In October last year we introduced you to a client named Katrina through an article titled SUPER… What happens when it is not paid? Katrina is still wondering “Where is my superannuation?”

Katrina worked on a salary for the same employer for almost 10 years. She turned up for work every day, was loyal and did everything she could to advance her employer’s interests. Unfortunately her former employer did not pay her Superannuation Guarantee on time. Not once during her period of employment was this ever paid on time.

Not only did her employer fail to pay her superannuation, he didn’t follow any of the reporting requirements outlined by the Australian Taxation Office, nor did he offer any explanation, provide any reconciliation reports, or make any attempt to address this issue or even apologise to Katrina in any way. It would appear that he is happy to ignore the issue entirely and hope it will go away.

Whilst devastating for Katrina, she is not alone. There have been several instances in the last 12 months of employers across the country both big and small who may have failed (or be about to fail) to pay their employees superannuation. Even nationally known companies like Dick Smith and 7-Eleven have recently been in the headlines regarding employee entitlements.

What has happened since October?

In late October PTAM assisted Katrina in lodging a second enquiry to the Australian Taxation Office and it is pleasing to note that the ATO responded very quickly with Katrina receiving a letter confirming that this new enquiry was underway.

This is where the good news ends and there have been no further updates from the ATO.

Three months later on 4th February 2016 Katrina called the ATO requesting an update and “Brett” advised that “The ATO were still pursuing information from the employer” and that “if nothing is received by the end of May you should call back”. So when the organisation that is empowered to oversee the payment of superannuation cannot provide a response any better than call back in 6 months if nothing has happened, it is more than a little worrying. Justifiably Katrina is frustrated at the pace of the enquiry, the lack of information and a seemingly ineffective regulatory agency.

Katrina estimates that her former employer owes her $7,500.00 in unpaid superannuation. This amount would obviously be invaluable to her in retirement and its recovery must be pursued.

What are the next steps?

On 16 February PTAM contacted the Inspector General of Taxation (an independent statutory agency which oversees the conduct of the Australian Taxation Office) to submit a formal complaint regarding the slow progress of the enquiry.

The IGT requested complete details of our complaint including Katrina’s particulars, all correspondence we have had with the ATO on the matter and a confirmation of what our objectives were in relation to lodging the complaint.

We advised that there were three main objectives:

  1. Recovery of the superannuation;
  2. ATO action and regular communication;
  3. Improvement of the system for the general public.

Specifically our complaint addressed the lack of information provided to Katrina, the length of time between communications and the apparent inability to recover the unpaid superannuation at all. Without any type of reconciliation provided how can an individual know what they have been paid or should be paid?

We suggested to the IGT that it appears that under the current system of reporting and recovery an employer could abandon their statutory obligations and there is no recourse. Whilst admitting that the ATO can only report based on what information the employer provides them, it was agreed that the process is severely lacking.

We were advised by the IGT that once the complaint had been submitted, the service standard for a response would be 3 days with a detailed response expected within 10 days. Further it was advised that we would be kept up to date through all stages of the complaint process. So far the IGT have been true to their word and the following has occurred:

  • The officer who took our initial enquiry has been assigned as our case officer;
  • A formal response outlining details of our discussion was received within 24 hours of the first contact;
  • The next day we received a confirmation that the complaint had been lodged and registered with the ATO;
  • Advice has been provided outlining the process the ATO will now adopt. The ATO Complaints Unit will now deal with us directly. This Unit has stated it aims to contact us within 3 business days and resolve the complaint within 15 business days.

Through all correspondence so far the IGT have provided a case and document reference number, a call back option with direct access to our case manager as well as an email option for correspondence.

We will now continue to work with the IGT through the ATO complaints process.

However, as positive as our dealings have been so far with the IGT we have already prepared for the next course of action in the event that we hit another brick wall.This includes addressing our concerns with our State and Federal Members of Parliament as well as media organisations. Hopefully we will be able to report a positive outcome in our next update but If you find yourself in the same position as Katrina please let us know.

Peter McCarthy

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