ATO confirms Rattler was eligible for JobKeeper payments
Recent concerns that the Mary Valley Rattler may have been ineligible to receive JobKeeper support to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic have been quashed by the ATO following a review.
A spokesperson for the Rattler Railway Company confirmed the heritage railway had been told it was eligible for JobKeeper.
In October, it was announced the ATO was investigating the eligibility of the RRC’s JobKeeper claims at the request of the Queensland Audit Office as part of the Gympie Regional Council’s full organisational review, which included the Rattler and its finances.
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The tax office criteria for the payment said employers were only eligible if they met all requirements; including not being in one of the ineligible categories, one of which is entities “wholly owned by an Australian government agency or local governing body”.
The RRC had applied – and been approved – for JobKeeper after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Rattler to suspend operations in March, slashing its revenues and potentially forcing a mass lay-off of its workforce.
The RRC is not fully owned by the Gympie Regional Council, as some understood. The ATO has confirmed the RRC is a not-for-profit, member-based organisation, limited by guarantee, which therefore met all the criteria of JobKeeper.
A RRC spokesperson said they sought clarification from the ATO despite receiving initial advice that they met the eligibility requirements.
Reaffirming RRC’s eligibility, the written advice from the ATO stated that “Rattler is not excluded as an eligible employer by section 7(2)(d) of the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Rules 2020.”
RRC chair Ian McNicol said the JobKeeper support provided a lifeline during the pandemic, enabling the organisation to maintain most local jobs.
“While tourism services had to be suspended for four months, we were able to use the time to concentrate on enhancing our maintenance and safety, as well as developing a business recovery program,” Mr Nichol said.
“Despite the difficult conditions and disruptions caused by border closures, RRC has been able to achieve an operating profit over the first four months of the current financial year.
“RRC achieved this profit through introducing new products, which has increased the revenue base, whilst concentrating on cost reduction.
“As we are a not for profit organisation, any income generated after expenses is redirected into the maintenance of our heritage rolling stock.”
Mr McNicol said this was a testimony to the dedication shown by the RRC staff and volunteers, who were the “heart” of the Rattler’s success story.