Jobkeeper Error Dubbed ‘Robodebt 2.0’ Could Mean 8000 Aussies Have To Repay Wage Subsidy

jobkeeper error

More than 8,000 small business owners across Australia may have to pay back the $1,500 per fortnight JobKeeper subsidy in what is already being dubbed “robodebt 2.0”.

According to The Guardian, the ATO confirmed on Thursday that sole traders who opened their businesses after January 1, 2020 could be forced to pay back their JobKeeper payments after a “compliance” checking procedure found they were never entitled to the subsidy.

Businesses impacted by the error received emails from the ATO within the last week, explaining that because they couldn’t cross-reference this year’s income with the 2018/19 financial year, their “entity would not have assessable business income” needed to be eligible for the subsidy.

“If we don’t hear anything within 14 days we will advise you that the entity will not receive further payments under this entitlement,” the email said.

“If you have made an honest mistake you may not have to repay amounts you have already received.”

This is particularly concerning considering many of these businesses have received $1,500 per fortnight since May, all of which they may be required to return to the ATO. For some sole traders who are already struggling financially, this could be as much as $6,000 out of pocket.

Many small business owners have flocked to social media and the ATO forum to discuss the issue, pointing out that the email seemingly contradicts the alternative test information available on the ATO website.

Thankfully, the letters received recently also seemingly offer a slight glimmer of hope for people who didn’t know they weren’t eligible, however it’s unclear how this will be tested.

“If you have made an honest mistake you may not have to repay amounts you have already received,” the letters said.

This was further confirmed by an ATO spokeswoman, who claims “the overwhelming majority of Australians are honest” and haven’t knowingly done the wrong thing.

“We are committed to supporting businesses and want to make JobKeeper payments to businesses as timely as possible, while balancing the need to maintain the integrity of the system,” the spokeswoman said, according to the AFR.

It is currently unclear how the business owners in question were able to receive payments in the first place without being alerted to their ineligibility.

The news comes after the government’s initial JobKeeper oopsie, which saw Treasurer Josh Frydenberg overestimate the program’s cost by a whopping $60B.

More to come.