Government Stimulus Packages – What you need to know

On 12th March 2020 the Government announced its first round of stimulus packages, then on Sunday 22nd March the Government released a second round of economic stimulus that was aimed at supporting employers, a loan scheme that guarantees 50 per cent of new loans issued to SMEs and relaxation of corporate insolvency laws. 

The NSW State Government has reduced payroll tax liability by 25%

In Summary for Business

  • Tax-free payments up to $100,000 for small business and not-for-profit employers. An increase in the previously announced initial tax-free payments for employers to a maximum of $50,000. In addition to this, a second round of payments will be made up to a maximum of $50,000, accessible from July 2020. 
  • Solvency safety net – temporary 6 month increase to the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company from $2,000 to $20,000, and an increase in the time companies have to respond from 21 days to 6 months. Directors also are provided with temporary relief from personal liability for trading while insolvent for 6 months.
  • Access to working capital – Introduction of a Coronavirus SME guarantee scheme protecting financial institutions by guaranteeing 50% of new loans to SMEs.
  • Sole traders and self-employed eligible for Jobseeker payment – the eligibility criteria to access income support relaxed for the self-employed and sole traders.
  • Temporary relief from some Corporations Act requirements
  • Bankruptcy safety net – temporary 6 month increase to the threshold for the minimum amount of debt required for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against a debtor from $5,000 to $20,000.
  • Payroll tax – employers whose total grouped Australian wages for the 2019/20 financial year are no more than $10 million will have their annual tax liability reduced by 25% when they lodge their annual reconciliation, which is due on 28 July. For monthly payers, no payment for the months of March, April or May 2020 will be required.
  • Increasing the instant asset write off – increased to $150,000
  • Accelerated depreciation – increased to 50%
  • Supporting apprentice and trainees – Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.

Other points to note, businesses and home owners are being encouraged to contact their banker to discuss additional support and deferral of loan repayments.

The ATO are supporting business experiencing difficulties meeting their tax obligations, by implementing relief options such as payment deferrals and low interest payment plans. Refer to https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Dealing-with-disasters/In-detail/Specific-disasters/COVID-19/

In the situation where your business is forced to stand down employees, please refer to https://www.fairwork.gov.au/pay/pay-during-inclement-weather-and-stand-down#stand-down

In detail for business

Tax-free payments up to $100,000 for employers – via PAYG Withholding credit

  • From: 28 April 2020
  • Eligibility: Small and medium business entity employers and not-for-profit entities, with an aggregated annual turnover under $50 million.

Eligible businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million will initially be able to access tax-free cash flow support, with the minimum amount being increased to $10,000 and the maximum amount increased to $50,000 (previously $2,000 to $25,000). However, additional support will be provided in the July – October 2020 period so that eligible entities will receive total minimum support of $20,000 and up to $100,000.

In order for a business to qualify for this support it must have been established prior to 12 March 2020. The rules are more flexible for charities because the Government recognises that new charities might be established in response to the pandemic.

The cash flow support measures will be provided in the form of a credit in the activity statement system. The support will be provided in two phases.

  • The first phase ensures that eligible employers receive a credit equal to 100% of the PAYG amounts withheld from salary and wages paid to employees during the relevant period, up to the maximum amount of $50,000.
  • The second phase ensures that eligible employers receive another series of credits, equal to the credits that were received under the first phase. For example, if a business received $40,000 of credits in the first phase it will receive a further $40,000 of credits in the second phase. These additional credits will be spread over two or four activity statement periods, depending on whether the employer lodges on a quarterly or monthly basis.

If a business pays salary and wages to employees but is not required to withhold any tax then a minimum payment of $10,000 will be made in the first phase and a further payment of $10,000 will be made in the second phase.

The credits are automatically calculated by the ATO and employers will need to lodge an activity statement to trigger the entitlement. If the credit puts the business in a refund position the excess amount will be refunded by the ATO within 14 days.

Businesses that lodge activity statements on a quarterly basis will be eligible to receive credits in the first phase for the quarters ending March 2020 and June 2020. Credits in the second phase will be available for the quarters ending June 2020 and September 2020. The minimum $10,000 payment will be applied to the first lodgement.

Business that lodge on a monthly basis will be eligible for the credits in the first phase for the March 2020, April 2020, May 2020 and June 2020 lodgements. To provide a similar treatment to quarterly lodgers, the payment for monthly lodgers will be calculated at three times the rate (300 per cent) in the March 2020 activity statement. Credits in the second phase will be available for the June 2020, July 2020, August 2020 and September lodgements. The minimum $10,000 payment will be applied to the first lodgement.

Not-for-profit employers, including charities, with an aggregated turnover under $50 million will also be able to access the cash flow support.

Solvency safety net

A safety net has been put in place to protect businesses in temporary financial distress as a result of the pandemic by lessening the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push them into insolvency and force the winding up of the business. These include:

  • A temporary 6 month increase to the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company from $2,000 to $20,000.
  • The time a company has to respond to statutory demands will increase from 21 days to 6 months.
  • For 6 months, directors will be provided with temporary relief from personal liability for trading while insolvent.
  • See also bankruptcy safety net below

It will be more important than ever for business to stay on top of their debtors.

