Strategem provide COVID-19 rolling updates

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The COVID-19 outbreak has created uncertain times across the world. As the coronavirus continues to spread the impacts on the economy are being felt. We are staying up to date with announcements from both Federal and Victorian Government so we can keep you updated with assistance that you may be eligible for.

This blog will continue to be updated as more information is announced.

If you have any questions or would like any assistance, our Accountants & Advisors are here to provide the support you need.

RESOURCE: Strategem COVID-19 Business Response Guide

RESOURCE: Tax Benefits of Working from Home

UPDATE: More on the recently announced JobKeeper payments

A full list of who is eligible for the JobKeeper payments is below:

  • Businesses will receive a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per employee, regardless of their salary. Employers are allowed to top-up wages beyond the $1,500
  • Payments will be administered through the Single Touch Payroll system meaning businesses will need to keep the employee on the books in order to distribute the allowance
  • To be eligible, an employer must have had an employment relationship with the employees as at 1 March 2020
  • Full-time and part-time employees are eligible for the JobKeeper payments as well as casuals who have been employed on a regular basis for a period of more than 12 months
  • Businesses and not-for-profits will be eligible for the scheme after a downturn in revenue of 30%
  • The payment will be delivered through the Australian Tax Office in May, however the payments will be backdated to 1 March 2020
  • Businesses without employees, such as the self-employed, can register their interest in applying for JobKeeper Payment via ato.gov.au from 30 March 2020
  • New Zealanders and casual employees working for more than one year will be eligible for the payment
  • The $130 billion scheme is expected to support the wages of up to six million Australian’s over the next six months. Parliament will be recalled to pass the legislation
  • The amount of Australian’s eligible for welfare payments has increased with the Centrelink partner threshold rate being increased from $48,000 to $79,762 p.a

Employees who have registered for Centrelink payments, who may now find themselves eligible for the JobKeeper payments, are encouraged not to withdraw their application.

Applicants cannot receive both payments.

“The ATO, Services Australia, where there are applications for both [JobSeeker and JobKeeper] will obviously work out administrative arrangements to ensure those individuals get the JobKeeper payment.” Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar

Although announced just yesterday, approximately 60,000 businesses have already registered interest for the JobKeeper scheme.

“(We’re) fighting a war on two fronts, a health crisis and and economic crisis.” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

UPDATE: Monday, 30 March – Australian PM announces

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a $130 billion package to support the wages of up to six million Australian throughout the coronavirus crisis.

This brings the total amount of support provided by Government to $320 billion.

The new amount announced will see the introduction of a $1500 ‘jobkeeker’ subsidy per fortnight. More Australians have also been given access to financial assistance with the threshold being increased from $48,000 to $79,000.

The newly announce jobkeeper payment will be a flat $1500 for all Australians regardless of their salary.

Businesses and non-for-profits will b eligible after a downturn in revenue of 30 per cent. Payments will be delivered in May, but will be backdated to March 1.

“That means they can still have them on the books and start working together on how they can resuscitate the business on the other side.” Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg

UPDATE: Sunday, 29 March – Private Healthcare increase postponed

Member health funds will postpone the April 1 premium increase for at least six months, says Private Healthcare Australia chief executive doctor Rachel David.

Other changes include:

  • All hospital policies will include full hospital coverage for people affected by COVID-19
  • People experiencing financial hardship as a result of the crisis will be able to access relief from premium costs
  • Health funds are covering telehealth services from psychologists from March 30
UPDATE: Sunday, 29 March – $1.1 billion package announced

Scott Morrison has announced details of a $1.1 billion package that will provide help for telehealth, mental health services and family violence services.

The package will include:

  • $669 million to expand telehealth consultations, allowing people to access healthcare services from home
  • $150 million for measures to reduce domestic violence, including counselling support, the 1800 RESPECT hotline and other initiatives
  • $74 million for boosted access to mental health services during the coronavirus crisis, including funding for Beyond Blue, Kids Helpline and Lifeline

“These measures are for those in the community who can be most vulnerable as a result of the changes are taking place in daily life here in Australia.” Prime Minister, Scott Morrison

UPDATE: Thursday, 26 March – Support for retirees during COVID-19 outbreak

There have been a number of announcements made relating to providing assistance for our pension paying retirees.

The temporary reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown requirements will benefit retirees with account-based pensions. This will reduce the need to sell investment assets to find minimum drawdown requirements.

Changes to the upper and lower deeming rate will benefit around 900,000 income support recipients. Eligible individuals will have access to up to $10,000 of their superannuation before July 1.

More information on the above measures, along with other related announcements can be found in our blog – Support or Retirees During the COVID-19 Outbreak. This also includes information on eligibility.

