Among the many business impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic unrest are a slew of legislative changes and recommendations. Here are some important updates to know about if you have employees, and thus payroll, in Australia.
Extensions for compliance filings
Currently, there are no changes to deadlines for compliance filings in Australia.
Extensions for tax payment deadlines
Businesses may receive a four-month deferment of their payment of the business activity statement, income tax assessments, fringe benefits tax assessments and excise. Additionally, businesses may contact the Australian Taxation Office to learn about options for stopping interest accruing on tax liabilities as well as low interest payment arrangements.
Special considerations or recommendations—as an employer or for employees—to keep in mind
The Australian government has introduced a wage-subsidy scheme called the JobKeeper payment to help employers affected by the COVID-19 crisis pay their employees. Under the program, eligible employers may receive $1,500 (AUD) per retained worker every two weeks. Businesses whose revenues have decreased 30% (50% for businesses with revenues greater than $1 billion) may be eligible.
Businesses that are PAYG installment payers can vary the installment amount on their statements, as well as claim a refund for any installments made during the 2019-2020 financial year. Additionally, businesses that choose to vary PAYG installments won’t be penalized or charged interest to varied installments for the 2019-2020 financial year.
Programs or initiatives to help offset financial impacts
The Australian government has passed legislation to provide temporary cash flow support to small and midsize businesses and nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 economic downturn. Eligible businesses may receive between $20,000 to $100,000 (AUD) in cash flow, delivered through credits in the activity statement system, by lodging all their activity statements through September 2020.
Additional help for small businesses includes an assistance package by the Australian Banking Association deferring loan repayments for six months. The package will apply to more than $100 billion (AUD) of existing small business loans and could put as much as $8 billion back into the pockets of small businesses.
The government has also expanded the instant asset write-off scheme for both new and second-hand assets. The threshold for assets has increased from $30,000 to $150,000 (AUD), and eligibility has been expanded to cover businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $500 million (previously $50 million).
Relief for remote workers during COVID-19
Expenses incurred by employees as a result of working from home may be claimed at tax time. The Australian Taxation Office will accept a temporary simplified method of calculating expenses from the beginning of March through at least June 30, 2020 (period may be extended). Expenses that can be claimed include electricity associated with heating, cooling and lighting the work area; cleaning costs for a dedicated work area; phone and internet expenses; printer paper and ink; and stationery home office equipment such computers, printers, phones, furniture and furnishings. More information on eligibility and process can be found here.
Although this information is correct and up-to-date as of the 16th of April 2020, changes are happening frequently. Please seek professional advice as you work through payroll and HR challenges in Australia.
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