Debts incurred will still be payable by the business. Only those debts incurred in the ordinary course of the business will be subject to the safety net measures.

Access to working capital for SMEs – supporting lenders

The Government has announced a Coronavirus SME guarantee scheme that will guarantee 50% of new loans to SMEs up to $20 billion. These loans are new short-term unsecured loans to SMEs.

SMEs with a turnover of up to $50 million will be eligible to receive these loans.

The Government will provide eligible lenders with a guarantee for loans with the following terms:

  • 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 will be subject to lenders’ credit assessment processes with the expectation that lenders will look

through the cycle to sensibly take into account the uncertainty of the current economic conditions.

This latest measure builds on the previous initiatives to ensure small business can access capital, including:

Sole traders and self-employed eligible for Jobseeker payment

The eligibility criteria to access income support payments will be relaxed to enable the self-employed and sole traders whose income has been reduced, to access support.

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Temporary relief from Corporations Act requirements

The Treasurer has been given a temporary instrument-making power to amend the Corporations Act to provide relief or modifications to specific compliance obligations.

ASIC has announced measures for those companies with a 31 December financial year that need to hold their AGMs by 31 May 2020, providing a two month no action period and enabling hybrid virtual AGMs.

Bankruptcy safety net

A temporary 6 month increase to the threshold for the minimum amount of debt required for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against a debtor will increase from $5,000 to $20,000. In addition, the time a debtor has to respond to a bankruptcy notice will be temporarily increased from 21 days to six months.

Where someone declares their intention to enter voluntary bankruptcy, the period of protection from unsecured creditors will be extended from 21 days to 6 months.

NSW Payroll tax

Payroll tax customers whose total grouped Australian wages for the 2019/20 financial year are no more than $10 million will have their annual tax liability reduced by 25% when they lodge their annual reconciliation, which is due on 28 July.

For those customers who lodge and pay monthly and whose total Australian wages will be no more than $10 million for the current financial year, no payment for the months of March, April or May 2020 will be required.

When lodging your annual reconciliation, you will still need to provide wage details paid in these months and will receive the benefit of a 25% reduction in the amount of tax you would have had to pay for 2019-20.

The tax-free threshold will increase from $900,000 to $1 million for the financial year commencing on 1 July 2020.

https://www.revenue.nsw.gov.au/taxes-duties-levies-royalties/payroll-tax

Increase to the instant asset write off

For new or second-hand assets first used or installed ready for use from 12 March until 30 June 2020, the instant asset write-off threshold will be increased from $30,000 to $150,000 for businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from the current $50 million threshold). The threshold applies on a per asset basis, so eligible businesses can immediately write-off multiple assets. The threshold will revert to $1,000 for small businesses (turnover less than $10 million) from 1 July 2020, however businesses not entitled to the instant asset write off from 1 July 2020 may be entitled to the 50% investment incentive as below.

Accelerated depreciation

The Government is introducing a time limited 15 month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions. Businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million per annum will be able to deduct 50 per cent of the cost of an eligible asset upon installation, provided it was acquired after 12 March 2020 and first used or installed by 30 June 2021. There is no asset value threshold for this 50% investment incentive. 

The existing depreciation rules will continue to apply to the remaining balance of the asset’s cost over its effective life. Therefore, an eligible asset will generate the immediate deduction of 50%, plus in the same year will generate a Division 40 depreciation deduction calculated in accordance with the normal depreciation rules. The measure results in businesses bringing forward depreciation deductions from future years to the current period resulting in a reduced tax liability in the current period. A rise in tax liability due to reduced depreciation in subsequent years will offset this reduction.

Supporting apprentice and trainees

Eligible small business employers will be able to apply for a wage subsidy of 50% of the apprentice’s or trainee’s (in training as at 1 March 2020) wage for up to 9 months from 1 January to 30 September 2020, up to $21,000 per apprentice. Employers can register for the subsidy from early April 2020 with final claims for payment due by 31 December 2020.

ATO relief

On 12 March 2020, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) announced a series of administrative concessions to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19, which include:

  • deferring by up to 4 months the payment of tax amounts due through the BAS (including PAYG instalments), income tax assessments, FBT assessments and excise by affected businesses;
  • allowing affected businesses on a quarterly reporting cycle to opt into monthly GST reporting to get quicker access to any GST refunds;
  • allowing affected businesses to vary PAYG instalment amounts to zero for the March 2020 quarter. Businesses that vary their PAYG instalment to zero can also claim a refund for any instalments made for the September 2019 and December 2019 quarters;
  • remitting any interest and penalties, incurred by affected businesses on or after 23 January 2020, that have been applied to tax liabilities; and
  • allowing affected businesses to enter into low-interest payment plans for their existing and ongoing tax liabilities.

The ATO assistance is not automatic, taxpayers must first contact the ATO to request assistance, and if eligible, the ATO will ‘tailor the assistance package for the relevant taxpayer.

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Should you wish to discuss further please contact the office on 4304 8888 we are here to help you navigate through these uncertain times.

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