More rent relief available through the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme

If you’re a commercial tenant struggling with rent payments, further support is here with new regulations through the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme.

Small and medium businesses that have experienced a loss in turnover of more than 30% during the pandemic will receive financial relief in the form of proportionate rent reduction. New businesses will also be protected, with special arrangements in place to calculate the turnover for businesses that were not operating in 2019.

As part of the Scheme, the Victorian Small Business Commission will support tenants and landlords with information and free mediation to negotiate an agreement.

The Scheme will apply retrospectively from 28 July 2021 and will run until 15 January 2022.  

Our friends at Lawcrest have put together a very helpful summary below to draw out the key information.

  1. Who is eligible for rent relief?

The Regulations apply to tenants of leases in place as at 28 July 2021. The basic eligibility criteria for rent relief for such tenants is as follows:

  • as at 28 July 2021, a tenant operated a business within Australia;
  • the tenant’s turnover is less than $50,000,000 (calculated for the financial year ending 30 June 2021, or based on projected revenue for the 2022 financial year if the tenant didn’t operate it’s business for the entirety of the 2021 financial year). Note that turnover of connected or associated entities is aggregated for the purpose of this test;
  • the tenant has suffered at least 30% decline in turnover;
  • the tenant isn’t a listed entity (or subsidiary of a listed entity) or otherwise excluded under the Regulations (e.g. due to insolvency).

2. When does rent relief begin and end?

If you make a valid rent relief application by 30 September 2021 (including supplying all supporting documents necessary in line with the Regulations), then rent relief will begin as and from 28 July 2021 and operate until 15 January 2022 (Rent Relief Period). If you fail to make a valid application by 30 September 2021, then rent relief will commence from the date that you make a valid application. Therefore, if you are eligible for rent relief it is essential to make a valid application as soon as possible.

Importantly, the new Regulations do not protect for any amounts owing prior to 28 July 2021. If you are in arrears for any amounts accrued prior to this date, we strongly recommend you make arrangements to pay those debts as soon as possible.

3. How much rent relief are you entitled to?

As with last year’s scheme, rent relief must (at a minimum) correspond with the decline in revenue, with half of that relief waived entirely and the remaining half deferred. So if you have suffered a 100% decline in revenue, then 50% of all rent will be waived and the remaining 50% is deferred until after January 2022. Deferred rent is payable over the greater of 2 years or the remaining term of the lease.

4. How will ‘decline in turnover’ be calculated?

There are two important timeframes that will be used to calculate whether you have suffered a ‘decline in turnover’ for the purposes of the Regulations – the Turnover Test Period and the Comparison Period. These are explained below:

  • Turnover Test Period: this is the period in which your business has suffered due to Covid in 2021. Your turnover during this period (when compared to the Comparison Period) will determine how much rent relief your are entitled to receive. The Turnover Test Period is any three consecutive months between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021. You can elect which three months within that period you want to use to compare your revenue. To make things easier for you we suggest you consider which of the following three month periods had the lowest revenue in total and use that as your Turnover Test Period:
    • April, May & June 2021;
    • May, June & July 2021;
    • June, July & August 2021; and
    • July, August & September 2021.

Once you have looked into which three month period had the lowest total revenue, please let us know as that will be your Turnover Test Period.

  • Comparison Period: this is the “pre-Covid” period that will be used as a comparison timeframe to determine whether your business has suffered as a result of Covid. If your business was operating prior to April 2019, then the Comparison Period is the same 3 month period selected above (for the Turnover Test Period) in the 2019.

For example, if your business was not operating at all during May, June and July of 2021 due to lockdown, you would compare the total revenue in those months (i.e. $0) to the same three months (May, June & July) in 2019 to calculate the percentage decline in revenue.

5. What if your business was not operating in 2019?

The Regulations include several alternative tests for comparing a decline in revenue, and these largely replicate the alternative tests used to determine Jobkeeper eligibility last year. If your business used one of these alterative tests for Jobkeeper purposes, then please contact us to discuss which alternative test will apply to you for the purposes of the Regulations.

