Small tenting firm returns $51,000 in JobKeeper funds


Unprecedented interest in camping drove a small business, which saw a booking boom after the lockdown, to repay its JobKeeper payment to the federal government.

James Woodford, the director of Hipcamp Australia, said the company decided to voluntarily repay $ 51,000 in payments after bookings for the organization’s 2000 entries across Australia got under way after last year’s lockdown. And this summer is well on the way to getting even better.

James Woodford runs HipCamp, a company that plans to return its $ 51,000 JobKeeper to the Australian Tax Office.Credit:Wolter Peeters

“When I realized our advance bookings looked so strong, it seemed unscrupulous to keep that money,” said Woodford.

The decision was made in consultation with the company’s 10 employees in Moruya on the south coast of NSW. “We did so well,” he said.

Of the $ 89 billion in JobKeeper payments to a million companies, 75 had turned to the Australian Income Tax Office to voluntarily repay amounts, ATO commissioner Chris Jordan said in an investigation earlier this month. Of these, 62 had already repaid $ 203 million. Retailer Harvey Norman has announced it will return $ 6 million and hearing implant provider Cochlear said it has returned $ 23.1 million. The ATO says returning JobKeeper is not mandatory.

Mr Woodford said JobKeeper was a “godsend” last year. “The money ran out the door when cancellations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars came in,” he said.

The company not only recorded increased interest from campers, but also a threefold interest in the number of offers. Together, the 2,000 sites span over a million acres, he said.

“I think the bigger story for us is that as we look past the lockdown we were concerned that everyone would go to Bali and do anything but camp,” said Woodford. “What surprised us is that people have discovered the joys of camping, domestic tourism, and simpler joys. This change can stay here.

“We see very high bookings over Christmas and New Years, unexpectedly high. People want to camp and have no confidence that interstate or international travel is possible. “


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