Secret plan to boot thousands off JobKeeper
Prime Minister Scott Morrison considered a secret plan to boot hundreds of thousands of sole traders off JobKeeper but the proposal to introduce even tougher rules was abandoned in the wake of the second Melbourne lockdown.
Senior ministers have confirmed that a plan to restrict access to the revamped JobKeeper 2.0 for sole traders was considered in recent months.
But sole traders represent such a compliance concern for the Australian Taxation Office that news.com.au understands the Morrison Government canvassed plans for even tougher rules that would have made it much harder for sole traders to qualify.
These plans were scuttled in recent weeks after a new spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne and fears that excluding sole traders could have a devastating impact on Victorian workers who were forced into a second lockdown.
One of the biggest concerns was that it is easier for sole traders to "cook the books" and delay invoices to qualify for the turnover test that requires proof of a 30 per cent downturn.
According to the Treasury review of the JobKeeper scheme, there are around 350,000 sole traders currently securing JobKeeper.
"Sole traders make up 40 per cent of organisations which have received the JobKeeper payment … but just 12 per cent of individual recipients,'' the report states.
"This is reflected in an industry like construction, which had the largest number of JobKeeper applications processed for April, but ranked third in the number of individual recipients."
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister highlighted sole traders when he announced the revamped JobKeeper which will extend the scheme but at a lower rate of $1200 a fortnight.
"The inclusion of sole traders too, I think is a very important point, for them to keep their businesses open,'' the Prime Minister said.
"The fact we're maintaining the easing of eligibility for sole traders both on Jobseeker and their continuing access to JobKeeper out to the end of this year I think is important."
But on the same day that the Prime Minister held that press conference, the Treasury released material suggesting that sole traders would be kicked off the scheme.
The bungled fact sheet on the Treasury website informed sole traders they would be unable to access the scheme from September 28.
"Non-employing businesses will no longer be eligible for the JobKeeper payment from this date," the website said.
A spokesman for Mr Frydenberg dismissed the error as a mistake, telling the Herald Sun that "Treasury uploaded incorrect information to its website."
"Sole traders are and continue to be part of the JobKeeper program which will run until March next year," the spokesman said.
But the error in fact reflects an earlier plan that would have struck off thousands of sole traders.
Labor's treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers said it was now clear the Prime Minister needed to come clean on the secret plan to exclude sole traders.
"Sole traders need this urgently clarified,'' he told news.com.au.
"Did the Treasurer consider excluding them or not? Too many people are left out of JobKeeper and left behind as it is."
Originally published as Secret plan to boot thousands off JobKeeper