COVID-19 Daily Update

24 September 2020

JobKeeper extension webinar tomorrow
Tomorrow’s TSA webinar on the JobKeeper extension will cover everything that tax and accounting professionals need to know, including important new information released by the ATO in the last day or so. In addition to the live presentation by our Tax counsel John Jeffreys, all attendees will receive detailed notes, a recording of the webinar and have an opportunity to ask questions. Book your spot while registrations are still open.


Some “fingers crossed” guidance from Queensland about the ACT
The Queensland Government has issued information that will only be applicable if there are zero cases in the Australian Capital Territory between now and 1am Friday 25 September. It builds on restriction easing that has already been put in place (as reported in the Daily Update for 23 September). If applied, the new measures will de-classify the ACT as a “hotspot” and release ACT residents from having to quarantine upon arrival in Queensland.


COVID-19 support for NSW commercial tenants and landlords to continue to year end
The NSW legislation Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2020 is to be extended until 31 December 2020 (it was to expire 25 October). Landlords will also be able to receive up to 25% land tax concession where they provide rent relief to commercial and residential tenants in financial distress from October to December. Tenants will be required to re-establish their eligibility under the extension to the regulation if they wish to request further rent relief, while landlords will also be required to respond to a tenant’s request for further rent relief in a reasonable time frame. Also see here for information on commercial lease support in NSW.


23 September 2020

Extension of critical health services nationwide
Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics, home medicines delivery, public and private hospital services will all be extended to 31 March 2021, says the National Cabinet. Telehealth is also being extended for essential specialist services, such as consultant physician, geriatrician, and neurosurgery services. Eligible people will continue to get free home delivery of essential medicines by the Home Medicines Service.


Energy grants for more Tasmanian businesses
Tasmania’s COVID-19 Small Business Energy Support Grant Program provides one off grant payments of $1,000 to eligible businesses who have not been eligible for the COVID-19 electricity, water and/or sewerage wavier available from service providers. The program is now open for applications and remains open until 12 noon on 26 October 2020.


New Queensland border directions take affect from 3pm today
Queensland Health has scheduled new border restrictions (direction no. 14, which supersedes direction no. 13) which kick-in from 3pm, 23 September. The new rules will:

  • give effect to the Queensland Freight Protocol
  • allow people to enter Queensland to fulfil informal shared parenting and child contact arrangements
  • allow NSW border zone residents to travel anywhere in Queensland for informal shared parenting arrangements, without quarantining. Similarly, Queensland residents can travel to the NSW border zone for this purpose and re-enter Queensland without quarantining
  • introduce a new ‘H’ category for the border declaration pass for people coming to Queensland for day health appointments
  • make the use of the approved Queensland Health approved essential health care form (DOCX) mandatory for private health practitioners providing health care to people entering Queensland from hotspots.

 


22 September 2020

Revenue NSW spells out payroll tax changes to support COVID-19 conditions
The payroll tax threshold in NSW has increased to $1 million (from $900,000) effective 1 July 2020. But apart from this, Revenue NSW has also announced a payroll tax deferral arrangement. In addition, businesses with total grouped Australian wages for the 2019-20 financial year of $10 million or less will be able to have their annual tax liability reduced by 25% when they lodge their annual reconciliation.


Income tax exemption for small and medium business grants in Victoria
The Federal and Victoria Governments have reached an agreement to make the grants to small and medium business recently announced under Victoria’s Business Resilience Package exempt from income tax. The Federal Government will extend this arrangement to all states and territories on an application basis. Eligibility would be restricted to future grants program announcements for small and medium businesses facing similar circumstances to Victorian businesses. Any tax exemption would be time limited for grants paid until 30 June 2021.


International arrival caps for returning Australians under review
National Cabinet has announced that Queensland and Western Australia will adopt a two-stage increase in international passenger arrival caps over the weeks to the first full week in October. The move will see an additional 500 Australians returning through each jurisdiction each week. Queensland will commence with an additional 200 passengers from Monday 28 September 2020, increasing to 500 passengers from Monday 5 October 2020. Western Australia will commence with an additional 200 passengers from 28 September, increasing to 500 passengers from Monday 12 October 2020. New South Wales and South Australia will continue to implement existing plans to accommodate more returning Australians by increasing their current international passenger arrival caps by 28 September 2020 by 500 and 100 respectively. National Cabinet also agreed that any facilitation of special commercial services would be carried out through the jurisdictions of South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. Victoria remains under lockdown.


21 September 2020

NSW workers to get pandemic leave
The NSW Government has partnered with the Federal Government to give NSW workers without leave entitlements access to the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment arrangements. Under the arrangement, any NSW worker who has no leave entitlements will be eligible for a one-off $1,500 payment for each 14-day period that they are directed by NSW Health to self-isolate or quarantine, or during which they are caring for someone with COVID-19. This includes holders of a temporary visa that gives them the right to work in Australia.


QLD’s moratorium on commercial leaseholder evictions extended
The Queensland Government’s moratorium on evictions for commercial leaseholders has been extended to the end of 2020. The state’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Yvette D’Ath, said the three-month extension, effective to 31 December 2020, means that to the end of 2020 commercial leaseholders under affected leases can’t have their lease terminated if they fall into arrears as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.


Third round of support grants to Victorian businesses
The Victorian Government recently announced a third round of the Business Support Fund – ensuring businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions continue to receive the support they need to make it through restricted trading. Through this third round of the Business Support Fund, eligible businesses will receive grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 depending on a business’s annual payroll. Apply here.


Pandemic ongoing, working-from-home short-cut claim method not so robust?
The short cut method for calculating home office expenses is set to expire on 30 September 2020 and (so far) there has been no mention of a further extension (despite the ongoing pandemic impacts, particularly in Melbourne).


JobKeeper extension webinar this week
Helpline queries to Tax & Super Australia regarding the JobKeeper extension will be answered after our webinar on this topic this coming Friday (details and bookings here). The webinar is free of charge for members and non-members are also invited to participate. Our Tax Counsel, John Jeffreys, will cover all of the important information with reference to real-world applications and examples, and as always, all attendees will receive access to detailed notes as well as a recording of the webinar. Note that there is still certain information yet to be released by the ATO, which is why we have scheduled the webinar for 25 September so that we can give attendees as much information as is possible.


18 September 2020

All your JobKeeper extension questions will be answered
Helpline queries to Tax & Super Australia regarding the JobKeeper extension will be answered after our webinar on this topic next Friday (details and bookings here). As part of our ongoing commitment to keeping members informed and equipped to deal with COVID-19-related changes, the webinar is free of charge for members and non-members are also invited to participate. Our Tax Counsel, John Jeffreys, will cover all of the important information with reference to real-world applications and examples, and as always, all attendees will receive access to detailed notes as well as a recording of the webinar. Please note the ATO is yet to release certain information concerning the JobKeeper extension, and it's for this reason that we have decided to schedule the webinar for 25 September which will enable us to provide you with all the information you need.


