Coronavirus and government assistance

Coronavirus

This article was last updated on 23 April 2020.

 

The Federal and State Governments have announced assistance to support businesses, workers and households as we navigate the significant economic consequences of the coronavirus.  These packages are unlikely to be the last and we will continue to bring you details of further support as announcements are made. All of the below information is included in our COVID-19 Assistance Guide for you to download, print or share. We’ve also written an article on Bank Assistance if you’d like to learn more about how your bank can help during this time.

You can use these links to jump to the specific information you need:

Federal Government

Economic stimulus packages 1 (announced 12 March 2020), 2 (announced 22 March 2020) and 3 (announced 29 March 2020) are summarised below.

Income support for individuals and households

  1. Over the next six months, the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit. You can find out more in this fact sheet.
  2. Two separate $750 payments will be made to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 and the second payment will be made from 13 July 2020. The second payment will not be made to those eligible for the Coronavirus supplement.
  3. Individuals affected by the Coronavirus will be allowed access of up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments. Applications for early release of superannuation will be accepted through myGov from 20 April. You can register your interest now by logging in to your myGov account and following the Intention to access coronavirus support instructions. If you don’t already have a myGov account, you can set one up by selecting ‘create an account’.  You will then be notified by email or SMS when applications open.  You can find out more information on the ATO website.
  4. To help support retirees, the Government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21. This measure may benefit retirees holding these products by reducing the need to sell investment assets to fund minimum drawdown requirements. This measure is available immediately.
  5. Social security deeming rates will be reduced as of 1 May 2020. The upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent and the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent. The reductions reflect the low interest rate environment and its impact on the income from savings.

Support for businesses

1. Cash flow assistance for business

Cash flow assistance for eligible employing businesses by way of a PAYGW rebate were initially announced on 12 March 2020. Further enhancements to this assistance were announced on 22 March 2020. The two packages are summarised below:

Part 1 (announced 12 March 2020):

  • Eligible business and not-for-profits will receive a payment of up to 100 per cent (was originally 50% but increased to 100% in part 2) of the PAYG tax withheld for a limited number of Business Activity Statement (BAS) lodgements. For quarterly BAS lodgers, this applies to the March and June quarters. For monthly BAS lodgers, this applies to March, April, May and June 2020.
  • The maximum rebate is $50,000, with a minimum payment of $10,000.
  • The ATO will deliver the payment as a credit to the business upon lodgement of their activity statements. Where this places the business in a refund position, the ATO will deliver the refund within 14 days.
  • The payment will be tax free and is available from 28 April 2020.
  • Eligibility: Small and medium-sized business entities and NFPs with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million (based on prior year turnover) and that employ workers are eligible.

Part 2 (announced 22 March 2020):

  • For eligible small and medium-sized businesses and not-for-profits (NFPs), the Government will provide an additional payment to be delivered from July to October 2020.
  • Under Part 2, eligible entities will receive a payment equal to the total of all of the Part 1 payments they have received.
  • For quarterly BAS lodgers, this applies to the June and September quarters. For monthly BAS lodgers, this applies June, July, August and September 2020.
  • Payment will be available from 21 July 2020.
  • This means that in total (Part 1 and Part 2), eligible entities will receive at least $20,000 and up to a total of $100,000 in payments.
  • Eligibility: Small and medium-sized business entities and NFPs with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million (based on prior year turnover) and that employ workers are eligible.

You can find more information in this fact sheet.

A word of warning from the ATO:

You will not be eligible for cash flow boosts if you (or a representative) have entered into or carried out a scheme for the purpose of:

  • becoming entitled to cash flow boosts when you would otherwise not be entitled, or
  • increasing the amount of the cash flow boosts.

This may include restructuring your business or the way you usually pay your workers to fall within the eligibility criteria, as well as increasing wages paid in a particular month to maximise the cash flow boost amount.

Any sudden changes to the characterisation of payments made may cause the ATO to investigate whether the payments are in fact wages. If the payments are wages, they may consider the characterisation of past payments, including whether they should have been subject to PAYGW and whether super guarantee contributions should have been made. You may also have FBT obligations that have not yet been met.

2. Increasing the instant asset write-off

Businesses are being encouraged to spend on equipment and other investments through an extension of the instant asset write-off scheme.

Currently the scheme is restricted to businesses with turnovers of up to $50 million, for maximum investments of $30,000. Under the new arrangements, companies with turnovers of up to $500 million will be able to take advantage of assets write-offs of up to $150,000.

