The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) has commenced a new ongoing data-matching program with the ATO in relation to the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees (SAT) measure. The program seeks to confirm the eligibility of employers receiving the subsidy, as well as stamp out any potential double-dipping of government assistance. It is estimated that around 117,000 apprentices and trainees and more than 70,000 employers could be affected.
Under SAT, employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50% of the apprentice's or trainee's wage paid until 31 March 2021. To be eligible, an apprentice must have been in an Australian apprenticeship with a small business as at 1 March 2020. The SAT program has since been expanded to include medium sized businesses that had an apprentice in place on 1 July 2020. Employers of any size who re-engage an eligible out-of-trade apprentice are also eligible to claim the SAT wage subsidy. However, there are restrictions on when an employer can claim SAT for an eligible apprentice.
The objective of the new data-matching program, as stated by the DESE, is to confirm that an employer is eligible to receive the SAT subsidy and to validate information provided by the employer. It also seeks to confirm that employers are not claiming both SAT and JobKeeper support at the same time for the same employee.
It is estimated that data relating to around 117,000 apprentices and trainees and more than 70,000 employers will be transferred between DESE and the ATO. While the first data-matching activity is intended to be conducted as soon as possible, it is expected the program will be ongoing, with data transfer to occur at regular intervals as required over the life of the SAT measure.
The data-matching will occur in several steps. The DESE will first provide the ATO with information relating to employers and apprentices that has been extracted from DESE systems, including the Training and Youth Internet Management System (TYIMS) and SmartForms completed by employers. The ATO will match that information against its own data holdings and identify employers that claimed eligibility for SAT as a small business or claimed the SAT wage subsidy and the JobKeeper at the same time for the same individual.
To avoid mistakes, the ATO will be using sophisticated matching techniques which use multiple details to obtain an identity match (eg name, address, date of birth). Additional manual processes may also be undertaken where a high-confidence identity match does not occur. This involves an ATO officer reviewing and comparing third-party data identity elements against ATO information on a one-on-one basis, seeking sufficient common indicators to allow confirmation (or not) of an individual's or business's identity.
The DESE will then use the information sourced from the ATO to verify its own data holding, and a manual process will be undertaken by a DESE officer to compare the information. All discrepancies and anomalies will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
In instances where the DESE detects a discrepancy or an anomaly that requires verification, it will contact the business and provide them with an opportunity to verify the accuracy of the information on which the eligibility was based.
According to the DESE, businesses will be given at least 28 days to respond and any relevant individual circumstances will be taken into consideration.