6. How is turnover calculated?

There are a few changes to how ‘turnover’ is calculated for the purposes of the Regulations. Importantly, when disclosing your turnover the following is included:

  • the tenant’s turnover from all sources (including online sales and other premises); and
  • any amounts you have received from State Government Covid related grants or financial assistance (however, do not include any amounts paid to you from any Commonwealth government grants).

7. What information needs to accompany an application for rent relief?

Technically under the Regulations you can apply for rent relief and submit the supporting documents within 14 days. If you fail to submit the supporting documents in time, your application will lapse. Given that you have until 30 September to put in an application for the full Rent Relief Period, we recommend submitting all of the supporting material at the same time as making a rent relief application. The supporting material will include:

  • evidence of the decline in turnover – this will involve supplying evidence of your turnover during the Comparison Period as well as the Turnover Test Period (described above). As with last year’s regulations, at least one of the following must be provided as evidence of our decline in turnover:
    • extracts from your accounting software;
    • a business activity statement for the applicable months;
    • bank statements; or
    • a letter from a practising accountant;
  • there is a new requirement under the Regulations requiring you to submit a statutory declaration confirming that the information that you have supplied is true and correct to the best of your knowledge; and
  • you can also include such other information as you consider relevant in support of your application (for example, that your business is highly susceptible to any density limits or restrictions on gatherings).

8. Can you obtain rent relief for outgoings?

The Regulations include the same provisions regarding outgoings as those that applied last year – a landlord must consider a request for relief from payment of outgoings. Importantly, a recent case decided in VCAT found that this requirement required the landlord to waive liability for payment of outgoings for any period during which the tenant could not operate the business. Note however that you have used the premises for the purposes of online sales, then you are not likely to be successful in arguing that the premises was not operational.

9. What happens to rent deferred from 2020?

If you obtained rent relief in 2020 that included deferred rent payable throughout 2021 (and beyond), those payments are paused between 28 July 2021 and 15 January 2022 (if you make a rent relief application by 30 September 2021). However, please note that any payments of deferred rent that were due and payable prior to 28 July 2021 are still due and payable and have not been deferred – so please ensure that these are paid (if they are outstanding).

10. Important things to be keep in mind

There are a few other important aspects to the Regulations to be aware of:

  • After making a successful rent relief application, you must have the application re-assessed by 31 October 2021. This involves reconsidering the decline in turnover based on the turnover of the business for the quarter ending 30 September 2021 (and the corresponding quarter in 2019). A failure to submit the required turnover information for re-assessment by 31 October 2021 results in the end of your entitlement to rent relief as and from 31 October 2021.
  • It is now an offence to provide misleading and deceptive material in a rent relief application.
  • In order to remain eligible for rent relief, you must continue to pay the percentage of rent agreed with the landlord. For example, if your business has suffered a 90% decline in revenue (resulting in 90% rent relief), you must keep paying the 10% rent or you will lose your entitlement to rent relief.
  • If the landlord makes a rent relief offer that complies with the minimum requirements set out in the Regulations, then you will be deemed to have accepted that offer  unless you apply to the Small Business Commissioner for mediation within 14 days.
  • The Regulations specify that any rent increases during the Rent Relief Period will not apply. Unlike the old regulations from 2020, a rent increase that falls within 28 July 2021 and 15 January 2022 is not simply ‘paused’ or ‘deferred’ to a later date – it is skipped entirely.

11. How do tenants apply for rent relief?

It is not enough to simply be eligible for rent relief – you also have to apply in the manner set out in the Regulations. Applications for rent relief require some specific wording to be used to confirm eligibility. Importantly, the cases determined at VCAT last year regarding the rent relief scheme consistently found that rent relief applications which did not strictly adhere to the application procedure failed.

Feel free to contact us or Lawcrest if you require any assistance.

JobKeeper – Further Information

Most people who have already registered their interest in the JobKeeper payment would have received over the past few days, further information from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
 

The ATO has released a large amount of information and further detail relating to the JobKeeper Payment on their website. The three areas that we will focus on are:

  • Employer Eligibility Criteria
  • Employee Eligibility Criteria
  • Enrolling in the JobKeeper Payment (from 20 April)

Most of the information below is taken directly from the ATO website and is accurate at the time of this article being published. For further information please visit the ATO JobKeeper web page.

