Federal Government coronavirus economic stimulus stage 3

Federal Government coronavirus economic stimulus stage 3

On 8th April 2020, the Australian Government’s JobKeeper payment passed parliament with an estimated $130 billion to be paid to hundreds of thousands of business to subsidise wages of about 6 million employees.

The JobKeeper Payment

The JobKeeper Payment is a temporary scheme open to businesses that have been impacted by Coronavirus and have seen significant reductions of between 30% – 50% in annual turnover.

The government will provide $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee for up to 6 months.

The package aims to support employers to maintain connection to their employees while the business is experiencing a downturn so when the crisis is over, businesses can reactivate their operations again quickly.

The Jobkeeper Payment will also be available to self-employed.

Who can apply?

Employers (including non-for-profits) will be eligible for the subsidy if:

  • their business has a turnover of less than $1 billion and their turnover will be reduced by more than 30% relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month), or
  • their business has a turnover of $1 billion or more and their turnover will be reduced by more than 50% relative to a comparable period a year ago (of at least a month); and
  • charities that have lost 15 per cent of their turnover in the same period.
  • self-employed individuals will be eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment where they have suffered or expect to suffer a 30 per cent decline in turnover relative to a comparable prior period (of at least a month).

How to apply

Businesses need to apply to the ATO to participate in the scheme and provide supporting information demonstrating a downturn in their business. They also need to report the number of eligible employees employed by the business on a monthly basis

The ATO encourages employers looking to take advantage of the JobKeeper payment to register for updates at www.ato.gov.au/JobKeeper and the ATO will contact those registered as soon as more information is available.

For more information from the Government please click here.

Who is an eligible employee?

Employees on the books on 1 March 2020 and continues to be engaged by the business.

Includes full-time, part-time, long-term casuals (been with the business on a regular basis for at least 12 months as at 1 March 2020) and stood down employees.

An employee must be an Australian citizen, the holder of a Permanent Visa, a Protected Special Category Visa Holder, a non-protected Special Category Visa Holder who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder.

How can we help?

We are here to help, please feel free to give us a call 02 9415 1511 or email reception@primeadvisory.com.au, and we can discuss in further detail.

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SMSF information regarding tenancies in your property & COVID-19

SMSF information regarding tenancies in your property & COVID-19

The economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are causing significant financial distress for many businesses and individuals.

If your SMSF has a property and a tenant in financial distress, you may be able to provide your tenant with rental relief under an agreed commercial arrangement. This may even be the case when the tenant is a related party or yourself.

Ordinarily, charging a tenant a price that is less than market value in an SMSF is usually a breach of superannuation laws. However, the ATO have provided guidance which allows SMSF landlords to provide for a reduction in or waiver of rent because of the financial impacts of the COVID-19.

For the 2019–20 and 2020–21 financial years, the ATO will not take action where an SMSF gives a tenant – who may also be a related party – a temporary rent reduction during this period.

What do you need to do?

There are some important things you should ensure are in place when you are providing a rent reduction to a tenant, especially when this is a related party.

  • Ensure the relief only applies to rent.
    • Any relief offered to a tenant can only relate to the rent component of the lease agreement. The ATO concession does not extend to other lease incentives.
  • Ensure that the reduction in rent is only temporary.
    • This means it should have an agreed period of time or agreed date where the rent is reviewed in light of the economic circumstances.
  • The financial difficulty faced by the tenant is linked to the financial impacts of COVID-19.
    • Any negotiated rent relief will need to be measured against the COVID-19 financial impact suffered by your tenant.
  • Clear arrangements which detail the amount of discount, waiver or deferral of the rent.
    • In evidencing that the rent relief is reasonable, it would be best practice if it is consistent with an approach taken by an arm’s length landlord.
  • Ensure you have proper documentation which allows your independent auditor to be satisfied that the temporary rent relief satisfies all of the above.
    • This may take the form of a signed minute, renewed lease agreement or anything deemed appropriate to amend the terms of the lease temporarily.
    • Even if you are both the tenant and landlord, the above should all be documented.

These are extraordinary times and the ATO is providing this guidance to allow SMSF trustees to be flexible and agile.

If trustees act in good faith in implementing a reasonable and measured reduction in rent because of the impacts of COVID-19 they should not fall foul of the law.

How can we help?

If you need assistance providing rental relief or whether this is the right action for you and your specific circumstances, please feel free to give us a call 02 9415 1511, and we can discuss in further detail.

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New working from home tax rate.

New working from home tax rate.

On 7th April 2020, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) announced special arrangements this year, due to COVID-19, to make it easier for people to claim deductions for working from home. The new arrangement will allow people to claim an increased rate of 80 cents per hour for all their running expenses incurred during the period 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, including;

  • Electricity expenses associated with heating, cooling and lighting the area at home which is being used for work.
  • Cleaning costs for a dedicated work area.
  • Phone and internet expenses.
  • Computer consumables (e.g., printer paper and ink) and stationery.
  • Depreciation of home office furniture and furnishings (e.g., an office desk and a chair).
  • Depreciation of home office equipment (e.g., a computer and a printer).