Updated guidance on JobKeeper from ATO
The ATO has published some new information based on the JobKeeper payment extension law being passed. The new guidance includes: Payment rates, 80-hour threshold for employees, Decline in turnover tests, and Actual decline in turnover test.


WA pandemic leave disaster payment
The West Australian Government has in place a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, which is a lump sum payment to help its residents during the 14 days required if they need to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone. You can check the eligibility criteria here. If people need longer term help, there may be other payments available. The WA Government has provided a payment guide to check what other payments residents may be eligible for.


Support for older Australians dealing with COVID-19
The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line provides information and support to senior Australians, their families and carers. Call 1800 171 866 Monday to Friday, except public holidays, from 8.30am to 6pm AEST.


17 September 2020

Three legislative instruments released on JobKeeper extension
The three instruments released late yesterday were as follows.

Our expert tax team are well underway in compiling all the information and guidance that tax and accounting professionals need to know, and will be sharing that in our JobKeeper Extension webinar next week.

 


Some events in SA may require a COVID marshal to attend
In South Australia, certain activities and operations may require a COVID marshal to be in attendance. The prescribed operations are:

  • The onsite purchase and consumption of food or beverages (indoors or outdoors)
  • Religious or faith-based ceremonies (other than wedding ceremonies or funeral services)
  • Supermarkets and hardware stores
  • Distribution centres (including associated transport operations)
  • Gymnasiums and fitness centres
  • Swimming pools used by the public
  • Sporting clubs
  • Any activity where a COVID Management Plan is required
  • Any operation which may be defined by the state coordinator.

 


Meet Treasury’s Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit
The Australian Treasury has set up a Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit, which has been formed to engage with peak business and industry groups on systemic issues arising from COVID-19 to ensure these are being brought to the attention of Federal Government. The unit is hearing from business on a regular basis and providing updates to government, focusing on crucial issues where the government may be able to undertake additional work to support what business is doing. To contact the unit, email CoronavirusBusinessLiaison@treasury.gov.au.


16 September 2020

JobKeeper 2.0 rules have been released
Legislation to extend JobKeeper has passed both houses and received royal assent, and just registered yesterday afternoon is the legislative instrument Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Amendment Rules (No. 8) 2020. The instrument sets out the decline in turnover test for the extension of JobKeeper to 28 March 2021, and the new two-tiered payment rates. Further guidance from the ATO is expected very soon, which may allow the Commissioner to set alternative references for applying the now alternative rates of payment.


Recent JobKeeper changes still leave some elements intact
Members are reminded that while the recent changes to JobKeeper 1.0 moved the eligibility date from 1 March 2020 to 1 July 2020 for some employees, it did not change the requirement that entities need to be carrying on a business as at 1 March 2020 to qualify for the JobKeeper scheme. Further, the “1 July 2020” amendments did not change the eligibility requirements for eligible business participants, including the 12 March 2020 requirements around generating assessable income, or making a supply and reporting it to the Commissioner.


Eligibility criteria for Victorian sole trader support
Readers have been keen to get an idea of the eligibility criteria for sole trader support as mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Update. The Business Victoria website says that full details will be published when applications open. However in the meantime, the basic eligibility run-down is that a business must:

  • operate a business located within Victoria
  • participate in the Federal Government’s JobKeeper scheme
  • employ people and be registered with WorkSafe
  • have had an annual payroll of less than $10 million in 2019-20
  • be registered for GST
  • hold an ABN
  • be registered with the responsible federal or state regulator.
An eligible business will receive:
  • $10,000 if its annual payroll is less than $650,000
  • $15,000 if its annual payroll is between $650,000 and $3 million
  • $20,000 if its payroll is between $3 million and $10 million.
Grant applications open this Friday 18 September 2020, so bookmark this Business Victoria webpage.

 


15 September 2020

Sole trader support in Victoria boosted by $100 million
Victorian Minister for Business Precincts Martin Pakula has announced, one day after a business support package worth $3 billion was revealed (see yesterday’s Daily Update), that the Victorian Government will also provide access to $3,000 grants to around 33,000 sole traders across the state. Also other cash grants will support SMEs that are most affected by COVID-19 restrictions as part of the third round of the Business Support Fund. Businesses with payrolls up to $10 million will receive grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 depending on their size. While the primary income support has been the federal JobKeeper package, the Victorian initiatives aim to help businesses with expenses and overheads, which would not have been covered by JobKeeper, in order to help get these businesses back on their feet. In addition, the Melbourne City Recovery Fund will help businesses with new infrastructure in preparation for the warmer months as activities can move outdoors. This is part of an additional $290 million package announced yesterday.


JobKeeper compliance update supplied by ATO
Following media reports yesterday about several taxpayer-sourced reports of JobKeeper non-compliance to the ATO, late yesterday the regulator published an update of larger businesses and JobKeeper compliance status so far. Apart from not keeping adequate records, the ATO found some issues at work included businesses: that are part of SGE groups and are incorrectly calculating their aggregated turnover (applying a 30% decline in turnover instead of the 50% decline in turnover) applying for JobKeeper payments prior to their nomination period projecting GST turnover at the economic group level rather than entity level incorrectly calculating GST turnover, with common errors including excluding irregular GST turnover amounts or using general sales rather than GST turnover.


Report of economic impacts on Melbourne LGA
PricewaterhouseCoopers has released a report detailing the forecast economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City of Melbourne local government area as well as Victoria, highlighting a range of response actions for the government in rebooting the Victorian economy.


14 September 2020

$3 billion Victorian business survival package
$3 billion Victorian business survival package A package of $3 billion in cash grants, tax relief and cashflow support will be delivered to Victorian businesses that have been most affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the Premier Daniel Andrews has announced. The package will provide:

  • A third round of the Business Support Fund to provide up to $20,000 for business with a payroll of up to $10 million
  • Grants of up to $30,000 for licensed pubs, clubs, hotels, bars, restaurants and reception centres, based on their venue capacity and location
  • Grants of up to $20,000 to help alpine businesses
  • A competitive grants program to support metropolitan and regional business chambers and trader groups.
Payroll tax is also to be deferred (note, not waived, but deferred) for 2020-21 for businesses with payroll up to $10 million. Also deferred is a planned increase in the land fill levy for six months, and the bringing forward of the 50% stamp duty discount for commercial and industrial property for all of regional Victoria. There are some waivers however, such as waiving 25% of the Congestion Levy this year, with the outstanding balance deferred, liquor license fee waivers for 2021, and waiving Vacant Residential Land Tax for vacancies in 2020. More details here.

