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Plutus Payroll offered payroll services for zero commission
Nine charged over alleged $165m ATO fraud
Julie Watts, a contractor for the federal Department of Industry, could not believe the incredible deal Plutus Payroll was offering.
Watts, a Canberra-based project manager, used reputable recruitment firms such as Hays and Hudson to find contracting work with various government departments. She used an external payroll firm to calculate and pay her taxes and then pass the cash on to her.
Then one large recruitment firm, which Watts declined to name, recommended she use Plutus. Whereas other external payroll firms charged 2 to 3 percent commission, Plutus charged zero commission and also gave her a cheap deal on Medibank Private health insurance and a cheap novated lease on her car. “It seemed too good to be true,” Watts said.
She is only now realising how justified her fears were as the Federal Police has brought charges against Plutus Payroll executives over a $165 million tax scam and she is short several months salary and superannuation.
In Watts case, while she dealt with a man who she believed to be an employee of Plutus Payroll, her pay slips were issued by a company called PP Services (ACT) Pty Ltd. That company name is not registered. But it shares an ABN with a company called PP Services (WA) whose sole director is a 33 year-old resident of the NSW South Coast town of Gerroa.
Watts discovered how little she knew about PP Services (ACT) a few weeks ago when it stopped paying her salary. Senator Doug Cameron who received tens of similar complaints for PP Services WA was unable to trace the director.
The Federal Police now alleges that Plutus could afford to offer its services free of charge because it was skimming off a big chunk of the income tax that it should have paid to the government. “Funds paid by legitimate clients to service tax obligations were allegedly diverted by the syndicate for their own personal gain,” the AFP alleges.
It appears that Plutus Payroll operated a schizophrenic business model. One one hand, its front end undertook glitzy marketing to convince recruitment companies and labour hire firms to switch contractors to their services.
A former Plutus director Simon Anquetil, who was one of the people charged on Thursday, posted from Sydney on his Facebook page on August 13, 2014 inviting recruiters to introductory drinks.
“Do I have any recruiter friends. If yes feel free to come along to drinks Thursday night at the Hilton from 5pm to 7pm. Apparently you can earn up to $900 for referring contractors.”
At last year’s end of financial year party in Canberra’s QT Hotel it offered to match dollar for dollar donations to a mental health charity called BATYR. Former Miss Australia and Miss Oceania Erin Holland was paid to appear at Plutus functions and posted effusively on its facebook page.
On the other hand Plutus Payroll provided its services to its clients via second tier companies which had no apparent assets and whose directors lived in lowly outer suburbs of Sydney.
Senator’s Cameron’s office ran checks on the companies which were listed on the payslips of the employees who came to him to complain when their salary stopped.
The sole director of one company PP Aus Holdings was a 22-year old tradesman from Beverley Hills in Sydney’s south. Another was a 25-year-old plumber. They were mostly friends on Facebook.
Many of the second tier service companies were set up in June 2016 shortly after Anquetil transferred his shares in Plutus to a company called Synep.
It is unclear who owned Synep because of a complicated corporate structure established a few months before but the secretary and one of three directors was Adam Cranston, son of the deputy tax commissioner.