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Coronavirus Special Update
Government’s Stimulus Package in response to the Coronavirus
What a changed world we are living in as we all try to navigate the challenges arising from the current Coronavirus Pandemic, including protecting the health and safety of our friends and family, and the viability of our businesses, employment and investments.
The purpose of this communication is to provide you with an update relating to the Government's Economic Stimulus Package in response to the Coronavirus. Our office will continue to apply its available resources to assist and support you where we can through this uncertain period as we attempt to survive the ever changing restrictions we are all dealing with.
The following is a broad summary of the key aspects of the Federal Government’s stimulus package in response to the Coronavirus, as recently announced and enacted.
These measures were implemented via various Bills introduced into Parliament, which very quickly received Royal Assent on 24 March 2020 (including the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Bill 2020), so as to give effect to the Government’s stimulus package.
Income support for individuals
Various measures have been introduced so as to provide a 'safety net' for individuals who are financially impacted by the Coronavirus.
The new Coronavirus supplement
A new six-month 'Coronavirus supplement' of $550 per fortnight will be paid to individuals who are currently eligible for certain income support payments, including the:
Furthermore, it appears that this new (additional) supplement will be paid to eligible individuals as part of their existing income support payments (e.g., Jobseeker Payment and Youth Allowance).
Expanding access (and eligibility) to certain income support payments
For the period that the Coronavirus supplement is paid, the Government will also expand access to certain income support payments (e.g., the Jobseeker Payment, the Youth Allowance Jobseeker and the Parenting Payment) for eligible individuals.
For example, a new category of Jobseeker Payment and Youth Allowance Jobseeker will become available for eligible individuals financially impacted by the Coronavirus.
According to the Government, this could include, for example, permanent employees who are stood down or lose their employment; sole traders; the self-employed; casual workers; and contract workers who meet the income tests, as a result of the economic downturn due to the Coronavirus.
Additionally, asset testing for the JobSeeker Payment, the Youth Allowance Jobseeker and the Parenting Payment will be waived for the period of the Coronavirus supplement. Income testing will still apply to the person’s other payments, consistent with current arrangements.
Tax-free payments of $750 to eligible recipients
The Government will be providing two separate $750 tax-free payments (referred to as ‘economic support payments’) to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and to eligible concession card holders.
The first $750 payment will be available to individuals who are residing in Australia and are receiving an eligible Government payment, or are the holders of an eligible concession card, at any time from 12 March 2020 to 13 April 2020 (inclusive). This payment will be made automatically to eligible individuals from 31 March 2020.
The second $750 payment will be available to individuals who are residing in Australia and are receiving one of the eligible Government payments or are the holders of one of the eligible concession cards on 10 July 2020 (except for those receiving an income support payment that qualifies them to receive the $550 fortnightly Coronavirus supplement). This payment will be made automatically to eligible individuals from 13 July 2020.
Each of the $750 payments will be exempt from income tax and will not count as income for the purposes of Social Security, the Farm Household Allowance and Veteran payments.
Early access to superannuation benefits
The Government will introduce a new compassionate ground of release that will allow individuals to access their superannuation entitlements where those benefits are required to assist them to deal with the adverse economic effects of the Coronavirus, but only where one or more of the following requirements are satisfied:
– the individual was made redundant; or
– the individual’s working hours were reduced by at least 20%; or
– if the individual is a sole trader – their business was suspended or there was a reduction in the business’s turnover of at least 20%.
Under this new compassionate ground of release, eligible individuals will be able to access (as a lump sum) up to $10,000 of their superannuation entitlements before 1 July 2020, and a further $10,000 from 1 July 2020 (subject to a six-month time frame).
Eligible individuals who are looking to access their superannuation entitlements under the above new ground of release will be able to apply directly to the ATO through the myGov website (at www.my.gov.au) and certify that the relevant eligibility criteria is satisfied.
Importantly, such lump sum superannuation withdrawals under this new compassionate ground of release will not be taxable to the recipient (i.e., they will be tax-free). Also, according to the Government, the amount withdrawn will not affect Centrelink or Veteran’s Affairs payments.
Reducing the minimum drawdown amounts for superannuation pensions
The Government will be temporarily reducing the superannuation minimum drawdown amounts for account-based pensions and similar products by 50% for the 2020 and 2021 income years.
This basically means that the total minimum annual pension amount that a superannuation fund is otherwise required to pay to a member receiving a pension from the fund (e.g., an account-based pension) will be reduced by half for these two income years.
Reducing social security deeming rates
From 1 May 2020, the Government will be reducing both the upper and lower social security deeming rates by a further 0.25 percentage points. This is in addition to the recent 0.5 percentage point reduction, resulting in an overall reduction to the social security deeming rates of 0.75 percentage points.