The $150k deduction limit applies from 12 March 2020 until 30 June 2020, for new or second-hand assets first used, or installed ready for use in this timeframe.

For assets over the $150,000 limit, businesses will receive an instant 50% depreciation with the remainder depreciated at normal rates. This applies from 12 March 2020 until 30 June 2021, for new assets only that are first used, or installed ready for use in this timeframe.

3. Keeping apprentices in work

Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage paid during the 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.

Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to a new employer.

Employers will be reimbursed up to a maximum of $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee ($7,000 per quarter).

The subsidy will be available to small businesses employing fewer than 20 full-time employees who retain an apprentice or trainee. The apprentice or trainee must have been in training with a small business as at 1 March 2020.

Employers can register for the subsidy from 2 April 2020. Final claims for payment must be lodged by 31 December 2020. Further information is available at dese.gov.au

4. Safety net for financially distressed businesses

  • The threshold for the minimum amount a creditor can issue a statutory demand on a company will temporarily increase from $2,000 to $20,000. The time frame to respond to the demand will increase from 21 days to 6 months.
  • Directors will be temporarily relieved of their duty to prevent insolvent trading with respect to any debts incurred in the ordinary course of the company’s business. This will apply for six months.
  • The threshold for the minimum amount of debt required for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against a debtor will temporarily increase from its current level of $5,000 to $20,000.
  • The time a debtor has to respond to a bankruptcy notice will be temporarily increased from 21 days to six months.
  • In the case of voluntary bankruptcy, the period of protection when unsecured creditors cannot take further action to recover debts will be temporarily extended from 21 days to six months.

5. Supporting the flow of credit

Under the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, the Government will provide a guarantee of 50 per cent to SME lenders to support new short-term unsecured loans to SMEs with a turnover of up to $50 million

  • Maximum total size of loans of $250,000 per borrower.
  • The loans will be up to three years, with an initial six-month repayment holiday.
  • The loans will be in the form of unsecured finance, meaning that borrowers will not have to provide an asset as security for the loan.

Loans are expected to commence by early April 2020 and will be available for new loans until 30 September 2020. You can find more information on the ATO website.

6. JobKeeper Payment

Under the JobKeeper Payment, businesses impacted by the coronavirus will be able to access a subsidy from the Government to continue paying their employees. Affected employers will be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum period of 6 months. The JobKeeper Payment will also be available to the self-employed.

The government has released some information regarding eligibility for the JobKeeper payments. To receive the new payment, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Business will have had a turnover drop of more than 30%. This will be assessed based on your BAS lodgement period, so if you lodge monthly then the monthly drop, if you lodge quarterly then the quarterly drop.
  • Employees can be full time, part time and casual employees. Casual employees must have been with the business for more than 12 months.
  • Employees must be an Australian citizen, permanent visa holder or other selected visa classes only.

If the business does not meet the criteria for the 30% drop above, then you will be able to apply to the ATO to show the why the business has dropped, and the commissioner will have the discretion to apply the payment in these circumstances.

From 20 April onwards, you can enrol for the JobKeeper payment and from 4 May onwards you’ll be able to confirm your eligible employees. To find out more about the process, read our JobKeeper Payment article or contact Marsh & Partners.

7. Superannuation Guarantee amnesty

On 6 March 2020, the government introduced a superannuation guarantee (SG) amnesty allowing employers to disclose and pay previously unpaid super guarantee charge that they owe their employees, for quarters starting from 1 July 1992 to 31 March 2018, without incurring the administration component or penalty.

You may wish to apply for the SG amnesty and may be concerned that, as a result of COVID-19, your circumstances may change and you will not be able to pay the liability. If you want to participate in the amnesty, the law requires you to apply by 7 September 2020. However, the ATO will work with you to establish a payment plan that is flexible to help you to continue making payments. These arrangements include:

  • flexible payment terms and amounts which can be adjusted if your circumstances change
  • the ability to extend the payment plan to beyond 7 September 2020, the end of the amnesty period

If you require further advice regarding the amnesty, please contact Marsh & Partners.

8. Relief for commercial tenants

The Government has announced a range of measures to help renters. This includes a temporary hold on evictions and a mandatory code of conduct for commercial tenancies to support small and medium sized enterprises affected by coronavirus. You can find out more about the code of conduct on the business.gov.au website.

