Union alleges 'fat cat' tax rort
TWU official Ben Sweaney. Photo: Graham Tidy
The ambulance union has accused some emergency services executives of improperly obtaining lucrative tax breaks potentially amounting to tens of thousands of dollars a year.
The union says several senior members of the Emergency Services Agency have been wrongly handed tax breaks under the Public Benevolent Institution tax exemption.
The ESA rejects the claims, telling The Canberra Times there had been no misuse of the tax exemption ''to the best of knowledge'' of the Justice and Community Safety Directorate.
Only members of the ACT Ambulance Service - and those ESA staff who devote 50 per cent or more of their work to that service - are eligible for the tax benefits.
The Transport Workers Union says the allegations, which involve 17 executives, were not taken seriously by the Justice and Community Safety Directorate earlier this year.
That angered the union, prompting it to refer the matter to the Australian Tax Office for investigation in March.
An ESA spokesman said the agency was not aware of any investigation by the Tax Office.
The ATO was unable to comment on the matter, and is bound by strict privacy laws preventing it from commenting on the tax affairs of an individual organisation or company.
There are 192 ESA employees currently receiving the benefit, and the ESA maintains all of those employees either worked in ACTAS or were devoting 50 per cent or more of their workload to the service.
TWU official Ben Sweaney said the union did not believe there had been any wrongdoing on the part of any member of the ACT Ambulance Service itself.
The tax break's main value is that it exempts workers from fringe benefits tax for up to $17,000 a year, which they can salary-package towards a range of expenses.
Mr Sweaney said any wrongful extension of the tax break was ''unacceptable and disgusting''.
''The PBI exemption, by the very nature of the name, is for benevolent purposes and not to fatten the wallets of executives that already enjoy some of the most generous entitlements and conditions in the ACT Public Service,'' Mr Sweaney said. ''This mishandling of PBI status could jeopardise the scheme, not only here in the ACT but across the entire service, which is why we had no option but to refer it to the ATO,'' he said.
The union is now calling on the ACT government to intervene.
It has also alleged that the tax break has also been improperly used as a recruitment and retention incentive. ''For fat cat executives to seek to increase their conditions on the back of the good work the ACT ambulance officers do, is simply unacceptable and disgusting,'' Mr Sweaney said.