 


Sun will not have set on permitted worker permits, so re-issuing not necessary
Some employer clients may be concerned that worker permits issued to some of their staff may have expired as at 13 September, which was the date previously fixed when these permits were first required. But the Department of Health and Human Services indicates that the dates on existing permits can be edited and added to by employers as required. If a new form is in fact required, here is the link.


Land duty valuations: New guidance from Victorian SRO
The Victorian SRO has provided clarification on circumstances where information may be required in addition to a letter of appraisal as evidence of value for duty purposes. The guidance says because real estate agents are typically not qualified valuers, their letters of appraisal are not considered formal valuations, and while the Commissioner may accept such letters of appraisal as evidence of value for duty purposes, additional information or a formal valuation may be required.


11 September 2020

More COVID-19 tax relief for Victorian landholders
The Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has announced that the State Government will waive the Vacant Residential Land Tax for properties that are vacant in 2020. He says that with travel restrictions in place and property inspections not currently possible, many properties are vacant that would be otherwise occupied. Car park owners can also defer any outstanding balances until next year.

Queensland Treasury has crunched the COVID numbers
The Queensland Government has released its Treasury’s COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review, which provides an update on Queensland’s economic and fiscal estimates over 2019-20 and 2020-21 but also incorporating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to date. Highlights include an ongoing focus on supporting small business (more than 97% of all state businesses), many thousands of which are in tourism-related and other key services sectors, which have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

Some Victorian trust evidence in regard to non-dutiable property can now be scans
In regard to exemptions to land transfer duty, the State Revenue Office of Victoria has made changes to the evidentiary requirements for the establishment of a trust relating to non-dutiable property. A scanned copy of the original trust instrument is now sufficient (see also here). Before these changes, a physical original executed trust instrument was required to be sighted.

Planned consultation by the ATO for September
While the ATO’s public advice and guidance program continues to have a focus on COVID-19 related issues, it has announced that during this month it plans to consult with tax professionals and the wider industry on certain tax matters — specifically for September, expenses associated with vacant land and the retention of funds on outstanding notifications.


10 September 2020

ATO live webcast to deal with the new JobKeeper
Practitioners may want to mark next Thursday 17 September on their calendar, which is when the ATO will be hosting a live webcast that among other topics will look at the extensions to the JobKeeper payment scheme, and changes from 28 September 2020. An expert panel will be in attendance, comprised of representatives from the ATO, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) and professional associations. You can email questions for this panel by close of business Monday 14 September.

ATO to take it easy on COVID varied PAYG instalment mistakes
The regulator has just affirmed that due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding COVID-19, it won't apply penalties and interest for excessive pay-as-you-go (PAYG) instalment variations when your clients make their best attempts to estimate end of year tax. “This is in recognition of difficulties they may face in making accurate estimates of final tax liabilities in these uncertain economic times,” the ATO says.

School formals in NSW to go ahead
The annual schoolies shindigs in Queensland are out, but the consolation prize is that the NSW Government has announced that Year 12 students will be able to celebrate finishing school with COVID-19 safe graduation ceremonies and formals being allowed to take place during Term 4.

Roy Morgan survey out today shows most Victorians think SMEs should be compensated
A snap SMS survey held this week by Roy Morgan Research and published today reveals that 76% of Victorians consider that small businesses forced to close because of the state government’s COVID-19 restrictions should be provided with financial compensation. The research also showed support for the nightly curfew, and found that 70% approve of Premier Daniel Andrews. Roy Morgan has held weekly surveys during the Stage 4 Victorian restrictions, with political leanings noted but not found to greatly sway conclusions.


9 September 2020

ATO to issue practitioners with list of their JobKeeper clients
In order to help with tax time this year, the ATO says it will soon be providing practitioners with a list of their clients who have been enrolled in the JobKeeper scheme and have received JobKeeper payments as an employer or eligible business participant. It also briefly runs through the tax treatment of payments for the variety of entities practitioners will be dealing with.

Financially distressed businesses to get an extension of relief
Temporary insolvency and bankruptcy protections, first announced in mid-August, have been extended until 31 December 2020. To lessen the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push otherwise profitable and viable businesses into insolvency and help ensure they can resume normal operations when the crisis has passed, the following temporary measures were put in place: Relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent Increasing the threshold for creditors issuing a statutory demand on a company from $2,000 to $20,000 and extending the timeframe for a company to respond from 21 days to six months Increasing the threshold for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings from $5,000 to $20,000 and extending the time period for debtors to respond to a bankruptcy notice from 21 days to six months and extending the period of protection a debtor receives after declaring an intention to enter voluntary bankruptcy from 21 days to six months Providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 to provide targeted relief for companies from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus health crisis. For more information, read the Federal Government fact sheet.

SG amnesty is now closed
The ATO says that as per previous announcements in regard to the super guarantee amnesty, the opportunity to use the amnesty is now closed, as at 11.59pm 7 September. If your business clients didn't apply for the super guarantee amnesty and have any unpaid or late paid super to disclose, they will need to lodge a Superannuation guarantee charge statement and pay the super guarantee charge (SGC).

Revenue NSW releases practice note on payroll tax and shares
Practice note CPN013 deals with NSW payroll tax as applied to wages which are provided in the form of shares and options, or are based on shares and options, under an employee share scheme.


8 September 2020

Queensland establishes more COVID-19 support
The Queensland Government has announced more COVID-19 support measures. They include:

  • a two-month waiver of payroll tax for July and August 2020 for businesses with annual Australian taxable wages up to $6.5 million
  • continuing to exempt JobKeeper subsidy payments from payroll tax – despite the Federal Government making these payments liable for income tax
  • allowing businesses to pay off existing payroll tax deferred liabilities over the course of 2021
  • for businesses renting state government premises and incurring a demonstrable COVID impact, extending existing rent relief to the end of calendar 2020.

 

SA announces extension to land tax relief
The South Australian Treasurer has announced that a land tax relief scheme that supports landlords in providing significant rent reductions for their residential and commercial SME tenants impacted by COVID-19 restrictions will be significantly expanded and extended by six months, to the end of April next year. Under the scheme, eligible landlords now can receive up to a 50% reduction on the 2019-20 land tax liability on affected properties (up from 25%) provided they pass on the full benefit in land tax relief to their impacted tenants. Applications for the land tax relief scheme will be available via the RevenueSA website.

Annual declaration extension from TPB
The TPB says that any tax practitioner that has an annual declaration due on or before 30 June 2021 will not be required to submit it. These practitioners will next need to complete their annual declaration in 2022 or 2023 (if their registration renewal is due in 2022). However the TPB says practitioners must continue to meet their other ongoing obligations, including around professional indemnity insurance, fit and proper requirements and personal tax obligations.

TPB extends other COVID-19 concessions
Tax practitioners now have access to extended TPB COVID-19 concessions to assist them to meet their registration and renewal requirements during the pandemic. In addition to the existing extension of the annual declaration concession to 31 December 2020, other initiatives have been extended as follows:

  • continued professional education (CPE) (private reading and activities) concessions to be extended to 31 December 2020
  • renewal concession to continue to 30 June 2021
  • relevant experience concession to continue to 30 June 2021.