Multiple people living in the same house can claim this new rate. For example, a couple living together could each individually claim the 80 cents per hour rate. The requirement to have a dedicated work from home area has also been removed and now you will only be required to keep a record of the number of hours worked from home. The new rate does not prohibit people from making a working from home claim under existing arrangements, where you calculate all or part of your running expenses. Claims for working from home expenses prior to 1 March 2020 cannot be calculated using the new rate, and must use the pre-existing working from home approach and requirements. For more please click here.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact the team 02 9415 1511 or email us reception@primeadvisory.com.au to see how this may apply to you.

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Commercial leasing code of conduct.

Commercial leasing code of conduct.

On 7 April 2020, the National Cabinet announced a mandatory code of conduct the ‘Commercial Tenancies Code’, to be legislated and regulated by each of the State and Territory Governments. Please see link below for the release document.

Click here for the Commercial Tenancies Code

The Commercial Tenancies Code is intended to mandate a set of good faith principles to be applied to commercial, retail and industrial leases where the tenant is eligible for the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper assistance and is a small or medium sized enterprise (with an annual turnover of up to $50 million).

The objective of the Commercial Tenancies Code is for a landlord and tenant to share the risk and financial impact during the COVID-19 crisis, whilst seeking to balance the interests of the landlord and tenant. It is expected that a landlord and each eligible tenant will negotiate in good faith, on a case by case basis.

The following leasing principles should be applied in negotiating and enacting appropriate temporary arrangements between a landlord and tenant under Commercial Tenancies Code. These apply during the COVID-19 crisis and for a reasonable recovery period:

  1. A landlord must not terminate a lease for non-payment of rent;
  2. A landlord must not claim on upon a tenant’s security (bank guarantee, security deposit or personal guarantee) for non-payment of rent;
  3. A landlord must freeze rent increases. This includes fixed and market reviews;
  4. A landlord must not impose any penalties or prohibition against the tenant reducing its opening hours or ceasing to trade;
  5. A landlord must offer the tenant a rent reduction proportionate to the trading reduction in the tenant’s business over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, through a combination of waivers of rent and deferrals of rent (Rent Relief);
  6. Waivers of rent must account for at least 50% of the Rent Relief;
  7. Deferrals of rent must be covered over the balance of the lease term and in a period not less than 24 months following the COVID-29 crisis;
  8. A landlord must not charge any fees, interest or other charges to the tenant with respect to waivers and deferrals of rent;
  9. A landlord must pass on to the tenant (with appropriate proportionality as applicable under the terms of the lease) any reductions in statutory charges, such as land tax, council rates and insurance. This will be seen through a reduction in outgoings costs;
  10. A tenant must honour the terms of the lease, as amended in accordance with negotiations under the Commercial Tenancies Code. If the tenant breaches the substantive terms of the lease in a material way, the tenant will forfeit any protection provided to the tenant under the Commercial Tenancies Code;
  11. A tenant should be provided with an opportunity to extend its lease for the equivalent period of the waiver or deferral period. This is intended to provide the tenant with additional time to trade on the existing lease terms during the period after the COVID-19 crisis;
  12. If negotiated arrangements under the Commercial Tenancies Code involve repayment by the tenant, this should occur over an extended period to avoid placing an undue burden on the tenant;
  13. This Code is effective April 3rd, 2020 until such time as the Job Keeper Program is concluded.

If a landlord and tenant cannot reach an agreed position on alternative leasing arrangements as a direct result of COVID-19, the matter should be referred to a binding mediation process overseen by the relevant State or Territory Government.

As always, we are here to help so please reach out if you have any questions 02 9415 1511 or email reception@primeadvisory.com.au.

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Second $66.1 bn stimulus package

Second $66.1 bn stimulus package

On Sunday 22nd March, the Government released a second, far reaching $66.1 bn stimulus package that boosts income support payments, introduces targeted changes to the superannuation rules, provides cash flow support of up to $100,000 for small business employers, and relaxes corporate insolvency laws.

The Prime Minister has warned that there are no “quick solutions” and that business should prepare for 6 months of disruption. Bear in mind that as stimulus packages are released or new measures announced we will be updating you via our blogs, newsletter or email.

In Summary

Business

  • Tax-free payments up to $100,000 for small business and not-for-profit employers. An increase in the previously announced initial tax-free payments for employers to a maximum of $50,000. In addition to this, a second round of payments will be made up to a maximum of $50,000, accessible from July 2020.
  • Solvency safety net – temporary 6 month increase to the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company from $2,000 to $20,000, and an increase in the time companies have to respond from 21 days to 6 months. Directors also are provided with temporary relief from personal liability for trading while insolvent for 6 months.
  • Access to working capital – Introduction of a Coronavirus SME guarantee scheme protecting financial institutions by guaranteeing 50% of new loans to SMEs.
  • Sole traders and self-employed eligible for Jobseeker payment – the eligibility criteria to access income support relaxed for the self-employed and sole traders.
  • Temporary relief from some Corporations Act requirements

