Super Guarantee: What Happens When You Get It Wrong?

The ATO receives around 20,000 reports each year from people who believe their employer has either not paid or underpaid compulsory superannuation guarantee (SG). In 2015-16 the ATO investigated 21,000 cases raising $670 million in SG and penalties. 

The ATO’s own risk assessments suggest that between 11% and 20% of employers could be non-compliant with their SG obligations and that non-compliance is “endemic, especially in small businesses and industries where a large number of cash transactions and contracting arrangements occur.” 

So what happens if your business gets SG compliance wrong? 

Under the superannuation guarantee legislation, every Australian employer has an obligation to pay 9.5% Superannuation Guarantee Levy for their employees unless the employee falls within a specific exemption.  Super guarantee payments are calculated on Ordinary Times Earnings – which is salary and wages including things like commissions, shift loadings and allowances, but not overtime payments. 

Employers that fail to make their superannuation guarantee payments on time need to pay the SG charge and lodge a Superannuation Guarantee Statement.  The SG charge applies even if you pay the outstanding super soon after the deadline. 

The SG charge is particularly painful for employers because it is comprised of:

  • The employee’s superannuation guarantee shortfall amount – so, all of the superannuation guarantee owing;
  • Interest of 10% per annum; and
  • An administration fee of $20 for each employee with a shortfall per quarter.  

Unlike normal superannuation guarantee contributions, SG charge amounts are not deductible, even if you pay the outstanding amount.  That is, if you pay SG late, you can no longer deduct the SG amount even if you bring the payment up to date. 

The penalties imposed on the employer for failing to meet SG obligations on time might seem harsh, but they have been designed that way on purpose. This is really money that belongs to the employee and should be sitting in their superannuation fund earning further income to support the employee in their retirement.  The best way to avoid penalties is to make your super payments on time, every time. 

Directors are personally liable for unpaid SG

Where attempts have failed to recover superannuation guarantee from the employer, the directors of a company automatically become personally liable for a penalty equal to the unpaid amount. 

Directors who receive penalty notices need to take action to deal with this – speaking with a legal adviser or accountant is a good starting point. 

If you are uncertain about your SG obligations or would like a compliance audit of this and other key risk areas of your business, contact us today.



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