More than one-third of illegitimate JobKeeper payments will not be clawed back by the tax office, with the sum of overpayments in the millions.
The Australian Taxation Office's latest annual report discloses $470 million of overpayments were made through the JobKeeper scheme during the 2021 financial year, with roughly 38 per cent of those payments not being recouped.
"Of these overpayments, $89 million was recovered as at 30 June 2021 from ATO compliance cases and $91 million was voluntarily disclosed and repaid," the ATO said in its report.
"An additional $89 million is being pursued and approximately $180 million is not being pursued."
The ATO's admission that it won't claw back funds it deemed out of step with the requirements of the scheme comes after the tax office's head boss was referred to the Senate privileges committee in regards to JobKeeper.
Tax commissioner Chris Jordan refused to hand over the name of businesses with annual turnovers exceeding $10 million that had taken JobKeeper during the pandemic, prompting Labor, the Greens and the crossbench to vote in favour of the ATO boss being investigated for possible breaches of a lawful order made by the Senate.
Mr Jordan claimed revealing the names of the businesses would be in breach of confidential disclosure arrangements of the ATO.
Annual report tables show $121 million in JobKeeper receivables are yet to be recovered.
Approximately $88.8 billion was dished out by the ATO through the JobKeeper scheme, which was brought in at the beginning of the pandemic.
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The intent of the package was to fund employee wages during the shutdown, so workers could retain a link with their employer and prevent mass job shedding across the labour market.
The report states $193 million of funds had voluntarily been paid back to the ATO from companies during the financial period.
"Our estimate of the overall impact of our compliance work on JobKeeper overpayments reveals that $89 million was recovered, over $274 million was stopped, and we averted a further $763 million in likely incorrect claims in later periods," the ATO said.
Transparency over the wage subsidy scheme has been a fraught issue, with Labor, the Greens and a slew of independents calling for a public register to show which companies took JobKeeper and recorded increases in revenue turnover.
A business needed to show a 30 per cent downturn in revenue in order to qualify for the scheme which initially paid workers $1500 a fortnight.
Labor assistant treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh said there should be more information on why the $180 million is not being recouped by the ATO.
"I'd like to know more about the $180 million in JobKeeper overpayments that the tax office has declined to pursue," Dr Leigh said.
"Under the Morrison government, it looks like there's one rule for social security recipients, and another rule for corporate welfare recipients."
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has previously said the scheme was introduced at the height of the pandemic, when there was a high degree of uncertainty about the economic ramifications caused by lockdowns.
Within the annual report, close to $300,000 was paid by the ATO to advertising agency Universal McCann for campaigns relating to JobKeeper and people illegally accessing funds through the early release superannuation scheme.
The ATO claimed it stopped, recovered or prevented $1.1 billion in JobKeeper claims. It also noted its compliance on cash flow boost payments to businesses was able to stop $97 million in overpayments.
It also notes it had a "lighter touch compliance approach" as result of COVID-19, due to a number of resources needing to be shifted to assist pandemic payments and claims.
The number of penalties dished out by the ATO more than halved compared to financial year 2019, with only $219 million was collected in the past 12 months to June 30.
In total, the ATO administered $102 billion in payments, which is $54.8 billion higher than the prior financial reporting period and is primarily due to JobKeeper and cash flow boost payments.
JobKeeper ended in March and was replaced by disaster relief payments and support grants during the Delta outbreak of this year.
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