Individuals

  • Early release of superannuation – individuals in financial distress able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20, and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. The withdrawals will be tax-free and will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.
  • Temporary reduction in minimum superannuation draw down rates – superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account based pensions and similar products reduced by 50% in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
  • Deeming rates reduced – from 1 May, superannuation deeming rates reduced further to a lower rate of 0.25% and upper rate of 2.25%.
  • Supplements increased, access extended and eased – for 6 months from 27 April 2020:
    • A temporary coronavirus supplement of $550 will be paid to existing income support recipients (people will receive their normal payment plus $550 each fortnight for 6 months).
    • A second one-off stimulus payment of $750 will be paid automatically from 13 June 2020 to certain income support recipients (in addition to the payment made from 31 March 2020).
    • Eligibility for access to income support eased to include sole traders and the self-employed, and to those caring for someone infected or in isolation.
    • Waiting periods and assets tests temporarily waived.
  • Bankruptcy safety net – temporary 6 month increase to the threshold for the minimum amount of debt required for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against a debtor from $5,000 to $20,000.

The Government has flagged that additional stimulus packages will be required.

In detail – Support for business

Tax-free payments up to $100,000 for employers

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

The Government has increased the previously announced measures to provide cash flow support to business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business that lodge on a monthly basis will be eligible for the credits in the first phase for the March 2020, April 2020, May 2020 and June 2020 lodgements. Credits in the second phase will be available for the June 2020, July 2020, August 2020 and September lodgments. The minimum $10,000 payment will be applied to the first lodgement.

Eligibility for the measure will be based on prior year turnover. We will have to wait for the legislation for the finer details.

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

More: Cash flow assistance for businesses

Solvency safety net

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

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

It will be more important than ever for business to stay on top of their debtors. Debts incurred will still be payable by the business. Only those debts incurred in the ordinary course of the business will be subject to the safety net measures.

More: Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses

Access to working capital for SMEs – supporting lenders

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

SMEs with a turnover of up to $50 million will be eligible to receive these loans. The Government will provide eligible lenders with a guarantee for loans with the following terms:

  • Maximum total size of loans of $250,000 per borrower.
  • The loans will be up to three years, with an initial six month repayment holiday.
  • The loans will be in the form of unsecured finance, meaning that borrowers will not have to provide an asset as security for the loan.

Loans will be subject to lenders’ credit assessment processes with the expectation that lenders will look through the cycle to sensibly take into account the uncertainty of the current economic conditions.

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

Sole traders and self-employed eligible for Jobseeker payment

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

More: Income support for individuals,
More: Financial support for coronavirus affected job seekers

Temporary relief from Corporations Act requirements

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

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

Individuals

Early release of superannuation

From mid-April, individuals in financial distress will be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20, and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. The withdrawals will be tax free and will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

To be eligible to access your superannuation you need to meet the following requirements:

  • you are unemployed; or
  • you are eligible to receive a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers, parenting payment (which includes the single and partnered payments), special benefit or farm household allowance; or
  • on or after 1 January 2020:
    • you were made redundant; or
    • your working hours were reduced by 20% or more; or
    • if you are a sole trader — your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20% or more.

For those eligible to access their superannuation, you can apply directly to the ATO through the myGov website from mid-April.

More: Early access to superannuation

Temporary reduction in minimum superannuation draw down rates

Superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products will be reduced by 50% in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Age Default minimum drawdown rates (%) Reduced rates by 50 per cent for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 income years (%)
Under 65 4 2
65-74 5 2.5
75-79 6 3
80-84 7 3.5
85-89 9 4.5
90-94 11 5.5
95 or more 14 7

The upper and lower social security deeming rates will be reduced further. As of 1 May 2020, the upper deeming rate will be 2.25% and the lower deeming rate 0.25%.

More: Providing support for retirees

Time limited fortnightly $550 ‘coronavirus supplement’

For the next 6 months, the Government is introducing a new Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This supplement will be paid to both existing and new recipients in the eligible payment categories.

The payment will be made to those receiving:

  • Jobseeker payment (and those transitioning to the jobseeker payment)
  • Youth allowance jobseeker
  • Parenting payment
  • Farm household allowance
  • Special benefits recipients

In addition, eligibility to income support payments will be expanded to:

  • Permanent employees who are stood down or lose their job
  • Casual workers
  • Sole traders
  • The self-employed
  • Contract workers who meet the income test

The Government notes that these criteria could include those required to care for someone affected by the Coronavirus. Asset testing has also been reduced and will be waived for 6 months. Income testing will still apply. The payment is not available if you have access to any employer entitlements such as annual or sick leave or income protection insurance.

More: Income support for individuals

Second $750 payment to households

The Government is now providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders residing in Australia (see the full list here). The payment will be exempt from taxation and will not count as income for the purposes of Social Security, Farm Household Allowance and Veteran payments.

  • Payment 1 from 31 March 2020 (previously announced on 12 March): Available to people who are eligible payment recipients and concession card holders at any time between 12 March 2020 to 13 April 2020;
  • Payment 2 from 13 July 2020: Available to people who are eligible payment recipients and concession card holders on 10 July 2020.

The payments will be made automatically to those that meet the criteria.

More: Payments to support households 

Bankruptcy safety net

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

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

More: Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses

More information:

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