The ATO has released specific guidance for SMSF landlords and confirmed that SMSFs can provide a ‘temporary rent reduction’ to tenants. While this would normally trigger compliance breaches, the ATO has indicated that it will not take compliance action for the 2020 or 2021 financial years. You can read more on ATO advice for SMSFs here or contact our SMSF experts for further advice.

Queensland

1. Payroll tax

If you are an employer paying $6.5 million or less in taxable wages you are entitled to:

  • a refund of payroll tax paid in the first 2 months of 2020
  • a payroll tax holiday for 3 months
  • a deferral of payroll tax for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year which means payment of your payroll tax liabilities will not be due until 14 January 2021

If you are an employer paying $6.5 million or more in taxable wages you are entitled to:

  • a refund of payroll tax paid in the first 2 months of 2020
  • a deferral of payroll tax for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year which means payment of your payroll tax liabilities will not be due until 14 January 2021

You can apply at any time the relief package is available. If approved, your deferral will begin from the next return that is due.

You must continue to lodge returns (without paying them) during this time and you can resume paying returns at any time during the deferral period.

You can apply for the deferral here.

2. Jobs Support Loans

Due to overwhelming demand, the Queensland Government’s $500 million COVID-19 Jobs Support Loan scheme has now closed to new applications.

Submitted applications that have already been received, will be assessed in the date order that they have been received complete with all the required information for assessment.

Applications will continue to be assessed up until the $500 million funding is fully exhausted.

The current expected processing times for loan applications received:

  • Up to 1 April will be processed by the end of April
  • After 1 April will be processed during May.

3. Specific assistance for tourism and hospitality industries

The Queensland Government is providing fee and charges relief for tourism operators and hospitality providers including:

4. Farm Business Analysis Assistance

If you’re experiencing financial challenges with your farming enterprise, the Farm Business Analysis Assistance program is a free, no obligation service designed to help primary producers get back on track. You can find out more about the program here.  Speak to Marsh & Partners to see if you’re eligible and, if so, we can help you with your application.

5. Coronavirus land tax relief

You may be eligible for one or more of the following land tax relief measures:

  • a land tax rebate reducing land tax liabilities by 25% for eligible properties for the 2019-20 assessment year
  • a waiver of the 2% land tax foreign surcharge for foreign entities for the 2019-20 assessment year
  • a 3-month deferral of land tax liabilities for the 2020-21 assessment year

You do not need to apply for the foreign surcharge waiver or the 3-month deferral but you will need to apply for the land tax rebate. You can find out more information on eligibility and how to apply on the Queensland Government website.

New South Wales

1. Payroll tax relief

For employers whose total grouped Australian wages for the 2019/20 financial year are no more than $10 million, the annual payroll tax liability will be reduced by 25% when their annual reconciliation is lodged (due on 28 July). These employers will also be able to defer payroll tax liabilities for six months. This deferral will apply to the liabilities arising for March to August 2020 inclusive.

For employers whose total grouped Australian wages for the 2019/20 financial year exceed $10 million, payroll tax liabilities can be deferred for six months. This deferral will apply to the liabilities arising for March to August 2020 inclusive.

Eligible businesses must still continue to lodge their monthly payroll tax returns without making payments by the due dates.

From 1 July 2020, the payroll tax threshold will be raised from $900,000 to $1 million.

2. Small business support grant

The NSW small business COVID-19 support grant of up to $10,000 is available to eligible NSW small business owners.To be eligible, businesses will need to:

  • have between 1-19 employees and a turnover of more than $75,000
  • a payroll below the NSW Government 2019-20 payroll tax threshold of $900,000
  • have an Australian Business Number as at 1 March 2020, be based in NSW and employ staff as at 1 March 2020
  • be highly impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions

Eligible industries include:

  • retail trade
  • accommodation and food service
  • rental, hiring and real estate services
  • administrative and support services
  • arts and recreation services

For more information and the application form, visit service.nsw.gov.au.

3. Fee and licence relief

A range of licence and permit fees will be waived for businesses for 12 months. Further information on eligible fees and licences can be found here.

4. Rent assistance

A deferral of rents for 6 months is available for small businesses (commercial tenants with less than 20 employees) and not-for-profit organisations in Government properties.

Victoria

1. Payroll Tax

Payroll tax refunds for the 2019-20 financial year will be available to SME businesses with payroll of less than $3 million. Eligible businesses must continue to lodge returns but do not need to make further payments for this financial year.

The same businesses will also be able to defer any payroll tax for the first three months of the 2020/21 financial year until 1 January 2021.

