty was originally announced in 2018, over 7,000 employers have already come forward to voluntarily disclose historical unpaid super.

The Treasury now estimates an additional 7,000 employers will come forward in the next six months before the amnesty ends.

"Employers will not be off the hook. To use the amnesty, they must still pay all that is owing to their employees, including the high rate of interest. However, the amnesty will make it easier for workers to secure the super they are owed by not hitting employers with the penalties usually associated with late payment," Ms Hume reminded. 

"If employers do not take advantage of the amnesty, they will now face significantly higher penalties when they are caught – in general, a minimum 100 per cent penalty on top of the SG shortfall they owe, and up to 200 per cent for the most serious cases."

In addition, throughout the amnesty period the ATO will still continue its usual audit and enforcement activity against employers for historical obligations they do not own up to voluntarily. 

The amnesty will expire six months after the day the bill receives royal assent.

"We encourage employers to check they don’t owe outstanding super – and if they do, to take advantage of this once-only opportunity to set things right before much tougher penalties apply," Ms Hume concluded.

IPA applauds amnesty arrival

The IPA has applauded the arrival of the SG amnesty, having advocated for it for some time.

“The IPA has long advocated for this one-off amnesty, which allows employers to clean the slate by paying historical SG underpayments,” said IPA chief executive Andrew Conway.

“Single touch payroll (STP) has increased the level of transparency around when employers make SG contributions on behalf of employees. It is, therefore, an opportune time for employers to make good any outstanding SG liability without the full draconian penalty regime applying, which has acted as a disincentive for many to come forward.

“While any non-payment of this worker entitlement represents wage theft; a practice never to be condoned, the IPA has supported this amnesty period as it incentivises employers to come forward and do the right thing by their employees by paying any unpaid superannuation in full."

Mr Conway acknowledged that small businesses can sometimes experience cash flow issues, making them vulnerable when it comes to meeting their SG obligations by the required due date. 

"This amnesty gives them time to atone," he said.

“Those that do not take advantage of this one-off amnesty will face significantly higher penalties if they are subsequently caught. In addition, throughout the amnesty period the ATO will continue its usual enforcement activity against employers,” he cautioned.

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