UPDATE: Thursday, 26 March – Restrictions on hairdressers lifted

Salons and barbers must still comply with the social distancing measures however the time cap of 30 minutes has been scrapped.

Power has also been given to the States to make decisions in regards to funerals. States will have the power to allow more than 10 people to attend funerals, but are urged to only make allowances for very special circumstances.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 25 March – PM introduces more rules for Australian’s

Following the Cabinet meeting last night, Scott Morrison in a press release announced a number of further rules for Australian’s in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As of midnight tonight the following shut downs and measures will come into play:

  • Weddings can only consist of the couple, the celebrant and the witnesses – no more than 5 people
  • Funerals will be limited to 10 people, following the social distancing rule
  • No more auctions rooms, real estate auctions or real estate open houses
  • Food courts in shopping centres can serve takeaway only
  • Beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons and tattoo parlours, spa and massage parlours will shut. Health-related services are exempt
  • Amusement parks and arcades will close
  • Indoor and outdoor play centres will close
  • Social sporting activities cannot take place
  • Swimming pools will close
  • All community and recreation centres will shut. This includes gyms, fitness centres, yoga, barre, saunas, spin facilities, and wellness centres
  • Galleries, museums, libraries, national institutes, historic sites and community centres will shut
  • Hairdresses can remain open, adhering to one person per four square metre rule and with appointment being no longer than 30 minutes
  • Bootcamps and outdoor fitness sessions are limited to 10 people and must follow social distancing
  • Indoor and outdoor markets will be decided upon by Victorian Government, food markets will be exempt
  • The State Government will also monitor house gatherings

The National Cabinet will meet again this evening to review the current situation.

“Make no mistake, if there is a widespread community transmission, we may have to introduce some harder measures.” Prime Minister, Scott Morrison

The Prime Minister urged Australian’s to please comply with social distancing as it will save lives.

“We know it is a massive change to our lives but if we do it, and we do it consistently, and we do it patiently and understandingly, then we will get through this.” Scott Morrison

UPDATE: Private Healthcare providers offer relief to those impacted by COVID-19

Australians with private health insurance who suffer financial distress due to the COVID-19 outbreak are directed to contact their fund and request premium relief.

Health funds are also working to make available rebates for telehealth psychology sessions for members.

The expected premium rise of 2.9% that was due to begin on April 1, may be abandoned.

UPDATE: MyGov crash caused by high demand

The MyGov system may not have been caused by hacking, but more likely due to high demand. It is likely a rush of almost 100,000 applications on Monday morning triggered a collapse.

“The system could not handle the demand,” he said. “Then, of course, we investigated. I should have probably waited for the investigation before jumping the gun and believing the warnings. The warnings just showed the massive influx that came into our system.” – Government Services Minister, Stuart Robert

The shut-down and restrictions on pubs, clubs, cafes, restaurants and various indoor entertainment facilities results in hundreds of thousands of people unemployed overnight which caused high demand for MyGov services.

The unemployed will be eligible for $1100 a fortnight in benefits through a combination of the JobSeeker payment and the coronavirus supplement.

UPDATE: Recapping what assistance has been provided by the Victorian Government

Just to recap support that has been announced for Victorian businesses:

  • Full payroll tax refunds will be provided for the 2019-20 financial year from the Victorian Government. Small and medium businesses with a payroll of less than $3 million will be eligible. These refunds are expected to begin rolling out this week (March 23)
  • The same businesses will also be eligible to defer any payroll tax for the first three months of the F2021 financial year.
  • Rent relief for commercial tenants in government buildings has been announced. Land tax payments for 2020 will be deferred for eligible businesses.
  • The Victorian Government announced they would pay all outstanding supplier invoices within five businesses days, boosting cash flow
  • Eligible businesses in the hospitality sector have had their licensing fees for 2020 waivered
  • On top of the Federal Government stimulus package, the Victorian Government have announced a $500 million Business Support Fund which will provide assistance to those sectors hardest hit by the outbreak
  • The survival package also includes a $500 million Working for Victoria Fund which will support those who have lost their job due to COVID-19. This will help move these people into roles that are required to deal with the impacts of the outbreak such as cleaning local public transport and delivering emergency relief packages.
UPDATE: Tuesday, 24 March – Help for SME’s including sole traders

The Federal Government have announced they will provide up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium businesses that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. This announcement will also provide support to not-for-profits and charities.

This will help provide cash flow support to businesses who have a turnover of less than $50 million.

Eligible businesses will also receive an additional payment in the July to October period.

The first payment will be delivered by the ATO as a credit. This will be provided as a credit in the activity statement system from 28 April upon businesses lodging their eligible upcoming activity statements.