The State Revenue Office will directly contact eligible businesses in relation to reimbursement for payroll tax already paid in the financial year with payments expected to start flowing in late March.

2. Business Support Fund

A Business Support Fund of $500 million will be established to support the hardest hit sectors, including hospitality, tourism, accommodation, arts and entertainment, and retail. You can find out more and make your application here.

3. Land Tax deferral

Land owners due to pay 2020 land tax that have at least one non-residential property and total taxable landholdings below $1 million have the option of deferring their 2020 land tax payment until after 31 December 2020. Land tax paid already for the year can be refunded. Land tax that is deferred will need to be paid in full by 31 March 2021.

The State Revenue Office will contact all taxpayers who are eligible for this deferral.

4. Liquor licence fees waived

2020 renewable liquor licence fees will be waived. Businesses that have already paid their licence fees for 2020 will receive a refund.

5. Rent relief

Commercial tenants in Victorian Government buildings can apply for rent relief.

6. Payment of outstanding supplier invoices

The Victorian Government will pay its outstanding supplier invoices within five business days.

Western Australia

1. Payroll Tax

Payroll tax paying businesses with a payroll between $1 million and $4 million will receive a one-off grant of $17,500 to assist them to manage the impacts of COVID-19.

Payroll tax will be waived from March to June 2020 for employers, or groups of employers, whose Australian taxable wages are less than $7.5 million at 30 June 2020. You don’t need to apply for the waiver, payroll tax will be automatically waived. Employers must retain evidence of their Australian taxable wages at 29 February 2020 showing their entitlement to claim the waiver.

SME businesses affected by coronavirus can apply to defer payment of their 2019-20 payroll tax until July 21, 2020. This is available to employers who pay $7.5 million or less per year in Australian Taxable Wages. You can find out more about the deferral and apply here.

From 1 July 2020, the payroll tax threshold will increase from $950,000 to $1 million.

2. Rent relief for WA Government commercial tenants

The WA Government will waive rental payments for small businesses and not-for-profit groups in State Government-owned buildings for six months to help these lease holders respond to the impacts of COVID-19.

3. Business and licence fee waivers

A range of business licence fees have been waived, including liquor licence renewal fees for 2020, which will be waived and refunds given to businesses that have already paid. You can find out more about these here.

4. Electricity bill credits for business

One-off $2,500 credit on electricity bills for small businesses that consume less than 50MWh per annum. For more information read this statement.

South Australia

1. Payroll Tax

Business groups with annual Australian wages of up to $4 million will receive a six month payroll tax waiver. Eligible business groups will not be required to pay any payroll tax in the months of April to September 2020.

Business groups with annual Australian wages above $4 million that can demonstrate they have been significantly impacted by COVID‑19 will, upon application, be able to defer payroll tax payments for the six months from April to September 2020. For these eligible business groups, payroll tax payments that were due to be paid from April to September will now be due from October 2020.

Further information is available at the Revenue SA website.

2. Land Tax relief

Businesses and individuals paying land tax quarterly in 2019-20 will be able to defer payment of their remaining 2019-20 land tax payments for six months. Businesses and individuals will be sent their land tax notices of assessment as usual, with information provided on how the deferral will be administered. No application process will be required and there will be no requirement to contact RevenueSA to put this new arrangement in place.

3. $10,000 emergency cash grants for small business

Small businesses and not-for-profit entities that employ South Australians who have been highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible to receive a $10,000 grant to support the operation of their business. Applications for the grant will open shortly and be available until 1 June 2020. You can register your interest here.

4. Liquor licence fee waivers

The Government will provide a waiver of annual liquor licensing fees for 2020-21 for some liquor licence categories. Further information can be found here.

Tasmania

1. Payroll Tax waivers

Payroll tax liabilities will be waived for hospitality, tourism and seafood industry businesses for the last four months of 2019-20.  Other businesses with payrolls of up to $5 million will be able to apply, based on the impact of virus, to have their payroll tax waived for April to June 2020. You can find out more about these measures in this fact sheet.

2. Land Tax waiver

Land Tax will be waived for commercial property for the 2020-21 financial year, where the business owner:

  • is liable for the land tax; and
  • can demonstrate that their business operations have been affected by COVID-19

You can find out more about this measure on the State Revenue Office website.

3. Business Support Loan Scheme

Loans from $20 000 up to $250 000 are available to assist eligible businesses for the purpose of supporting business continuity, viability and sustainability during the Coronavirus period. The loans are now open and your application can be made on the Department of State Growth website.

