Skip to main content

How technology can stop the next payroll fraud


How technology can stop the next payroll fraud

By Robin Beauchamp, CEO, Integrated Payment Technologies (InPayTech).

The Plutus payroll scandal has been labelled Australia’s largest white-collar crime, with increasing calls for additional legislative crackdowns on those entrusted to process the pay, benefits and taxation of working people.

The alleged $165 million Plutus payroll scandal could have been avoided if employers automated payments directly to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and authorised taxation payments themselves, rather than relying on a ‘bulk billing’ third-party payroll company to make such payments. Only by authorising payroll payments themselves can employers eliminate the risk of such fraud entirely.

Learnings from the case highlight that payroll is a critical business function which can’t be ‘bulk billed’ without the risk of fraud. Employers need to get it right from the start.

That’s because your payroll is extremely important; it’s the reason why your employees get out of bed every day to be with you – because they get paid. Organisations should therefore keep their payroll authorisations in-house to make sure their employees get paid all their entitlements. Only by authorising themselves can the risk of fraud be entirely eliminated as it takes away the opportunity from third parties to pocket monies intended for others.

Indeed, no amount of additional laws can prevent those third parties with the knowledge, resources and criminal intent to illegally exploit existing systemic loopholes. ‘Bulk billing’ will always carry this risk.

In the Plutus Payroll fraud, the payroll company itself defrauded millions of dollars from employers, money intended for the Australian Taxation Office. While the ATO is still chasing those payments, employers remain out of pocket and liable for those payments that went missing. Trusting Plutus was a bad move. But trusting any third party can expose you to this risk.

That’s why embracing the authorisation process yourself is the safest option. There is a temptation to think the payroll process is too hard and needs to be entirely outsourced by businesses that do not have time to do it. However, this type of thinking can lead to problems. Finding the right technology can make the payroll process much easier – and much more secure if businesses authorise the payments themselves directly to recipients.
InPayTech has developed a unique payments technology, PayVu, which delivers a greater certainty for employers, their agents and the ATO as it fully automates payroll and tax payments. This solution is immediately available to every employer in the nation right now.

PayVu is like an overlay service that will sit over the top of the New Payments Platform (NPP), due to be introduced later this year. The NPP will enable businesses and government agencies to make faster payments, with near real-time funds availability to the recipient, on a 24/7 basis, so public holidays and weekends won’t slow down payments. Each payment message will be capable of carrying much richer remittance information than existing systems.

Importantly, PayVu bridges the gap between accounting and payroll systems and the ATO. The product gives time back to business owners and their bookkeepers by reducing the payment process from hours to minutes and it adds certainty to the outcome by ensuring payments are received by the intended recipients virtually on the same day they are made.

PayVu therefore eliminates the need for employers to outsource the authorisation of payments and it therefore removes the opportunity for illegal behaviour. The massive scale of the Plutus case highlights why it is so important to act now to in-source the authorisation function.

About InPayTech

Integrated Payment Technologies Limited (InPayTech) is an Australian financial technology business that has designed an innovative overlay capability with broad domestic and global applications across banking, wealth management, pensions and financial services.

During its Initial Public Offer process and subsequent listing to the ASX on December 16, 2016, InPayTech highlighted its intention to create new business initiatives to commercialise patents approved and pending around the world. PayVu is the first such initiative from InPayTech Limited.

Understanding the NPP and its benefits


Understanding the NPP and its benefits

The New Payments Platform (NPP) is a national payments infrastructure being developed for the Australian economy. It will give consumers, businesses and government departments a platform to make payments virtually in real time.

In times past, getting access to cash depended on going into a bank during branch hours and withdrawing money.  Today, people can access money via ATMs, EFTPOS, online payments, contactless cards and mobile payments. The NPP will speed up these payments even more, taking them close to real time.

The NPP is being developed collaboratively by 13 financial institutions, including all the big banks and several other banks. Once it goes live later this year, it’s expected that 80 per cent of all Australian bank accounts will be able to receive payments by the NPP. This will increase as more financial institutions connect to the NPP.

Not only will payments be faster, but they will be completed with ‘remittance information’ or details about the payment. Payments will be addressed to a payee’s unique identifier, so there is less chance of money ending up in the wrong account.

How the payments system will work?

The NPP works through three parts:

1. The Basic Infrastructure.
This is a network which will connect all participants.  The network includes a switch, which moves messages between participants and an ‘Addressing Service,’ which enables transaction accounts to be identified by a payment address such as an email address, phone number or ABN number.

2. The Fast Settlement Service
The Fast Settlement Service (FSS) is provided by the Reserve Bank of Australia which enables every single payment made on the NPP to be settled in real-time.

3. Overlay Services
An overlay is a computer network which is built on top of the basic infrastructure.  The NPP infrastructure will eventually support multiple overlay services, which will deliver additional payment services.

The benefits of the NPP:

Customers of financial institutions connected to the NPP will be able to make or receive payments in a matter of seconds.  Real-time settlement means businesses can also make and receive payments more quickly. This will speed up cash flows for everybody.

There will also be less scope for payments to the wrong account. The Addressing Service will enable payments to be directed to any recipient using their phone number, email address, ABN or organisational identifier, even if you don’t know that person’s bank account number.

For bookkeepers, this will reduce the time taken to reconcile accounts. Accounting systems, for example, will be able to match payments against invoices using a person’s payment address.

The platform also enables more information to be conveyed with payments, including the attachment of documents like invoices and receipts.

Questions that you were too afraid to ask:

Q. What’s the point of the NPP?

A. There are three key benefits of the NPP:

  • Speed: the ability to make payments in real time, with close to immediate funds availability to payees outside normal banking hours.
  • Data enriched: the ability to send more information with payments.
  • Simple Addressing: A system to more easily address payments to recipients using their phone number, email address, ABN or organisational identifier.

Q. Who will run the NPP?

A. NPP Australia Limited (NPPA) was formed in December 2014 to build and operate the NPP. The company is owned by the 13 financial institutions participating in the NPP: the ANZ, CBA, NAB, Westpac, Cuscal, ING Direct, HSBC, Macquarie, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Citigroup, Indue, Australian Settlements Limited and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Q. When will the NPP be operational?

A. The NPP is currently being tested by NPP Australia and could become available from November 2017.

Q. Will I pay money to use the NPP?

A. That will depend on your bank. Pricing for use of the NPP will be at the discretion of participating banks and other participants.

Q. Can I move bank accounts more easily?

A. Users of the NPP’s Addressing Service, which allows customers to send payments to a nominated account via a unique identifier, such as a mobile phone number or email address, will be able to switch payments between accounts more easily. So, while the NPP has not been designed to support account switching, it does empower consumers to redirect payments to other accounts through the use of their unique identifier.

Q. What is an overlay?

A. Overlay systems will leverage the NPP’s basic infrastructure and provide tailored payment services. Overlays are like apps which enhance or expand the service delivered by the NPP’s basic infrastructure. NPP Australia, the company formed to operate the platform, predicts the development of several overlay services once the NPP is operational.

Q. What kind of products and services could overlays deliver?

A. As payments made by the NPP will be data rich, the opportunities to speed up payments in funds management, securities trading and in the insurance and superannuation industry are numerous.

The first overlay to be launched on the NPP will be delivered by BPAY via participating institutions. It will be a convenient and accessible service for consumers to send payments from their bank account at any time to payees using addresses such as a mobile phone number or email address, with fast and data-rich availability of cleared funds.

Q. Why is the Reserve Bank of Australia involved with the NPP?

A. Having the RBA connected directly to the NPP will allow real-time settlement between the participating financial institutions.