Employees can expect to receive a payment equal to 100% of their salary and wages paid. This payment will be a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $50,000.

It’s important to stay in contact with your Accountant during this time to ensure you lodge what is required to receive what you are eligible for.

Strategem Accountants are available to assist if you need. You can phone us on 5445 4777.  

UPDATE: Tuesday, 24 March – Updates from over night

We have woken up this morning to the Government urging people not to line up outside of Centrelink to gain access to assistance. The many of Australian’s who need access to support services are encouraged to do so using their Smart phone or online.

We also have an update from The International Monetary Fund after a hook up of G20 finance ministers and central bankers. They have warned the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will be at least as bad as the global financial crisis.

“First, the outlook for global growth: for 2020 it is negative – a recession at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse,” IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva

UPDATE: Sunday, 22 March – Prime Minister holds press conference

The Prime Minister has announced Australia has entered ‘phase one’ of lock down. This will see a number of facilities forced to close until further notice.

The restrictions will come into force as of midday on Monday and will affect the following categories:

  • Registered and licensed clubs
  • Licensed premises in hotels and clubs
  • Restaurants, which will become takeaway only
  • Places of worship
  • Cinemas and other forms of indoor entertainment
  • Gyms
  • Indoor sports centres

Grocery stores and supermarkets will remain open and home deliveries will continue. Cafes and restaurants will remain open for takeaway sales only.

The Prime Minister announced these measures as a result of Australian’s failing to observe the social distancing arrangements.

“When we don’t all do the right thing, then it has real implications for others.” Prime Minister, Scott Morrison

The national cabinet will continue to monitor the situation and review the stage one measures and take advice on whether stage two implications were necessary.

UPDATE: Sunday, 22 March – Victorian Premier announces non-essential activities to shut down.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces over the next 48 hours all non-essential activities will be shut down.

Here’s the statement:

I will inform National Cabinet tonight that Victoria will proceed over the next 48 hours to implement a shutdown of all non-essential activity across our state to combat the spread of Coronavirus.

This is not something that we do lightly, but it’s clear that if we don’t take this step, more Victorians will contract coronavirus, our hospitals will be overwhelmed and more Victorians will die.

Victorians will still be able to go to the supermarket, the bank, the pharmacy and other essential stores, like petrol stations and convenience stores. Freight, logistics and home delivery are also considered essential and will remain open.

I will also inform National Cabinet that school holidays will be brought forward in Victoria, starting on Tuesday 24 March.

All measures to be implemented by Victoria are consistent with the health advice provided by the Victorian Chief Health Officer.

The decision whether to re-open schools after the Term 1 holidays will likewise be determined following advice from the Chief Health Officer.

I will have more to say on these measures tomorrow morning.

UPDATE: Sunday, 22 March – The Corporations Act will be amended to provide temporary relief

This morning Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced major relief for businesses grappling with the coronavirus outbreak and new government powers for the next six months as part of the stimulus package.

Businesses will face relaxed rules around obligations under the Commonwealth Corporations Act, such as a requirement to hold general meetings in person, and a higher threshold for creditors to issue statutory demands on companies.

“The government is proposing to increase the threshold at which a creditor can take action to initiate insolvency or bankruptcy from as low as $2000 today to $20,000 and giving companies and individuals six months instead of 21 days to respond,” Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg

Also included in the package was the creation of a Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme. The scheme will provide access to working capital for businesses to help ease them through the current situation.

The government will guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to help support $40 billion in financing.

“The package also includes temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“The Corporations Act will be amended to provide temporary relief to help companies handling unforeseen events due to the pandemic.

“A temporary 6-month power will be provided to me as the Treasurer to deal with these situations as they arise,” Mr Frydenberg said.

UPDATE: Sunday, 22 March – second stimulus announced

“Today’s package has three parts involving 10 separate initiatives. The package will support households, including casuals, sole traders, retirees and those on income support.” – Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg

The package will include:

  • A doubling of the JobSeeker allowance, formerly known as Newstart, and a waiving of the asset test and waiting period. “This means, anyone eligible for the maximum jobseeker payment will now receive more than $1100 a fortnight, effectively doubling the jobseeker allowance,” Mr Frydenberg says.
  • A further $750 payment to those on income support, taking effect from July 13. In the first package, on the 12 March, the government announced a $750 payment for Australians on income support.
  • Early access to superannuation. “Our economic response will allow those Australians who are in financial stress as a result of the coronavirus to access more of their money in superannuation,” Mr Frydenberg says. “From April, those affected will gain access to that superannuation, capped at $10,000 this financial year and a further $10,000 next financial year.”
Sunday, 22 March , Federal Government announces second stimulus package

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are today announcing a second stimulus package worth $66 billion. This second wave stimulus package will be aimed at protecting workers from the economic downturn.

