CANBERRA, AAP – Australia’s tax commissioner has rebuffed the Senate’s demand to make public what government wage subsidies big companies have received.
The majority of senators have backed crossbencher Rex Patrick’s motion requiring the Australian Taxation Office to detail JobKeeper payments made to businesses with turnovers of more than $10 million.
Tax commissioner Chris Jordan has responded, saying doing so would breach tax confidentiality laws.
When parliament returns, which is scheduled for August 23, Senator Patrick will move another motion asking his colleagues to enforce compliance with the original order.
“At the point he doesn’t comply to an insistence, he puts himself in a position where he could be referred to (the) privileges committee – that would be a choice of the Senate,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
“In the past, I’ve made a motion that until such time as an order was complied with, the leader of the government in the Senate can’t sit at the table, which creates a very visual picture of the fact that there’s a non- compliance.”
Senator Patrick said he did not begrudge companies for receiving JobKeeper payments that kept workers tied to their employers while many were stood down.
“I have a concern where the money has been used for a purpose for which it wasn’t intended,” he said.
“All I’m asking for is the amount of public money that was paid to a company. That’s no different to saying, how much grant money did the commonwealth give a company or how much was a contract worth.”
In a letter tabled in parliament on Thursday, the tax commissioner warned revealing JobKeeper figures could make businesses less forthcoming with the ATO.
“We are mindful of the gravity of the order,” Mr Jordan said.
“However, we are concerned to ensure that the Senate is fully cognisant of the potential and serious implications for taxpayer confidentiality, and confidence in providing information to the commissioner, not just in the immediate case but as a general precedent.”
Earlier this week, the federal government and Labor voted down the senator’s amendment to a coronavirus financial support bill to include JobKeeper disclosure requirements for companies.