Before we go into the three points above, below are some key points on the JobKeeper payments:

  1. If you are a business expecting a JobKeeper payment for the month of April you should already be paying your employees $1,500 per fortnight. You must ensure that your business is eligible first.
  2. For the first two fortnights (30 March – 12 April, 13 April – 26 April), the ATO will accept the minimum $1,500 payment for each fortnight has been paid by you even if it has been paid late, provided it is paid by you by the end of April. This means that you can make two fortnightly payments of at least $1,500 per fortnight before the end of April, or a combined payment of at least $3,000 before the end of April
  3. Send the JobKeeper employee nomination notice to your nominated employees to complete and return to you by the end of April if you plan to claim JobKeeper payment for April. Keep it on file and provide a copy to your registered tax agent if you are using one.
  4. Ensure your payroll system has the appropriate pay codes and descriptions setup to make the payments. You will need to contact your Software provider to clarify this.
  5. Determine your businesses eligibility and ensure you have adequate documentation to prove that you are eligible and your fall in turnover is due to COVID-19.
  6. Pay your employees the correct amount and in accordance with the JobKeeper fortnights. Please contact us if you require further information about how and when to pay.
  7. Sole Traders and Business Owners who are not employees but actively involved in their business are also eligible. We will provide further information soon about the eligibility.

Employer Eligibility Criteria

Employers will be eligible for the JobKeeper payment if all of the following apply:

  • On 1 March 2020, you carried on a business in Australia or were a not-for-profit organisation that pursued your objectives principally in Australia.
  • You employed at least one eligible employee on 1 March 2020.
  • Your eligible employees are currently employed by your business for the fortnights you claim for (including those who are stood down or re-hired).
  • Your business has faced a
    • 30% fall in turnover (for an aggregated turnover of $1 billion or less)
    • 50% fall in turnover (for an aggregated turnover of more than $1 billion), or
    • 15% fall in turnover (for ACNC-registered charities other than universities and schools).
  • Your business is not in one of the ineligible categories.

Most Businesses will be subject to the 30% decline in turnover test to be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment.

To work out your fall in turnover, you can compare either:

  • GST turnover for March 2020 with GST turnover for March 2019;
  • projected GST turnover for April 2020 with GST turnover for April 2019;
  • projected GST turnover for the quarter starting April 2020 with GST turnover for the quarter starting April 2019.

If your business does not qualify now, it may qualify in the future so it is important to monitor your trading and projections regularly.

If your business does not have a comparable period, for example because your business is newly established, the Commissioner of Taxation will have discretion to set “Alternative Tests”. Further information on the alternative tests is not yet available and will be released by the ATO in due course.

Please note that the ATO have advised that they will be expecting you to have strong records to prove that your business meets the eligibility criteria. If you are audited in the future and can not prove your eligibility, penalties will apply and there may be a requirement to repay the JobKeeper payments back to the ATO.

Employee Eligibility Criteria

You are an eligible employee if you:

  • are currently employed by the eligible employer (including if you were stood down or re-hired).
  • were for the eligible employer (or another entity in their wholly owned group), either a
    • permanent full-time or part-time employee at 1 March 2020
    • long-term casual employee (employed on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months) as at 1 March 2020 and not a permanent employee of any other employer.
  • were aged 16 years or older at 1 March 2020.
  • were either
    • an Australian resident (within the meaning of the Social Security Act 1991) – visit the Services Australia website and read residence descriptions for more details
    • an Australian resident for the purpose of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and the holder of a Subclass 444 (Special Category) visa as at 1 March 2020.
  • were not in receipt of any of these payments during the JobKeeper fortnight
    • government parental leave or Dad and partner pay under the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010
    • a payment in accordance with Australian worker compensation law for an individual’s total incapacity for work.

If you started work with your current employer after 1 March 2020, your employer will not be eligible to claim the JobKeeper payment on your behalf.