On this basis, as of 1 May 2020, the upper deeming rate will be reduced from 3% to 2.25%, and the lower deeming rate will be reduced from 1% to 0.25%.
These reductions reflect the low interest rate environment and its impact on the income from savings. Broadly speaking, the social security deeming rates apply (for ‘income test’ purposes) to determine the amount of income that an individual is ‘deemed’ (or taken to) earn from financial investments (e.g., cash deposits and listed securities), irrespective of the actual amount of income (e.g., interest income and dividend income) earned by the individual. In most cases, the deeming rates apply for the purposes of applying the Age Pension ‘income test’.
Cash flow assistance for businesses
The Government is also providing cash flow assistance for eligible businesses in the form of two separate measures.
Boosting cash flow for employers
Small and medium-sized businesses and not-for-profit entities, with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $50 million (usually based on their prior year’s turnover) that employ people, may be eligible to receive a total payment (in the form of a refundable credit) of up to $100,000 (with a minimum total payment of $20,000), based on their PAYG withholding obligations in two stages:
Stage 1 payment (credit)
Commencing with the lodgment of activity statements from 28 April 2020, eligible employers that withhold PAYG tax on their employees’ salary and wages will receive a tax-free payment equal to 100% of the amount withheld, up to a maximum of $50,000.
Eligible employers that pay salary and wages will receive a minimum (tax-free) payment of $10,000, even if they are not required to withhold PAYG tax.
The tax-free payment will broadly be calculated and paid by the ATO as an automatic credit to an employer, upon the lodgment of activity statements from 28 April 2020, with any resulting refund being paid to the employer. This means that:
Note that, the minimum payment of $10,000 will be applied to an entity’s first activity statement lodgment (whether for the month of March or the March quarter) from 28 April 2020.
Stage 2 payment (credit)
For employers that continue to be active, an additional (tax-free) payment will be available in respect of the June to October 2020 period, basically as follows:
Again, the ATO will automatically calculate and pay the additional (tax-free) payment as a credit to an employer upon the lodgment of their activity statements from July 2020, with any resulting refund being paid to the employer.
It should be noted that eligibility for the above payments is subject to a specific integrity rule that is designed to stamp out artificial or contrived arrangements that are implemented to obtain access to this measure. In particular, if an employer or an associate enters into a scheme with the sole or dominant purpose of obtaining or increasing any of the above payments for a particular employer, for a period, the employer will not be eligible for any such payments for the relevant period.
Wages subsidies for apprentices and trainees
Employers with less than 20 full-time employees, who retain an apprentice or trainee (who was in training with the employer as at 1 March 2020) may be entitled to Government funded wage subsidies.
These will be equal to 50% of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage paid during the nine months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.
The maximum wage subsidy over the nine-month period will be $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee.
Employers can register for the subsidy from early April 2020.
Increasing the instant write-off threshold for business assets
Broadly, the depreciating asset instant asset write-off threshold will be increased from $30,000 (for businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $50 million) to $150,000 (for businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $500 million) until 30 June 2020.
The measure applies to both new and second-hand assets first used or installed ready for use in the period beginning on 12 March 2020 (i.e., the date on which this measure was announced) and ending on 30 June 2020.
Small Business Entities (‘SBEs’)
These are businesses with aggregated turnover of less than $10 million.
SBEs will be able to claim an immediate deduction for depreciating assets that cost less than $150,000, provided the relevant asset is first acquired at or after 7.30 pm on 12 May 2015, by legal time in the ACT, and first used or installed ready for use on or after 12 March 2020, but before 1 July 2020.
Additionally, SBEs will also be able to claim an immediate deduction for the following:
Medium Business Entities (‘MBEs’)
These are businesses with turnover of at least $10 million and less than $500 million.
MBEs can immediately deduct the cost of an asset in an income year if the asset has a cost of less than $150,000 and it was first acquired in the period beginning at 7:30pm, by legal time in the ACT, on 2 April 2019 and ending on 30 June 2020, and the taxpayer starts to use or have the asset installed ready for use for a taxable purpose in the period beginning on 12 March 2020 and ending on 30 June 2020.
Additionally, MBEs can also claim a deduction for certain amounts included in the second element of the cost of a depreciating asset, where the amount of the second element cost is less than $150,000, and is incurred on or after 12 March 2020 but before 1 July 2020.
The threshold will generally be applied to the GST-exclusive cost of an eligible asset (i.e., assuming the relevant business is entitled to an input tax credit for any GST included in the acquisition cost).
