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Super guarantee: are you ready for ATO crack down?

036SuperGuaranteeAreYouReadyForATOCrackDownThe ATO is increasing its efforts to crack down on employers who fail to make quarterly superannuation guarantee (SG) contributions of 9.5% on behalf of their employees. If you are an employer, regardless of whether you run a small or large business, now might be a good time to review your SG obligations before the ATO comes knocking.

If a shortfall is discovered, simply rushing to make extra super contributions will not always be the best course of action. In fact, it can result in a double liability, so careful planning is required for dealing with any identified problems.

It is estimated that the shortfall – or gap – in SG payments could be around 5.2%, equivalent to $2.85 billion in missing super contributions (based on estimated figures for 2014–15). This gap is the difference between the theoretical amount due by employers to be fully compliant with their SG obligations and the actual contributions received by super funds. The Minister for Revenue said the failure of some employers to meet their SG obligations to employees has been a problem ever since SG was introduced in 1992.

ATO Deputy Commissioner, James O’Halloran reported recently: “While this analysis shows that 95% of the estimated superannuation guarantee is paid to employees, the gap exists because some employers appear not to be meeting their super guarantee obligations either by not paying enough or not paying it at all”. This follows recent pressure from a Senate Committee calling for the ATO to adopt stronger compliance activities, rather than its previous reactive approach.

In addition to following up all reports of unpaid SG, the ATO says it is increasing its proactive SG case work by a third this financial year. Mr O’Halloran added:

We have improved our analysis of data to detect patterns in non-payment, and are working more closely with other government agencies to exchange information

 Package of reforms

As if the Commissioner doesn’t have enough powers already, the Government has announced a package of reforms to give the ATO real-time visibility over SG compliance by employers. One of these involves additional ATO funding for a Superannuation Guarantee Taskforce to crack down on non-compliant employers.

Other key recommendations include the following:

Monthly contribution reporting

Superannuation funds will be required to report to the ATO on contributions received more frequently, at least monthly. The Government says this will enable the ATO to identify non-compliance and take prompt action. It has been noted that this move to more regular SG reporting will place a greater cost burden on super funds, especially smaller ones.

Single Touch Payroll (STP) roll out

Employers with 20 or more employees will transition to STP from 1 July 2018, while smaller employers (ie, those with 19 or less employees) will move to STP from 1 July 2019. Rather than being a check on businesses, this new system is designed to reduce the regulatory burden and transform compliance.

Director penalty notices

The issue of director penalty notices and the use of security bonds for high-risk employers are measures set to improve the effectiveness of the ATO’s recovery powers, to ensure that unpaid superannuation is collected and paid to employees’ super accounts.

Penalties by court order

The ATO will have the ability to seek court-ordered penalties in the most serious cases of non-payment, including those employers who are repeatedly caught but still fail to pay SG liabilities.

Super contribution due dates

Quarter ending Employer contribution due date Late contributions, SGC statement and payment due date

30 September

28 October

28 November

31 December

28 January

28 February

31 March

28 April

28 May

30 June

28 July

28 August

Employers are required to make quarterly super contributions of at least 9.5% of an employee’s ordinary time earnings. If the super fund receives the SG contributions by the quarterly due dates (see table) the contribution is tax-deductible for the employer, whereas a late payment is not tax-deductible.

Where an employer does not make sufficient quarterly super contributions by the due date, the employer becomes liable for the superannuation guarantee charge (SGC). The SGC is payable to the ATO and automatically arises as soon as the contributions are not made by the due date. This means that if an employer discovers a shortfall in SG contributions after the due date, making a contribution to the employee’s super fund to cover the shortfall isn’t always the best course of action as it may not reduce the SGC liability. Generally, an employer can only use late contributions to offset a portion of the SGC that relates to the relevant employee. However, a late contribution cannot be used to offset the SGC in respect of a person who is no longer an employee.

Fixing a SG problem

If you are expecting leniency from the ATO for a first offence, think again. The Commissioner does not have any discretion at law to remit the SGC itself. The best a non-compliant employer can hope for is that the ATO may remit the 200% additional SGC penalty that applies for the late lodgment of a SGC statement.

Employers can also request the ATO to defer the due date for lodgment of a SGC statement. However, a deferral of time to lodge the statement does not defer the time for payment. The ATO will generally only extend the due date for payment where there are circumstances beyond the employer’s control (eg, a natural disaster or illness) and the payment can be made in full at a later time (or by instalments).

Do you think you could have a problem with your SG obligations? Speak to us about your options before the ATO is on your doorstep.