Enrolling in the JobKeeper Payment (from 20 April 2020)

You or a registered tax professional can enrol for the JobKeeper payment:

  • Step 1 – Register your interest and subscribe for JobKeeper payment updates.
  • Step 2 – Check you and your employees meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Step 3 – Continue to pay at least $1,500 to each eligible employee per JobKeeper fortnight (the first JobKeeper fortnight is the period from 30 March to 12 April).
  • Step 4 – Notify your eligible employees that you are intending to claim the JobKeeper payment on their behalf and check they aren’t claiming JobKeeper payment through another employer or have nominated through another business.
  • Step 5 – Send the JobKeeper employee nomination notice to your nominated employees to complete and return to you by the end of April if you plan to claim JobKeeper payment for April. Keep it on file and provide a copy to your registered tax agent if you are using one.
  • Step 6 – From 20 April 2020, you can enrol with us for the JobKeeper payment using the Business Portal and authenticate with myGovID. You must do this by the end of April to claim JobKeeper payments for April.
  • Step 7 – In the online form, provide your bank details and indicate if you are claiming an entitlement based on business participation, for example if you are a sole trader.
  • Step 8 – Specify the estimated number of employees who will be eligible for the first JobKeeper fortnight (30 March – 12 April) and the second JobKeeper fortnight (13 April – 26 April).

If you prefer to engage our office to administer the JobKeeper program on your behalf with the ATO please click here and opt-in. We will then contact you with further information.

 

Home Office Tax Deductions (Shortcut Method)

On 7 April 2020, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) announced a temporary short cut method for claiming home office expenses.

This temporary measure makes it easier for individual tax payers to claim deductions for additional running expenses in this time of working from home due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

The ATO will allow an individual to claim a deduction for all running expenses during the period 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 at a rate of 80 cents for each hour that an individual conducts genuine work duties from home.

Who is eligible to claim this shortcut method?

You can claim a deduction of 80 cents for each hour you work from home due to COVID-19 as long as you are:

  • working from home to fulfil your employment duties and not just carrying out minimal tasks such as occasionally checking emails or taking calls,
  • incurring additional deductible running expenses as a result of working from home.

How does it work?

The 80 cents per hour covers all deductible running expenses associated with working from home in the period 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020.

The expenses included in the 80 cents per hour are the following:

  • electricity for lighting, cooling or heating and running electronic items used for work (for example your computer), and gas heating expenses
  • the decline in value and repair of capital items, such as home office furniture and furnishings
  • cleaning expenses
  • your phone costs, including the decline in value of the handset
  • your internet costs
  • computer consumables, such as printer ink
  • stationery
  • the decline in value of a computer, laptop or similar device.

This means that you can not claim a separate tax deduction for any of the above expenses while claiming the 80 cents per hour. Given this, in some cases, claiming the 80 cents per hour may result in a lower deduction than the existing home office arrangements.

What’s the difference between the shortcut method (80 cents per hour) and the existing method (52 cents per hour)?

The key differences are displayed in the table below. You will notice that the main differences are in the requirements around record keeping. The Shortcut method requires you to keep less records however you can not claim any other separate expenses:

Shortcut Method (80 cents p/h)Existing Method (52 cents p/h)
Can separately claim
– phone and internet expenses
– computer consumables and stationery
– decline in value on computers or other equipment.
NoYes
RECORDS TO KEEP


keep a record of the hours you worked at home, for example timesheets or diary notesYesNo
diary entries for a representative four-week period to show your usual pattern of working at home that show
– you worked from home and made work
– related phone calls how you work out how much you used your equipment, home office and phone for work purposes over a representative four-week period
NoYes
receipts or other written evidence, including for depreciating assets you have purchasedNoYes
diary entries to record your small expenses ($10 or less) totalling no more than $200, or expenses for which you can’t get any kind of evidenceNoYes
itemised phone and internet accounts (paper or electronic) from where you can identify work-related calls and internet use, or other written records, such as diary entries if you don’t get an itemised bill.NoYes

Can I choose which method to use?

Yes, home running expenses incurred prior to 1 March 2020 must use the existing method (52 cents per hour) however after 1 March 2020, the individual can choose to use the shortcut method (80 cents per hour) or the existing method.

If you have would like to discuss any of the above further please do not hesitate to contact us 1300 978 320.

