Reporting errors and success fighting Covid-19 slash cost of Australian wage support scheme

22 May 20

Australia has halved the number of people’s wages it expects to subsidise as part of its Covid-19 economic rescue package, blaming reporting errors for the confusion.

More than 900,000 businesses self-assessed as eligible for the ‘JobKeeper’ scheme, and their forms suggested about 6.5 million workers would be covered, but the Australian Tax Office has reviewed the forms and found about 1,000 businesses made “significant errors”.

The most common error was reporting the amount of financial assistance the business expected to receive instead of the number of employees eligible, so ‘one’ would have become 1,500 — the amount of dollars the firm would expect to receive for each employee per fortnight.

The Australian Treasury had expected the scheme to cost about $130bn (£70bn), and subsidise about 6.5 million people’s wages, but it now predicts it will cost about $70bn (£37bn) and cover about 3.5 million workers.

Successful efforts to control the virus also played a part in reducing the number of businesses set to rely on the JobKeeper programme, the Treasury and the Tax Office said in a joint statement.

“The difference between Treasury’s estimates at the time and the number of employees now accessing the JobKeeper programme partly reflects the level and impact of health restrictions not having been as severe as expected and their imposition not having been maintained for as long as expected at the time,” the bodies said.

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