Apprentice wage subsidy faces data matching crackdown

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Apprentice wage subsidy faces data matching crackdown

Education dept to access ATO data to stop JobKeeper double-dipping.

Almost 120,000 apprentices will have their data matched against the Australian Taxation Office’s holdings to check whether their employers are rorting the government’s coronavirus wage subsidies.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) has kicked off a data matching program to “confirm eligibility and mitigate risk” around the supporting apprentices and trainees (SAT) measure.

Under SAT, the government will pay half an apprentice’s or trainee’s wage until 31 March 2021 if they are employed by an eligible small or medium-sized business, or to any employer that has re-engaged an eligible apprentice.

However, employers that claim the SAT wage subsidy for an apprentice are “not eligible” to also claim the fortnightly $1500 JobKeeper wage subsidy for that same apprentice from the government.

The department said the matching program, which begins this week, would allow it to verify the eligibility of employers for SAT, while ensuring that employers are not claiming both SAT and the JobKeeper payment to avoid double-dipping.

“The data matching program seeks to match details held at DESE with the ATO to identify employers who have incorrectly claimed under the SAT measure,” the data matching protocol [pdf] states.

“This information will be used to conduct further investigations and develop guidance for SAT stakeholders.

"Undertaking this data matching program will assist in protecting public revenue and maintaining community confidence in the integrity of the SAT measure.”

The program will see DESE provide the ATO with information relating to employers and apprentices from its training and youth internet management system, as well as “SmartForms completed by employers”.

Using a “manual process”, the ATO will then match the data against their data holdings, with any “discrepancies and anomalies” to be dealt with on a “case-by-case basis”, the department said.

“Corrective treatment may involve seeking further information from employers and providing them with the opportunity for record correction,” the data matching protocol states. 

The records of “around 117,000 apprentices and trainees and more than 70,000 employers” are expected to be captured and held in undisclosed “secure data platforms” as part of the program.

The program, which is expected to “promote voluntary compliance”, is the second data matching program connected with the government’s coronavirus wage subsidies since they were introduced in March.

In June, the ATO revealed its own data matching program to verify eligibility for the government's early access superannuation and JobKeeper schemes in a bid to crackdown on inappropriate access

The program involves sourcing data from Services Australia, as well as state and territory correctional facility regulators, to confirm whether government payments were also made to scheme applicants.

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