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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21835

Ms Jackson asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 19 September 2002:

(1) What mechanisms, if any, has the Minister put in place to ensure that employers comply with their obligations under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act.

(2) Is employer non-compliance with the Act a serious issue for many Australians trying to plan for their retirement, if not, why not.

(3) Has the current system of self-assessment resulted in an estimated 28%, or 216,000 of the 800,000 employers not paying their employees' superannuation guarantee contributions correctly.

(4) Did the Minister send a letter dated 24th July 2002 to me regarding a Hasluck constituent, Ms J Baker; if so, is the situation in which Ms J Baker finds herself, where her employer has underpaid her superannuation guarantee from 1997 to 2001, unacceptable.

(5) Does the Howard Government's current system of self-assessment allow employers to continue to underpay or not pay superannuation guarantee contributions; if not, why not.

(6) Why are workers unable to access information about their employer's non-payment of superannuation monies from the Australian Taxation Office.

(7) Why are employers who have not met their obligations under the Act protected under section 45 of the Act.

Mr Costello (Treasurer) —The Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)-(7) Independent SG compliance surveys have, historically, been commissioned by the ATO. Information in relation to employer compliance with the SG can be found in the relevant Annual Reports published by the Commissioner of Taxation. These surveys have consistently found that the vast majority of employers make superannuation contributions for their employees. Only about one per cent of employers fail to make any superannuation contributions.

The Superannuation Guarantee regime operates on a self-assessment basis. The self-assessment obligation has always been a fundamental part of the regime, as introduced by the Labor government in 1992.

The ATO follows up all employers that are identified as not doing the right thing. The compliance strategies of the ATO mean that employers not making the correct level of contributions for their employees are very likely to be detected and followed up.

The ATO has a comprehensive general compliance strategy for the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) regime. This involves a mixture of audit and educational/communication activities. The major SG audit activities include investigation of:

all complaints made by employees;

complaints made by superannuation providers and other members of the community;

employers identified as “at risk” from other ATO activities, such as debt collection and field visits/audits; and

employers identified as “at risk” from analysis of data available to the ATO.

Education and communication activities undertaken by the ATO to inform employers of their SG obligations include:

Telephone and written enquiry services;

Publications, fact sheets and other information available from ATO offices, fax back services, ATO website and other government websites;

Presentation at seminars and conferences;

Stands at exhibitions and trade shows;

New employer education program (`Bizstart' Program);

SG rate rise campaigns over the past few years;

Leveraging information through intermediaries, industry groups, employer and employee associations;

Taxtime education program held in July and November each year;

Industry forums and meetings;

E-mail subscription service for latest updates;

Various ATO newsletter programs; and

SG reminder mailouts.

Whilst it is inconsistent with the secrecy provisions contained in the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 to disclose information about particular employers and employees, the government views compliance with superannuation obligations as a very important issue. Specifically, section 45 of the Act prevents the recording or disclosure of protected information concerning another person. This has the effect of preventing the details of an employer's Superannuation Guarantee Charge from being disclosed to an employee. Whilst this section protects the privacy of the employer, it does not provide protection for employers failing to meet their obligations. As has already been outlined, the ATO follows up every single employee notification of non-payment of contributions.