4. Small Business Emergency Support Grant

To assist small businesses experiencing severe hardship, grants of $2,500 are available through the Department of State Growth as one-off emergency support payments. Eligible businesses are those having less than 25 full-time equivalent employees which meet the criteria of a loss in revenue of greater than 30 per cent. You can find out more and submit your application here.

5. Small Business Hardship Grant

Grants of up to $15,000 are available through the Department of State Growth as one-off emergency support payments. Eligible businesses are those having less than 50 full-time equivalent employees which meet the criteria of a loss in revenue of greater than 30 per cent. Applicants will need to demonstrate an ability to continue to operate in the current environment and that they provide products or services necessary to the community. In the event of a business needing to temporarily cease operation, they will need to demonstrate strong prospects for future. Applicants are encouraged to apply for the Small Business Emergency Support Grant first. You can find out more and submit your application here.

Australian Capital Territory

1. Payroll Tax

As part of the ACT Government survival package, payroll tax payments will be waived for the six months from April to September 2020 for employers operating in the categories that have been announced as prohibited business activity.

In addition, all ACT businesses with Australia-wide wages of up to $10 million can defer their 2020-21 payroll tax, interest free until 1 July 2022. Eligible businesses will need to lodge their payroll tax returns as normal but will not be required to make the associated payment at the usual time. If the deferred amount is paid before 1 July 2022, no interest will be charged. Interest will be applied to any outstanding deferred amounts from 1 July 2022.

For those who lodge their payroll tax assessment monthly, deferral can commence for their July 2020 payroll tax liability, which is usually payable by 7 August.

For those who lodge their payroll tax assessment annually, they can defer payment of their full 2020-21 payroll tax liability, which is usually payable in July 2021.

Businesses will need to complete an online application form to confirm their eligibility by visiting the ACT Revenue Office.

2. Business and licence fee waivers

The ACT Government will waive fees for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for businesses that require an infection control licence such as beauty therapists, nail salons, tattoo parlours and dentists.

Off licensed venues with gross liquor purchase value of below $3 million per annum and licensed venues will receive a 12-month waiver of their food business registration and liquor licensing fees from 1 April 2020. Outdoor dining fees for 2020-2021 will also be waived.

In cases where food business registration has been prepaid for more than one year in advance, an additional 12 months will be added to the licence.

3. Electricity rebates

Small business owners with electricity usage below 100 megawatts per year will see rebates of $750 automatically applied to their next electricity bill in around June or July 2020.

4. Other measures

$500,000 in arts grant funding has been brought forward and a $20 million fund has been established for contractors to undertake simple works on government assets. A business liaison phone line has been created to assist businesses understand the support available to them through the ACT Economic Survival Package and practical advice for operating through changed arrangements due to COVID-19. The number to call is 6205 0900.

Northern Territory

1. Payroll Tax

Territory businesses that demonstrate substantial hardship due to the coronavirus crisis will be eligible for the following:

  • payroll tax abolished for six months – if you are a small or medium-sized business
  • payroll tax deferred for six months – if you are a large business

Businesses can apply from 1 May 2020.

2. Relief for commercial tenancies

Territory businesses who need relief on the cost of their lease will receive extra support. The following conditions apply:

  • commercial tenants must demonstrate economic hardship and request rent relief – landlords will be expected to negotiate relief in line with the code of conduct for commercial tenancies
  • if they do this, they will also be eligible to receive payroll tax and utilities bills relief

The Government will also waive the property activation levy for relevant landlords whose property becomes vacant due to the coronavirus crisis .

3. $30 million ‘Home Improvement Scheme’

The Home Improvement Scheme will provide Territorians who own a home a $6,000 grant for renovations if they contribute $2,000 of their own money. Alternatively, homeowners can spend $1,000 to a get a $4,000 renovation grant. You can read more on the Home Improvement Scheme here.

2. $20 million ‘Business Improvement Scheme’

Under the Business Improvement Scheme, all eligible businesses will receive $10,000 and can receive a further $10,000 if they input $10,000 of their own cash on business upgrades. This could include buying new equipment or shop fit outs.

Registrations for businesses to provide services open 30 March 2020. Businesses can apply for a grant from 13 April 2020. Read more on the Business Improvement Grant.

Further help:

We will continue to provide details on coronavirus government assistance as soon as the information is available. Should you have any questions about how these measures affect you or your business, please contact us for further advice. You can reach us on (07) 3023 4800 or at mail@marshpartners.com.au.

 

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