 


7 September 2020

lRe-opening: Victorian Government releases “roadmaps”
From 11:59pm 13 September, some restrictions will be eased across Victoria. Melbourne metro and regional Victoria each have their own roadmaps, relating to how many active cases there are currently in the community.

Commercial tenancies legislation in Victoria extended
The COVID-19 Commercial and Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment legislation would have automatically expired on 29 September, so the part of the omnibus act that introduced it has therefore been extended to 26 April 2021. Note that this version of the bill changes the definition of “eligible lease”.

COVID-19 resources for industry and the public
The Department of Health is offering a range of resources for free, including information and fact sheets, posters, videos, apps and more to help the general public and industry stay informed and share important messages.

TPB policy response to the pandemic
In response to the challenging circumstances tax practitioners have encountered this year, the Tax Practitioners Board has offered support to tax practitioners through a range of initiatives. The TPB says these concessional arrangements are consistent with a whole of government approach to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.


4 September 2020

Financial assistance offered to Australians stuck overseas
The Federal Government is offering interest-free loans to Australians who are unable to return to Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions and are experiencing financial distress. Under strict eligibility criteria, one-off loans may be granted to cover two types of expenses — Living costs (to cover emergency living costs until a commercial flight becomes available), and Flight back to Australia (to help cover the costs of a flight to return to Australia).

Small business ombudsman wants to axe fringe benefits tax to stimulate cash flow
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has urged the Federal Government to abolish fringe benefits tax (FBT) for at least two years to provide a much-needed cash flow boost to the economy and support struggling small businesses.

Arrivals in Northern Territory face strict controls
There are strict border controls in place for all arrivals to the Northern Territory, including returning Territorians. All arrivals to the Northern Territory must fill in a Border Entry Form , and complete 14 days of mandatory supervised quarantine at their own expense (there are minor exemptions), if those returning have recently been in an active declared COVID-19 hot spot.

What’s up with COVID-19? There’s a WhatsApp for that
The Federal Government has a COVID-19 WhatsApp channel to learn the latest on Australia's response to coronavirus. The WhatsApp channel provides guidance and information on the latest news, case numbers, how to check symptoms, how to stop the spread, and ideas to support individuals, their family and friends.


3 September 2020

Early hint at some good news for tax agents on JobKeeper 2.0
While the official details for the JobKeeper extension are not public yet, the ATO yesterday preemptively published an announcement summarising some information on extending the payment from 28 September to 28 March 2021. The ATO labels the overall extension as JobKeeper Extension 1 (28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021) and JobKeeper Extension 2 (4 January to 28 March 2021), as the rates paid will be different. The good news is let slip right near the bottom of the announcement, under a heading “What doesn’t change”. Here, the ATO states: “You don’t need to re-enrol for the JobKeeper extension if you are already enrolled for JobKeeper for fortnights before 28 September.” Tax & Super Australia emphasises that the legislation is not yet available, but if the above bears out in the official rules, that is good news for practitioners.

SMSF regulations to allow six members under new legislation
A bill has been introduced that partially implements the measure to allow an increase in the maximum number of allowable members in self-managed superannuation funds and small APRA funds from four to six. The full implementation of the change requires updates to regulations, not legislative changes.

Victorian Government extends “state of disaster” to 13 September
Previously set to expire at 6pm 2 September, Victoria's "state of disaster" status has been renewed until 11:59pm on 13 September 2020, bringing it into line with the existing "state of emergency" declaration and allowing advice about any future continuation to be made once the Victorian Government’s roadmap for easing restrictions has been released. The move puts in place the necessary legal mechanism to underpin a number of the current Stage 4 restrictions, including the 8pm to 5am curfew and the 5 kilometre limit for exercise and shopping within metropolitan Melbourne.

NSW-Victorian border mobility changes
The NSW Government has announced that a single border region will be reinstated that extends to around 50 kilometres on either side of the border. The new border region and “border region resident” permit will come into effect at 12:01am on Friday, 4 September 2020.

NSW Energy Accounts Payment Assistance vouchers are available
If your client is having difficulty paying their current household energy bill because of a short-term financial crisis or emergency, such as unexpected medical bills or reduced income due to COVID-19, they could be eligible for Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) $50 vouchers from the NSW Government.


1 September 2020

New JobKeeper guides released by ATO
The ATO has issued updated JobKeeper guides. See the following for a JobKeeper payment guide for employers not reporting through single touch payroll (STP), a JobKeeper guide for employers reporting through STP, and the ATO JobKeeper guide for sole traders.

Land tax relief for Victorian landlords and businesses re-opens for applications
The Victorian State Revenue Office has announced that applications for land tax relief have reopened via the SRO’s page “My Land Tax”, which has now been updated with further relief measures for landlords and business owners announced by the Victorian Government. Your clients can check eligibility for all land tax relief measures and find out what supporting documents they will need to upload with the application on the SRO’s "Apply for coronavirus land tax relief" webpage. If they have previously applied for a 25% waiver and want to apply for this further relief, they must make a new application through My Land Tax, or make a new registration.

ACT pushes ahead with tax reforms
The “Jobs and Recovery Plan” of the ACT Government, mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Update, is more than a response to the COVID-19 crisis, and is being tied in closely with a more general undertaking by the territory to pursue tax reform. Taxes such as conveyance duties are gradually being phased out, with revenue being replaced by increases in general rates.

ASIC instrument to allow COVID hardship withdrawals from "frozen" managed investment schemes
A new relief measure has been released by ASIC in the form of an instrument that will facilitate withdrawals by “responsible entities” of registered managed investment schemes facing financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic where the scheme has become “frozen”. This occurs when redemptions are cancelled or suspended to stop withdrawals from destabilising a fund.


26 August 2020

NEWS

Legislation released for JobKeeper 1 July changes
The latest compilation of the JobKeeper rules, incorporating the "1 July 2020" changes, was released late yesterday. It shows the text of the law as amended and in force on 15 August 2020, with the notes at the end including information about amending laws and the amendment history of provisions of the compiled law. Here is a link to the legislation.

Post-1 July start-ups may need to take action on a JobKeeper anomaly
For businesses that commenced on or after 1 July 2019, made sales on or before 31 December 2019, and were not registered for GST, notice of those sales was required to be provided to the ATO by 30 June 2020. The instructions on the ATO website (QC 62916) was for those businesses to enrol in JobKeeper and the ATO “will then contact you via email with instructions on how to provide us notice”. However as many taxpayers enrolled in JobKeeper directly, rather than through their tax agents, the emails may not have been actioned appropriately. In these cases taxpayers or their tax agents should contact the ATO and seek an extension of time to submit the required information.