Importantly, this increased threshold also continues to operate on a ‘per asset’ basis, which means that eligible businesses can immediately write-off multiple assets (as long as each of the assets individually satisfy the relevant eligibility criteria).
Currently, the instant asset write-off threshold is due to revert to $1,000 for small businesses (i.e., those with an aggregated turnover of less than $10 million) from 1 July 2020.
Accelerating depreciation deductions for new assets
Broadly, a new time-limited 15-month investment incentive (available for eligible assets acquired from 12 March 2020 up until 30 June 2021) will also be introduced to accelerate certain depreciation deductions for businesses with an aggregated turnover below $500 million.
The amount that an eligible entity can deduct in the income year in which an eligible depreciating asset is first used or installed ready for use is:
Different rules will apply where an SBE is using the general small business pool (i.e., for assets not qualifying for the instant asset write-off). In this case, an SBE may deduct an amount equal to 57.5% (rather than 15%) of the business-use portion of the cost of an eligible depreciating asset in the year is it allocated to the pool.
Unless specifically excluded, an eligible asset is a new asset that can be depreciated under Division 40 of the ITAA 1997 (i.e., plant and equipment and specified intangible assets, such as patents), where the asset satisfies all of the following conditions:
Note that a depreciating asset is not an eligible asset where a commitment to acquire or construct the asset was entered into before 12 March 2020.
Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.
Wimmera Mallee Accounting Accountants regularly visit throughout the Mallee region, servicing: Boort, Charlton, Warracknabeal, Patchewollock, Woomelang, Sea Lake and Nullawil.
Dale Poyner visits our Hopetoun Office, located at 71a Lascelles Street, Hopetoun, each Tuesday from 9.30am-4.00pm.
Sandie Richmond is available by appointment, visiting various townships including: Donald, Wycheproof and Beulah.
For all your tax and accounting needs, look no further, we are here to help.
To make an appointment to see either Dale or Sandie, please contact Wimmera Mallee Accounting on (03) 5472 2766 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please be aware that an ATO scam, is still in operation across the Wimmera.
Messages are being left on answering machines saying the ATO are contacting the resident about fraud. The message says the office is calling because a criminal case (for tax evasion) has been registered against the resident, with threats of legal proceedings will persue.
An (02) number is left for the resident to call back on (again threatening legal proceedings, should you chose not call back), please DO NOT call this number. Scammers have the ability to tap into your telephone line, costing you money.
Any queries, please contact us on (03) 5492 2766.
For the past 12 months Wimmera Mallee Accounting set out to assist people in determining their eligibility for the Farm Household Allowance (FHA).
It has been a very busy 12 months for Wimmera Mallee Accounting directors, Dale Poyner & Sandie Richmond, along with their staff and the Rural Financial Counsellors.
12 months ago many people hadn’t heard about FHA. We at Wimmera Mallee Accounting have ensured anyone who may have been eligible, is now receiving this payment.
Some people that were not eligible 12 months ago due to different reasons; some being Farm Management Deposits, Off-Farm Income or other Off-Farm Assets; that now 12 months down the track, would be eligible because their circumstances have changed.
After another tough season, we now want anyone that isn’t currently receiving FHA, to relook at their circumstances to see if they are not now eligible.
FHA is still around and available and if you believe you may be eligible now, even if you weren’t 12 months ago, we urge you to get in contact with us, a Rural Financial Counsellor or your accountant.
If you would like to discuss your current situation to assess whether you now may be eligible, please contact Wimmera Mallee Accounting on (03) 54922 766 or email email@example.com.
One of the very first questions you are asked on your tax return is: "Are you an Australian resident for tax purposes?" It may seem an unusual or unnecessary question, but the Tax Office wants to get this one cleared up early, as it makes a big difference to everything else that follows.
We have come across many clients who incorrectly think that no matter what, foreign residents get all their tax back – this couldn’t be any further from the truth.
The Tax Office are cracking down on this – and are cross checking foreign residents arrival and departure dates with customs to ensure they have answered the simple question “Are you an Australian resident for tax purposes” correctly.
If you are a foreign resident working in Australia, or are employing foreign residents – you should read this article to ensure you are in line with the tax office views.
Click here to find out more.
Farm Household Allowance....
....provides eligible farmers and their partners who are experiencing financial hardship with assistance and support to improve their long term financial situation.
It is a fortnightly income support payment, available Australia-wide, that has been designed to suit the specific circumstances of farmers and their partners.
You could be eligible for approximately $500 per fortnight for up to three years, plus a $3,000 grant to put towards improving your farming enterprise.
For further information contact Wimmera Mallee Accounting.
If so you may be eligible for the Australian Taxation Office HECS/HELP benefit.
Click here to find out more.