22 December 2020
On 21 December 2020, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) directed the Commissioner of Taxation (Commissioner) to register the small business applicant for JobKeeper in the nation's first JobKeeper eligibility review – a case led by Holding Redlich’s national tax litigation and disputes team.
The case, which we discussed here, involves a sole trader (Applicant) being denied JobKeeper by the Commissioner because he did not have an active ABN on 12 March 2020. However, the Applicant had his old ABN reactivated with an effective date in 2019 (i.e. before 12 March 2020). Although the JobKeeper legislation gives the Commissioner a discretion to provide the Applicant with additional time after 12 March 2020 to comply with the requirements, the Commissioner refused to exercise his discretion and stated that this was not a decision that could be reviewed by the AAT.
The AAT held that:
In reaching these conclusions, the AAT said that JobKeeper applications should be considered in a way that does not create procedural obstacles to ensure qualified businesses can gain access to the scheme. In particular:
"The JobKeeper scheme was created to deliver urgent assistance to active businesses with a minimum of fuss in the context of a pandemic. The Rules provided for a streamlined decision-making process that permitted the Commissioner to quickly and flexibly assess applications for payments. An interpretation that tended to create procedural obstacles to (or discontinuities in) the streamlined decision-making process would be inimical to that purpose."
What does this mean?
Small businesses that have been refused JobKeeper might now qualify for JobKeeper – and be entitled to make claims back until the beginning of the scheme in April 2020. It will probably take some time for the ATO to decide its response to the decision and review all affected cases.
In the meantime, business owners need to ensure their rights are protected. There are strict timeframes for filing objections and appeals. If you don’t comply with those timelines, you can lose your rights to JobKeeper. Before closing off for the year, do a quick check of any adverse JobKeeper decisions to see whether you need to file objections or appeals. Don’t let time limits lapse.
If you or your clients are experiencing JobKeeper challenges with the ATO, particularly with the use of one of the Commissioner's discretions, please contact our team for assistance.
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.