Taxis in Queensland get extra funding support
The Queensland Government has announced additional financial assistance of $23 million to support the taxi and limousine industry through the economic impacts of COVID-19. On offer are one-off lump sum payments of $1,000 per licence to taxi and limousine licence holders, $3,500 per licence to taxi and limousine operators, $1,000 per licence as an additional incentive payment for wheelchair accessible taxi operators, and $1,500 per vehicle to authorised booking entities for each affiliated taxi or limousine, capped at 1,000 vehicles, for entities that provide booking services predominantly for taxis and/or limousines. Applications to access this funding close next week on Friday 4 September. Visit the QRIDA website for eligibility information and instructions on how to apply.

South Australian call centres and information lines
The SA Government has gathered the most helpful call centre numbers and helplines together on one web page. They include the COVID-19 Information Line, Communicable Disease Branch line, the Coronavirus Information Helpline, SA COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line, COVID-19 Relief Call Centre, Red Cross Telecross REDi service, interpreting services and more.


25 August 2020

NEWS

$45 million for NSW southern border small businesses
NSW small businesses will benefit from a new $45 million grant program, the Southern border small business support grant , designed to cushion the economic impacts of the NSW southern border closure. Businesses in 13 local government areas along the NSW and Victorian border will be able to apply for $5,000 and $10,000 grants through Service NSW from Tuesday 8 September.

COVID-19 report of family hardship in WA
A new report from WA’s Centre for Social Impact presents the experiences of the pandemic, its restrictions and its early economic and social affects among 158 family members in a study, who completed a supplementary COVID -19 survey between May and July 2020 for the Centre for Social Impact. The report is entitled The impact of COVID-19 on families in hardship in Western Australia.

Lowy Institute has issued a paper on Australia’s economic prospects post-COVID
The Lowy paper, entitled The costs of covid: Australia’s economic prospects in a wounded world, argues that Australia is emerging from the pandemic sooner, and at less economic cost, than expected. There is however higher unemployment and elevated debt. Businesses and households are more uncertain than usual, though the recovery is already underway and will likely gain momentum over coming months.

Queensland's market diversification and resilience grants deadline this Friday
The Queensland Government has provided assistance for businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak through its Market Diversification and Resilience Grants (MDRG) Program. The first round of the program provided eligible Queensland-based agriculture, food, or forestry exporters with funding for $7,500 for equipment purchases and $50,000 for larger projects. The second round of grants specifically for fisheries ends this Friday 28 August 2020 at 5pm. It is targeted at commercial fishing, charter fishing and aquaculture businesses. More details and application forms are here.


24 August 2020

NEWS

NSW pokies purveyors get tax break
The NSW Government announced the following changes to payment of gaming machine tax as part of its economic stimulus package. Gaming machine tax normally paid by clubs between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020 is deferred to 1 September 2020. Payments by hotels between 1 April 2020 and 30 September 2020 is deferred to 1 October 2020. There are also other measures in place, such as payment arrangements in place plus no interest charged.

Emergency powers, public health and COVID-19
The Parliamentary Library and Information Service of Victoria has made available a research paper entitled Emergency powers, public health and COVID-19. The paper describes and contextualises the kinds of powers used by the Federal and Victorian governments during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended as both a resource that captures the emergency response to COVID-19 and a primer on some of the wider issues related to that response.

Advice and support for exporters from Austrade
Austrade (the Australian Trade and Investment Commission) is working closely with the network of government departments and industry agencies to help Australian businesses overcome complex and fast-evolving COVID-19–related challenges. It has provided a web page with news and links for exporting and cross border trade issues.

Rights of disabled under COVID-19 under spotlight
The Australian Human Rights Commission says policy responses to COVID-19, including isolation and social distancing measures, may in certain circumstances have a greater impact on some people with disability, particularly those who rely on carers and other support people, and those who live or work in high-risk environments. It has produced a set of guidelines on the rights of people with disability in health and disability care during COVID-19.


20 August 2020

NEWS

WA commercial tenancy support
The WA Government passed new laws to help commercial tenants and landlords reach agreements about rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the implementation of the commercial tenancy changes, several real-life situations have manifested as Q&As put to the WA Small Business Development Corporation.
 
Canberra extends land tax landlord rebate
The ACT Government has announced that the land tax rebate for landlords who provide lower rents to tenants affected by COVID-19 will be extended by three months to December 2020 (note that this is not available to landlords who rent their property to a company in the business of providing short-term rentals, that is, serviced apartments).

Tasmanian registration freeze for light and heavy vehicles
Small businesses in Tasmania looking to suspend activity due to the COVID-19 business downturn and trading restrictions can apply to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to freeze their business vehicle registrations for both light and heavy vehicles (apply here). Registrations can be reactivated at no cost to them when the business restarts. The maximum period that a registration can be frozen is 12 months.

Victorian Dairy Farm Induction Program
The Dairy Farm Induction Program funded by the Victoria Government will assist to safely, effectively and rapidly on-board new dairy farmhand workers and provide opportunities for people seeking to kick start their career in dairy in Victoria. The program aims to provide a seamless experience for both dairy farmers and job seekers to access the information they need to successfully gain employment on Victorian dairy farms during COVID-19 and beyond. Clients can register their interest here.

19 August 2020

NEWS

JobKeeper amendment rules: Don't miss this Friday's deadline!
The latest amendment to JobKeeper requires employers, by this Friday 21 August 2020, to notify any newly eligible employees in writing of the business’s intention to apply for JobKeeper on their behalf. Meeting the wage condition deadline is 31 August. For more details, see "What employers should do now".
 
See this Fact and action checklist for all the latest JobKeeper amendments.

SA land tax reform transition fund
The SA Government has in place a measure affecting the previously announced land tax reform transitional relief fund, which is available to eligible taxpayers whose land tax bill will increase as a result of the changes in aggregation of land commencing from 1 July 2020. This will be boosted from 50% to 100% of the increase in an eligible taxpayer’s 2020-21 land tax assessment, and will be subject to the existing criteria. More details here.
 
Employees guide for work expenses
The ATO has recently updated its Employees guide for work expenses which can help employees decide whether expenses are deductible and what records are needed to be kept to substantiate them.
 
Guide to continuing business
The Federal Government has issued Guide on continuing in business in the face of the recent bushfires and COVID-19, which have had devastating outcomes for businesses. This guide provides positive steps your client can take now to help keep their business operating, including topics such as planning recovery, getting support, assessing finances, keeping operations running, reaching out to customers, and protecting the business.

 

18 August 2020

 

HELPLINE QUESTION

The current JobKeeper rules require that an entity carried on a business in Australia on 1 March 2020 to be eligible. Given the test time for eligible employees appears to be moving from 1 March 2020 to 1 July 2020, will the date at which an entity is required to be carrying on a business also change?

