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Plutus Payroll victims asked to explain themselves to receiver

Deloitte trying to figure out who to pay first – or maybe who to pay at all

Contractors left out of pocket by the collapse of alleged tax-skimming scammers Plutus Payroll have been asked to provide copious details of their employment history by receiver Deloitte, which appears to have few details of claimants’ status or relationship to Plutus and its associated companies.

Plutus Payroll collapsed in May 2017 after it was discovered the organisation operated several interrelated companies that lured IT contractors with a zero-fee payroll service made possible by tax fraud. As investigations into the company came to their crescendo, it stopped paying workers. Plutus Executives have since been charged and the companies no longer trade, leaving plenty of former customers out of pocket.

Deloitte was appointed receiver of the companies in October 2017 and has now sent a letter to former Plutus Clients that says “We are in the process of reviewing your claim but require additional information from you … to determine whether your claim properly relates to … one of the [Plutus] Companies (and, if so, which one); or another entity, for example, a recruiter or labour hire company that engaged you to provide services to another business, or a client of the recruiter or labour hire company.”

The letter goes on to ask for details of which of the ten Plutus companies paid former customers of the now-defunct payment operation. The eleven-page quiz also asks contractors how they came to use Plutus’ services, requests details of the company at which they worked. Other questions ask whether Plutus contractors were offered a formal induction, and by whom.

Questions like that have worried folk owed money: a private social media group for Plutus workers contains speculation that Deloitte is trying to either shift liability to recruiters or labour hire companies.

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But an employment lawyer to whom The Register spoke, but who requested anonymity in order not to earn the ire of mega-firm Deloitte, told us such worries may be unfounded because the quiz appears to offer creditors every chance to establish their status as employees.

However our source said establishing employee status may be tricky. Payroll firms make it possible for businesses to secure skilled workers without having to hire them and therefore incur the obligations that come with full-time employment. Workers are sometimes the employee of a labour hire firm or payroll company, even though they do all their actual work at another company. Such arrangements can keep costs lower for businesses and offer tax advantages for workers. Getting such arrangement right, however, requires some care as Australian authorities have various tests to ensure businesses aren’t just trying to avoid hiring full-time workers, or that workers aren’t trying to avoid tax.

Our source therefore counselled taking great care when completing the form, to stay on the right side of the law and also because employers get higher priority than other creditors during corporate windups.

Our source also said that Deloitte letter’s intentions seem to be honourable.

Several former Plutus executives are due in court later in 2018. Vulture South will try to cover their cases. ®

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