Australian taxpayers are spending $40 million on thousands of empty public service desks

Photo: Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images.

The Australian Tax Office is one of Australia’s biggest landlords – with Australians footing the bill for more than 6500 of its empty desks across the nation.

New figures by the Canberra Commercial Property 2015 to 2025 report reveal the Commonwealth to be paying for 100,000 square metres of vacant space — the size of 10 soccer fields and enough for 7000 workers — with taxpayers forking up as much $40 million a year for the upkeep of empty desks, according to Fairfax Media.

Over the past year, the Commonwealth public service has been under scrutiny over its swathes of empty spaces and attempts to offload almost 5000 square metres of unused Sydney office space.

Since 2013, job losses and cost-cutting by the ATO has led to the “empty desk syndrome”, with one empty work space for every five employees. Senior executives are consolidating the unused office space, especially after the ATO was slapped with a $1.3 million fine by the Department of Finance for failing to meet the Commonwealth occupied density target last year.

Last year’s May federal budget announced a major relocation of 300 Tax Office employees to a new purpose-built office building spanning 6000 square metres on the NSW Central Coast, but the union representing ATO workers says the plan doesn’t add up.

“The Department of Finance is currently fining the tax office for having too much accommodation around the country,” Alistair Waters from the Community and Public Sector Union told the ABC earlier this year.

“They are having to reduce the amount of accommodation that they’ve got while at the same time, being required to build accommodation for another 600 workers, it just doesn’t seem to add up to me.”

The Parliament’s public works committee is currently looking into a proposed $20 million fit-out of another 10,000 square metres for ATO premises in Penrith.

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