Answer: The information we have from the currently available fact sheets do not indicate any change to this requirement. However we have to wait until the JobKeeper 2.0 rules are released before we can have certainty on this question.

NEWS

JobKeeper employee eligibility expanded
The latest amendment to the JobKeeper 1.0 rules has been released. The major change is the admission of employees who were on the books as at 1 July 2020, from JobKeeper fortnight 10 (3-16 August). And in recognition of the short time available to employers to meet the wage condition for newly eligible employees, particularly in relation to JobKeeper fortnight 10, the ATO has given employers until 31 August 2020 to meet the wage condition for JobKeeper fortnights 10 (3-16 August) and 11 (17-30 August). Many more details here.
 
JobKeeper updates just keep coming
The ATO has issued some minor updates to JobKeeper guides for employee test requirements, employers reporting through STP, employers not reporting through STP, sole traders and not-for-profits and charities.
 
Guidance on long-term casual employee JobKeeper eligibility
The ATO has issued some guidance for employers to determine if their employee can be considered a long-term casual employee for JobKeeper purposes. If a casual employee was not an eligible employee prior to 3 August 2020, your employer clients can use the 1 July 2020 test to reassess that employee’s eligibility. The test requires that the employee be employed on a regular and systematic basis for the period 2 July 2019 to 1 July 2020.

17 August 2020

HELPLINE QUESTION

Question: Will the “12 March 2020” tests change in the JobKeeper 2.0 rules?
Answer: The information we have from the currently available fact sheets do not indicate any change to this requirement. However we have to wait until the JobKeeper 2.0 rules are released before we can have certainty on this question.

NEWS

Returning traveller quarantine fees in NSW: Only ex-Vic returning residents get waiver
As mentioned in the 13 August Daily Update, a moratorium on fees is in place for NSW residents returning to the state until 11 September. But the NSW Government has made it clear in a subsequent announcement that fees will still apply to returning international and domestic travellers who are not specifically returning from Victoria.
 
PCG for JobKeeper compliance concerns
Practical compliance guideline PCG 2020/4 deals with the ATO's compliance focus regarding schemes devised to access or increase JobKeeper payments. The guideline takes aim at contrived and artificial arrangements that technically satisfy the eligibility requirements, but have been implemented for the sole or dominant purpose of accessing a JobKeeper payment.
 
ACT payroll tax exemption for businesses that take on apprentices
The ACT Government, stating that economic impacts of COVID-19 are falling disproportionately on young people, has announced that it will offer a six-month payroll tax exemption for businesses who take on new or additional apprentices or trainees. The exemption would apply to six months of wages for eligible employees recruited from 1 August 2020 to 31 January 2021. The ACT Public Service graduate, cadet and apprenticeship program will also be extended to provide more positions over the next two years.
 
Support package for Canberran children, young people and families
Another ACT Government initiative (scroll down) is the Supporting Children, Young People and their Families Package. This includes:
  • One-off payments of $300 for each child and young person in foster and kinship care to support the wellbeing of young people and help ease the financial stress for carers whose employment or income may have been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • An extended carer subsidy for young people in out of home care who turn 18 this year to support living expenses, housing costs or connect them with training and employment.
  • Funding to support young carers to meet additional expenses, maintain wellbeing and support educational participation.
  • One-off grant payments to non-government service providers to assist with direct service delivery, brokerage and support for young people and their families to respond to increased demand for services.
     

15 August 2020

JobKeeper 1.0 Changes
Amendments to the JobKeeper 1.0 Rules were released on Friday 14th August. The amendments reflect the changes previously announced by the Treasurer and incorporated into the “JobKeeper Payment” factsheet.

The major change is the admission into the JobKeeper scheme of employees who were on the books as at 1 July 2020, from JobKeeper fortnight 10 (3rd August – 16th August). Additionally there are other tweaks to the 1.0 Rules which, at first glance, appear to be in line with changes Tax & Super Australia and other member advocates have been agitating for.

Tax & Super Australia will fully review the changes and bring you a comprehensive analysis next week

Wage Condition – JobKeeper Fortnight 10 and 11
As previously indicated by Tax & Super Australia, in recognition of the short time available to employers to meet the wage condition for newly eligible employees, particularly in relation to JobKeeper fortnight 10, the ATO have given employers until 31 August 2020 to meet the wage condition for JobKeeper fortnights 10 (3rd August – 16th August) and 11 (17th August – 30th August). 

14 August 2020

NEWS

Moratorium on hotel quarantine fee for NSW residents
NSW residents returning from Victoria will have their hotel quarantine fee waived for the next month to ease the financial burden on returnees.

APRA re-starts its engines in phased manner
In March, APRA announced the suspension of the majority of its planned policy and supervision initiatives in response to the impact of COVID-19. In April, the issuing of new licences was also suspended due to the significant challenges new entrants would have faced due to economic uncertainty. But it has this week announced that it will recommence public consultations on select policy reforms and begin a phased resumption of the issuing of new licenses.
 
Victorian mental health support
Locked-down Victorians should know that the state’s mental health system is to receive a $60 million shot in the arm to help citizens through the pandemic crisis — now and after the pandemic is over and its effects are still being felt.
 
COVID-19 frequently asked questions
The ATO COVID-19 frequently asked questions have been archived on the ATO’s legal database and embedded within the relevant topic areas on the ATO website. The documents provide a record of the frequently asked questions that were published to the main ATO website in the period following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Isolation payment increase for Victorians
Victoria will increase coronavirus isolation payments from $300 to $450 to encourage more people to stay home as they wait for COVID test results.The worker support payments are for employees who test positive and do not have any sick leave. More than 17,000 Victorians have applied for the payments so far.

13 August 2020

NEWS

Hotel quarantine fee relief for NSW residents returning from Victoria
NSW residents returning from Victoria will have their hotel quarantine fee waived for the next month to ease the financial burden on returnees, the NSW Government has announced. The charge will be waived retrospectively and apply to NSW residents already in hotel quarantine after travelling from Victoria. 
 
Regional tourism accommodation support for Victoria
The new restrictions mean residents in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, as well as some interstate visitors, are not able to travel to regional Victoria. As a result, there have been significant booking cancellations with regional accommodation providers. Businesses in regional Victoria impacted by these cancellations will be able to apply for a payment of up to $225 per booking, per night up to a maximum of $1,125. Applications are open until the end of the current Stay at Home restrictions or when funds are exhausted. Applications can be made at Business Victoria.

Temporary changes to director obligations
The Federal Government has announced that to lessen the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push otherwise profitable and viable businesses into insolvency and help ensure they can resume normal operations when the crisis has passed, the following temporary measures have been put in place:

  • Relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent
  • Increasing the threshold for creditors issuing a statutory demand on a company from $2,000 to $20,000 and extending the timeframe for a company to respond from 21 days to six months
  • Increasing the threshold for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings from $5,000 to $20,000 and extending the time period for debtors to respond to a bankruptcy notice from 21 days to six months and extending the period of protection a debtor receives after declaring an intention to enter voluntary bankruptcy from 21 days to six months
  • Providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 to provide targeted relief for companies from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus health crisis.

