Some business who claimed the wage subsidy could get a nasty surprise if they are ever subject to an audit.

The subsidy scheme has been a lifesaver for many businesses across the economy, first for 12 weeks for businesses with revenue down 30 per cent and then for eight weeks if revenue was down 40 per cent.

The process was easy and pretty straightforward for most who claimed. You put in your application and you got the money paid out. But in the declarations, if you look a little deeper, is the requirement from the Ministry of Social Development that businesses applying already have considered other ways of getting through, such as talking to the bank or dipping into their reserves.

That means, on the face of it, many big businesses with substantial cash in the bank and investments should not have accepted more government money to stay afloat.


Generally, the ministry isn't going to ring every business that applied and ask whether they asked a bank for a loan first. And you're not going to be asked to repay your subsidy if you might have had the option of borrowing some high-interest money on a loan that would have put you out of business further down the track.

But the ministry says it's something that will be considered if there's ever a complaint about a business that sparks an audit.

Now that we are through the initial round of the subsidy, it's worth doing a quick check to make sure that you are still confident that you met the criteria.

Many businesses have found that, after an initial March panic, their revenue drop wasn't as much as they expected. That's meant many have paid their subsidy back.

Not being honest about this could create problems down the track, so it's important to get ahead of it. MSD is running random and targeted audits and if you're found to have gamed the system in any way you could even face criminal charges. If you're not sure about your situation, get in touch with your accountant or other business adviser to run the numbers.

Jeremy Tauri is an associate at Plus Chartered Accountants.