Federal Government Stimulus Package – Announcement 2 – Update

As you know the Australian Federal Government delivered a substantially increased package available for individuals and small business on Sunday just gone. Below, we have outlined the main changes for business and individuals.

Important to note that as at the time of writing, legislation has not yet been fully passed for these proposed measures, this is due to occur very shortly, if not already. For this reason, we are unable to provide specific advice until legislation is passed. However, we are currently talking with clients to indicate how these measures may assist.

For individuals and entities that self prepare their BAS, we’d recommend that you consult with us prior to lodging the March 2020 BAS, so we can ensure your business properly accesses all assistance measures that are available to you.

In addition to the stimulus package details, we have also included information regarding other assistance options being provided by the banking sector, the ATO, Fairwork Australia, and Services Australia.

Support for individuals (including sole traders, freelancers and casual workers)

Income support:

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 (formerly Newstart), Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

  • Expanded access: Jobseeker Payment and Youth Allowance Jobseeker criteria will provide payment access for permanent employees who are stood down or lose their employment; sole traders; the self-employed; casual workers; and contract workers who meet the income tests as a result of the economic downturn due to the Coronavirus. This could also include a person required to care for someone who is affected by the Coronavirus.
  • Reduced means testing: Asset testing for JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker and Parenting Payment will be waived for the period of the Coronavirus supplement. Income testing will still apply to the person’s other payments, consistent with current arrangements.
  • Reduced waiting times: The one week Ordinary Waiting Period has already been waived.

Temporary early release of superannuation:

The government is allowing individuals (who meet the eligibility criteria) to access up to $10,000 of their own superannuation in the current financial year (ending 30 June 2020), then a further $10,000 in the 2021 financial year.

We recommend having a chat to us prior to accessing superannuation, to ensure that we have exhausted all other available measures. While it’s a great option to have, it also stands to have a longer-term impact. We’d consider this a last resort option.

Access to loans (SME guarantee scheme):

 The government is providing a guarantee of 50% of unsecured loans to lenders to enhance their willingness to loan funds to SME’s (including sole traders).  What that means is, for a short period of time, the government are relaxing lending criteria to help borrowers receive loans quicker.

  • Loans are available up to a maximum of $250k
  • 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.
  • Again, we express caution in regards to borrowing money to fund living expenses at this time. It’s a great option to have, however the longer term impact and cost of the debt could prove to be detrimental, and like the option of early access to superannuation, we’d consider this a last resort.

For further information on any of the above, access the Treasury report here.

A high level summary of assistance measures for sole traders (at Business.gov.au) is linked here.

Support for Employing Entities

Boosting cash flow for employers:

The Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and not for-profits (NFPs) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. These payments will help businesses with their cash flow so they can keep operating, pay their rent, electricity and other bills and retain staff. Small and medium-sized business entities with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers are eligible.

Under this enhanced scheme, employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their PAYG withheld from salary and wage payments (up from 50 per cent), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000. In addition, the minimum payment is being increased from $2,000 to $10,000.

On top of that, an additional payment is also being introduced in the July – October 2020 period. This means, if your entity was eligible for the above mentioned cash injection, then your entity will also receive an additional payment equal to the amount already received for the Jan to June 2020 period.

The payment will be delivered by the ATO as an automatic credit in the activity statement system from 28 April 2020 upon lodgement of eligible upcoming activity statements.  Where this places the entity in a refund position, the ATO will deliver the refund within 14 days.

Recommended to ensure all accounting is up to date and to lodge these activity statements on time!

Payroll tax incentives

Depending on which state your business operates in, there are various payroll tax incentives available. Contact Holly directly to confirm which concession and/or incentive may apply to your business

For further information on any of the above, access the Treasury report here

Fairwork Australia – For employers

On Friday, Fairwork Australia updated Australian workplace laws to help employers to better navigate these uncertain times.

Items updated include the following:

    • Can an employer change an employee’s regular roster or hours of work?
    • When can employees be stood down without pay?
    • What if an employee is stuck overseas or is required to be quarantined or to self-isolate?
    • What if an employee wants to stay home as a precaution?
    • What if an employer wants their employees to stay home as a precaution?
    • What if an employer needs to let employees go?
  • These changes are detailed here.

Support from the banking sector

Loan repayment deferrals:

Effective immediately, the majority of banks in Australia are allowing payment deferrals on business and personal finance from 3- 6 months. This includes vehicle finance, which for many, can be a significant monthly outlay.

Perhaps the most significant regular outlay for many is the home loan repayment. Again, majority of banks in Australia are allowing clients to request loan repayment deferrals ranging from 3 – 6 months, with a review at 3 months, and some banks even capitalising the interest.

  • Important to keep in mind, while the repayments may be on a 3-6 month break, interest will continue to accrue on the home loan balance. It’s certainly a huge help for many, but it’s not a freebie as many may interpret.

In addition to the abovementioned loan payment deferrals, many banks are also offering decreased interest rates across the board. Contact your bank to see how they can help you specifically.

SME guarantee to enhance lending to SME’s:

As mentioned above, the Government is cutting red tape by providing a temporary exemption from responsible lending obligations for lenders providing credit to existing small business customers.

    • If borrowing funds, always check the small print and always know what the costs are before signing up.

It’s highly recommended to contact your respective bank directly to see what they can offer for you specifically, as many now have Covid support package details available.

Support from the ATO

We have been advised recently that the ATO is exercising considerable leniency to both existing and upcoming income tax and BAS debt. A full range of assistance measures can be referred to here.

Support from Services Australia

Services Australia provides access to rent assistance. Click here to determine if you are eligible.

Alternatively, there have been several examples of tenants (both commercial and residential) reaching out to their managing real estate agents/landlords and seeking out delayed payments, a rent reduction or even a rent holiday. Currently the decision is very much up to the landlord, however Scott Morrison indicated on 22nd March that parliament will be working hard to implement measures that would assist tenants who could not meet their rent payments as a result of the Covid events.

For further information, it is recommended to contact the local tenancy advocacy service in your respective state.

If you’d like to better understand how these measures may be of benefit to you or your business, please do reach out and organise a time to chat, either via email or online bookings here.

Thank you,

Team at Oceans