For more information, read the Federal Government fact sheet.
 
Find out how your local government can assist
Local governments across the state of Victoria are doing what they can to support businesses and local communities at this time. To find out how your council can help your business, please visit www.viccouncils.asn.au/find-your-council.

12 August 2020

 
HELPLINE QUESTION
Question
: Can I close my business while receiving JobKeeper? 
Answer: A business can “hibernate” (the Prime Minister’s phrase) during the pandemic with a view to being in a position to reopen as soon as possible and permitted, and remain eligible for JobKeeper. It is necessary for its employees to remain “on the books” for the JobKeeper payments to be made to those employees. Additionally the eligible business participant must remain “actively engaged in the business”.

Also, an entity does not qualify for the JobKeeper scheme at a time if:
  • where the entity is a company—a liquidator or provisional liquidator has been appointed in relation to the company; or
  • where the entity is an individual—a trustee in bankruptcy has been appointed to the individual’s property.

NEWS

Last chance to apply for NSW COVID-19 recovery grant
This coming Sunday, 16 August, is the cut-off date for applications for the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Grant. If your client’s small business or not-for-profit organisation has experienced a decline in turnover as a result of COVID-19, they may be eligible for a small business recovery grant of between $500 and $3000. But applications close in a few days, so your eligible clients will appreciate a phone call. See here for eligibility conditions, and here to apply online.

Tax Practitioners Board offers helping hand
The TPB has reached out to Victorian practitioners with offers of help. It says it has taken temporary measures in revising some of its policies and are providing additional support around registration renewals. These include:

Working for Victoria Fund
The Victorian Council of Social Services and Victorian Trades Hall Council, alongside the Victorian Government, will administer a $500 million Working for Victoria Fund. Displaced workers will be eligible to apply for different opportunities for paid work and to contribute to Victoria’s ability to manage this event and support the community. The initiative also assists businesses to employ Victorian job seekers who have lost jobs as a result of COVID-19. Further information is available for job seekers and for businesses

Top end closed to the rest of the country for at least 18 months
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has said that he will keep the Territory’s border guarded for at least another 18 months, and aims to recruit extra police to keep the barriers in place. Victorians are likely to be banned indefinitely, he said.

NEWS

Victorian pubs, clubs and restaurants support
Business Victoria has announced a $40 million package of support for pubs, clubs and restaurants in order to provide rent relief to venues that are not covered by the Commercial tenancy relief scheme. This initiative provides eligible businesses with:

  • Reimbursement of up to $20,000 per business group for expenses incurred in obtaining specialist business and tenancy advice since 29 March 2020
  • Free mediation services to help tenants and landlords reach a fair and proportionate commercial outcome on rental payments
  • Relief for commercial rent hardship of up to $150,000 per business group where it can be shown that the business has sought to negotiate in good faith with the landlord with no result.

Liquor licence fee relief
Victorian businesses that have paid for a renewable liquor licence for 2020 will be reimbursed their licence fee and those yet to pay will have the fee waived. The State Revenue Office will administer the reimbursement, regardless of whether the licence fee was paid to it or the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
 
Payment terms for government suppliers fast-tracked
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) says that the Government will pay all outstanding supplier invoices within five business days. VCCI says it is urging the private sector to do the same where possible.
 
Social Security determination regarding JobKeeper re-issued
A determination issued on 28 April this year modified the Administration Act to authorise the provision of JobKeeper information (including TFNs) by the Commissioner to Social Services. It also modified the operating rules to allow determining if a person who benefits from JobKeeper has also made a claim for a social security payment, or indeed qualified for one. The new determination (Social Security (Coronavirus Economic Response—2020 Measures No. 12) Determination 2020) amends the previous one (No. 5) to determine additional modifications for which the Social Services can use JobKeeper information provided by the Commissioner under section 204A of the Administration Act.
 
CBD business support fund: More details
Mention was made in yesterday’s Daily Update that early registration of interest was being accepted for participation in the Business Victoria CBD business support fund. The City of Melbourne released its local economic stimulus package to support city businesses affected by COVID-19. The package includes the suspension of fees for Food Act registrations and street trading permits for three months, halving rent for eligible tenants in Council owned buildings for three months and rates hardship support. For immediate support, contact the Business Concierge Service on 9658 9658 (press 1 for Business Concierge) or visit City of Melbourne Business for more information.

7 August 2020

NEW CHANGES TO JOBKEEPER LEGISLATION

Today the Treasurer announced two changes to the JobKeeper scheme. The first makes it easier for organisations to qualify for the JobKeeper payment extension from 28 September 2020, while the second change adjusts the reference date for employee eligibility.

  • Business Turnover Test
    Businesses will need to meet one of the decline in turnover tests for the September 2020 quarter to be eligible for JK for the period 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021. Further businesses will have to have met the decline in turnover tests for the December 2020 quarter to be eligible for JK for the period 4 January to 28 March 2021.
  • Eligible Employee Test
    The reference date for assessing which employees are eligible for the JobKeeper Payment is now 1 July 2020 with effect from 3 August 2020. The reference period for employees regarding their hours worked to determine their tier of payment will be the two fortnightly pay periods prior to 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020. The period with the higher number of hours is to be used for employees who were eligible at 1 March 2020.

Read more information from Treasury.

Helpline Questions

Do the CFB, JK and the various other Federal and State COVID-19 assistance packages need to be included in the calculation of GST turnover for the decline in turnover tests and monthly reporting?

Only consideration for supplies (as defined in the GST Act) need to be included in the calculation of GST turnover. Government assistance and grants are only considered to be consideration for a supply where the recipient of the grant is required to perform some action, or give up something in order to receive the assistance or grant. This is not the case for the various COVID-19 assistance. Therefore the various assistance packages should not be included in the calculation of GST turnover. Please refer to Law Companion Ruling LCR 2020/1 paragraphs 24 ~ 25 and also see GST and grants QC 21423.

 

For more frequently asked questions...

The ATO's COVID-19 frequently asked questions have been archived on the ATO’s legal database and embedded within the relevant topic areas on the ATO website.


NEWS

Employees guide for work expenses

The Employees guide for work expenses to help employees decide whether expenses are deductible, and what records need to keep to substantiate them, has been updated.