This brings the total stimulus to $189 billion, with a third package ‘rescue’ likely.

We will bring you more details as they are announced.

Saturday, 21 March, Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, announces $1.7million for a Business Support Fund as well as a Working for Victoria Fund.

“We’ve listened to business and workers and now we’re taking unique and unprecedented action to help businesses and their workers through this crisis.”Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews

Throughout the past week Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews has been adamant that he and his team were working on announcing a survival package. They have been working over the last week to ensure the package was what the people needed in order to survive this outbreak and come out on the other side. The $1.7 billion survival package announced on Saturday will help businesses along with providing support for those who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The survival package includes:

  • Refunds of payroll tax for the for the 2019-20 financial year to 24,000 eligible small and medium businesses with annual payroll of less than $3 million.
  • 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.
  • Commercial tenants in government buildings can apply for rent relief
  • 2020 land tax payments will be deferred for eligible small businesses.
  • $500 million was announced to establish a Business Support Fund. The fund will support the hardest hit sectors, including hospitality, tourism, accommodation, arts and entertainment, and retail.
  • The Government will establish a $500 million Working for Victoria Fund which will help workers who have lost their jobs find new opportunities.
Friday, 20 March, RBA supports businesses by offering loans

“Small businesses are the most vulnerable part of the economy and present the most pressing need for assistance”. – ABA CEO Anna Bligh

The Australian Banks Association announces a small business relief fund that will allow to more than $100bn of existing small business loans. Depending on the customer uptake, The Assistance Package could put as much as $8 billion back into the pockets of small businesses are we fight uncertain times.

The Assistance Package is a measure to help small businesses keep their doors open and keep people in jobs.

ABA CEO Anna Bligh stated “Banks are putting in place a fast track approval process to ensure customers receive support as soon as possible.

“Small businesses are the most vulnerable part of the economy and have the most urgent need for assistance.

“Small businesses employ 5 million Australians and this package is designed to help them keep doing just that.

“Small businesses can rest assured that if they need help, they will get it. Banks are already reaching out to their customers to offer assistance and packages will start rolling out in full on Monday,” she said.

Monday, 16 March, ATO announces relief measures

The ATO have announced a number of measures that will be put in place to relieve the concerns of those affected. The ATO have acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak will have an effect on both individuals and businesses and as a result have extended their opening hours to provide extended support along with the announcement of a number of additional support provisions.

The ATO have pledged the following:

  • Up to four month deferral of the payment date of amounts due through the business activity statement including PAYG installments, income tax assessments, fringe benefits tax assessments and excise.
  • Quarterly GST reporting businesses will also have the option to opt into monthly GST reporting in order to get quicker access to GST refunds.
  • Businesses will also be allowed to vary pay-as-you-go installment amounts to zero for the April 2020 quarter. Businesses who do this will be also able to claim a refund for any installments made for the September 2019 and December 2019 quarters.

It is important to note that assistance measures will not be issued automatically and businesses and advisors are encouraged to contact the ATO or their Accountant to discuss their situation.

Friday, 14 March, Federal Government announces stimulus package

“Our targeted stimulus package will focus on keeping Australians in jobs and keeping businesses in business so we can bounce back strongly. The economy needs temporary help right now to bounce back better so the livelihoods of all Australians are protected.” – Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Cash flow assistance for SME’s

Businesses who lodge Business Activity Statements (BAS) or Instalment Activity Statements (IAS) for the March and June quarters may be eligible to receive cash assistance. The Government has announced a cash flow boost of up to $25,000 equal to 50% of their Pay As You Go withheld amounts. The tax free payment will be made available to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million with employees between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020.

Instant asset cash write-off increased from $30,000 – $150,000 and access extended

The package has seen the instant asset write-off threshold increase from $30,000 to $150,000 and has also expanded to include access for businesses with an aggregate annual turnover of less than $500 million until 30 June 2020.

Wage subsidies available for apprentices and trainees

$1.3 billion has been allocated to support the jobs of 120,000 apprentices and trainees employed by small businesses. Eligible employees can apply for a wage subsidy of 50% of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for a period of up to 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.

What about individuals and other industries that have been affected?

Other measures to provide assistance for individuals include household stimulus payments of $750 for pensioners and people who receive social security, veteran and any other form of income support as well as eligible concession card holders. The tax free payments will be made from 31 March 2020 on a progressive bases.

An amount of $1 billion has also been provided to help regions, sectors and communities who have been economically affected by the outbreak, including:

  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Tourism
MORE RESOURCES

How to prepare for the impacts of COVID-19

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