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ATO failed to collect billions in superannuation

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The audit office said enforcement pauses during the bushfires and coronavirus pandemic meant the Tax Office was only partially effective in using its debt recovery powers. Stronger enforcement powers “have largely not been exercised”, and firm compliance activity was used less frequently.

In a speech before the release of the report, Labor’s superannuation spokesman, Stephen Jones, said Australians were losing billions of dollars a year in unpaid super.

‘Every dollar of unpaid super is a dollar that a retiree is not getting.’

Labor’s superannuation spokesman, Stephen Jones

“Every dollar of unpaid super is a dollar that a retiree is not getting,” he said. “The Morrison government knows about it but they just don’t care. Labor plans to take the issue head-on.”

Jones said Labor would require the Tax Office to set tough and transparent targets to recover unpaid superannuation, and require those results to be reported to parliament annually. Superannuation Minister Jane Hume was contacted for comment.

Setting targets was one of three recommendations from the audit report. The Tax Office agreed to all three, which included making more use of its enforcement powers, but with qualifications on setting targets.

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“[We] note that we will explore opportunities to enhance our performance measures and commentary on [super guarantee] performance information,” the ATO said in response.

Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean said the Tax Office needed to do better.

“It is little wonder the regulator performs so badly considering the auditor-general’s finding that the ATO does little proactive enforcement, instead relying on workers to make a report and do all the heavy lifting,” he said.

ACTU assistant secretary Scott Connolly said recovering less than 15 per cent of unpaid super was an “appalling record” that would leave millions of workers worse off in retirement.

“Australian workers are losing $5 billion per year through a system which allocates 13 full-time staff to the proactive policing of the theft of super nationally,” Connolly said.

Dean said Labor’s commitment to strengthen Tax Office compliance was a step in the right direction, but the next big step was to require employers to pay super at the same time as workers’ wages rather than four times a year as currently required.

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