Business grants program expanded

The Victorian Government has announced that the one-off support grants that it had earlier established are to be expanded. Grants will be made available to eligible businesses under the Business Support Fund-Expansion program:

  • $10,000 for employing businesses in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in recognition of spending longer under restrictions
  • $5,000 for employing businesses in regional local government areas (except Mitchell Shire)
Businesses that have already received a Business Support Fund-Expansion grant, or have applied for one, will not need to re-apply. Successful applicants will automatically receive this additional allocation. Also, applications for the program will be extended until 14 September 2020.
Under current law, such grants are assessable under s 6-5 or s 15-10 of ITAA 1997 (ie a bounty or subsidy that is received in relation to carrying on a business). See also TR 2006/3 which provides that a "government payment to industry" to assist a business to continue operating, except where the payment is for agreeing to give up or sell part of the profit yielding structure, is included as assessable income of the recipient under section 6-5 or section 15-10.

 

Coronavirus payroll tax relief - claim a refund

Businesses with annual Victorian taxable wages up to $3 million will have their payroll tax for the 2019-20 financial year waived. Eligible businesses can claim an emergency tax relief refund of payroll tax already paid in the 2019-20 financial year (see this SRO page for details).


Commissioner’s pledge to Victorian practitioners

The Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan has published a message of support to Victorian tax professionals. He states that the ATO is committed to providing the help you need through this difficult period and that it has a range of practical support options available.


Surgeries on hold in regional Victoria

From midnight last night, public hospitals in regional Victoria have wound back all non-urgent surgery. Where possible, Category 3 and non-urgent Category 2 surgery which is already booked should still take place, however that will be at the hospital’s discretion. No new non-urgent surgeries will be booked.


Worker support payment and test isolation payment

If you or a client test positive for COVID-19 or are a close contact of a confirmed case, you may be eligible for the $1500 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Worker Support Payment that provides financial support while you are quarantining at home. Also available is a $300 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment that provides financial support while taxpayers self-isolate to wait for the results of a coronavirus (COVID-19) test.


6 August 2020

Helpline Question

Topic: Client access during lockdown
Question: Can a tax agent in the Stage 4 areas visit clients?
Answer: The industry restrictions guidance mentioned in Tuesday’s Daily Update rule this out. With accounting services not listed as a permitted activity, tax professionals will not be allowed to apply for the permitted worker scheme to allow employees to travel to work. However the introductory text says: “Sole operators can continue to operate, if they do not have contact with the public, or with people other than those persons living in their primary household”. Tax agents with doubts could check with Victorian police, or call the Department of Health & Human Services on 1300 650 172 or Business Victoria on 13 22 15.

Submission made to Victorian Premier
Regarding the above, members should note that Tax & Super Australia, along with 10 other professional accounting and bookkeeping bodies, has made a request of the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to grant tax professionals access to the permitted worker scheme to travel to their own practices or their clients’ business premises to access crucial physical documents. “For some tax practitioners and their clients, these restrictions will result in an inability to access time-critical tax advice, lodge obligations on time (e.g. payment summaries) or make payments on time (eg payment notices such as notices of assessment for clients could go unopened for six weeks, extending beyond the due date of the payment),” we said. “Also, some may miss out on stimulus payments (eg not claiming JobKeeper on time) and suffer significant penalties (eg where they are unable to access the superannuation guarantee amnesty).” We will advise of any response as it comes to hand.

JobKeeper still open
Members are reminded that applications for the JobKeeper subsidy are still open. Some accountants are still confused by this. Some are under the impression that the ability to claim the JobKeeper subsidy was closed at some stage in the year ended 30 June 2020. This is not the case. For example, if a client projects a downturn in turnover of greater than (for most cases) 30% for the months of August or September 2020 or for the quarter ending 30 September 2020, the JobKeeper subsidy can still be claimed. Due to the rapid imposition of Stage 4 restrictions in parts of Victoria, some businesses that previously may have thought that they would not suffer a 30% or more decline in turnover may now consider that this will occur. Tax & Super Australia is involved with a submission to the ATO with regard to assisting businesses in this situation and we will let you know the outcome of the submission as soon as we can.

Victorian childcare centre top-up from Federal Government
In a measure that stops short of re-introducing free childcare, the Federal Government will make top-up payments to Victorian childcare centres and give parents an extra 30 days of allowable absences to maintain their enrolments. Childcare centres will receive a 5% top-up payment in addition to the transition package outlaid for the sector to replace JobKeeper in June. A larger top-up of between 10% and 25% of the existing transition payment will be given to centres that see attendance levels reduce to less than 30% over the next six weeks, in a bid to ensure revenue remains about 80% to 85% of pre-COVID levels, on average, across the sector. Also see the Premier’s announcement  regarding access to childcare.

5 August 2020

Pandemic leave payments to start for Victoria
The Federal government has announced, via Services Australia, that it is to introduce a pandemic leave disaster payment of $1,500 a fortnight for workers without sick leave who need to self-isolate. To be jointly funded by state governments declared in a “disaster”, the new $1,500 payment is intended to “supplement and support” Victoria’s existing payment system by covering the fortnight of self-isolation after a positive result. The fastest way to claim is to call Services Australia on 180 22 66. More details are here.


Working permits required from tonight

From 11.59pm Wednesday 5 August 2020, Victorian employers that require their staff to attend a place of work must issue each staff member with a worker permit. See this Business Victoria web page for eligibility and for the permit template.


Stage 4 law states that operational businesses must have a COVID Safe Plan

Under Victoria’s Stage 4 restrictions, there are new requirements for businesses. Certain services and industries will be able to remain operational and will be required by law to have a COVID Safe Plan. Every employer must complete this plan by 11.59pm 7 August 2020. See this web page for guidance, templates and conditions.


Strict new procedures for Victorian flights to NSW

The NSW government has announced that a strict permit system will be in place for all flights arriving in NSW from Victoria, with all passengers undergoing police and health checks on arrival. The new health measures in place for all Victorian flights will help stop the spread of COVID-19 in NSW.


Commercial tenancy relief scheme

Through Business Victoria, the Commercial tenancy relief scheme will provide the following support:

  • a six-month moratorium on commercial tenancy evictions from 29 March 2020 for the non-payment of rent for small to medium enterprises with an annual turnover under $50 million that have experienced a minimum 30 per cent reduction in turnover due to coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • freeze on rent increases during the moratorium for commercial tenants
  • a rental payment waiver or deferral proportionate to commercial tenants’ income reduction due to coronavirus (COVID-19), to be negotiated between tenant and landlord
  • a mediation service for commercial tenants and landlords to support fair tenancy negotiations.

 

Tax relief — landlords, businesses
The Victorian Government has announced a range of tax relief measures – land tax relief, payroll tax relief, liquor licence fee relief and motor vehicle duty relief – in response to coronavirus (COVID-19). The Treasurer has directed the Commissioner of State Revenue to give effect to these measures. In addition to these measures, the State Revenue Office is assisting people impacted by the pandemic by remitting penalties and interest charged on some assessments and providing interest-free instalment plans.

See video on how to apply for land tax relief below.