JobKeeper Payment Explained

The Government announced yesterday a JobKeeper Payment for businesses significantly impacted by the Coronavirus. This payment is a subsidy provided by the Federal Government that affected businesses can access to give them the ability to continue paying their employees. This payment will also be made available to the self-employed.

An Eligible business will be provided with $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee for up to 6 months.

This subsidy will start on 30 March 2020.

Who is an Eligible Employer?

  • Turnover less than $1 billion and turnover has reduced by more than 30% relative to a comparable period a year ago
  • Turnover more than $1 billion and turnover has reduced by more than 50% relative to a comparable period a year ago
  • Employer is in an employment relationship with an eligible employee as at 1 March 2020 and the employee is currently engaged
  • Not-for-profit or self-employed/sole trader who meet the above turnover test

Who is an Eligible Employee?

  • Currently employed by the eligible employer (including stood down or re-hired)
  • Employed by the employer at 1 March 2020
  • Full-time, part-time or a long-term casual (a casual employed on a regular basis for more than 12 months)
  • 16 years of age or older
  • 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
  • Not receiving the JobKeeper payment from another employer

How will it be paid?

  • $1,500 will be paid directly to the Eligible Employer for each Eligible Employee per fortnight.
  • The payments will be made to the employer monthly in arrears by the ATO
  • The Payment is before tax and employers can top up the payment if they wish to do so
  • Employees will be paid in the following manner:
    • For an employee who usually receives $1,500 or more in income per fortnight before tax, they will continue to receive their regular income according to their current workplace arrangements. The JobKeeper Payment will assist their employer to continue operating by subsidising all or part of the income of their employees.
    • For an employee who usually receives less than $1,500 in income per fortnight before tax, their employer must pay their employee a minimum $1,500 per fortnight, before tax.
    • For employees who have been stood down, their employer must pay their employee a minimum $1,500 per fortnight, before tax.
    • For employees who were employed on 1 March 2020, then ceased employment with their employer, and then been re-engaged by the same eligible employer, the employee will receive a minimum $1,500 per fortnight, before tax.

When will the first payments be paid by the ATO?

First payments will be paid to eligible employers by the ATO in the first week of May.

How does a business apply?

Businesses with employees can register their interest in the JobKeeper Payment from 30 March 2020 by following the below register link below.

Eligible employers who register will be able to apply for the subsidy via an online application and will need to identify the employees eligible for the JobKeeper payments.

Businesses without employees (self-employed/sole traders) can register their interest in the JobKeeper Payment from 30 March 2020 by also following the below register link.

Eligible businesses without employees who register will be able to apply online and will need to provide their ABN, nominate an individual to receive the payment and provide that individual’s Tax File Number and provide a declaration of their recent business activity.

REGISTER YOUR INTEREST IN JOBKEEPER

As usual please feel free to contact us to discuss your individual situation and for further advice on the above.

Key Points from the Second Government Stimulus Package and Victorian Government Survival Package

On Sunday 22 March the Government released a second stimulus package to help individuals and business get through the Coronavirus crisis. As per the previous stimulus package announcement, more information is coming to hand as we write this but these are the key points we know so far.

CASH AND LOAN SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES

Eligibility:

At this stage we are not aware of the eligibility being any different to the announcement of the first stimulus a week ago being, companies including not-for-profits with annual turnover of up to $50m and paid wages between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020.

Timing and how will payments be made:

The payments will be made through the ATO system and paid directly into the bank account you have registered with the ATO. These payments will be linked to the Pay As You Go (PAYG) Withheld reported in your BAS starting from the lodgement of your March 2020 BAS.

Payment amounts:

There is an increase in the payment amount offered in the first stimulus being:

  • 100% of PAYG Withheld from employee wages (up from 50%)
  • Minimum payment available to employers is now $20,000 (up from $2,000) with $10,000 being paid in the April to June 2020 period (lodgment of  of March 2020 BAS) and $10,000 being paid in the July to October 2020 period (lodgement of June and September 2020 BAS)
  • Maximum payment available to employers is now $100,000 (up from $25,000) with $50,000 being paid in the April to June 2020 period (lodgment of  of March 2020 BAS) and $50,000 being paid in the July to October 2020 period (lodgement of June and September 2020 BAS)
  • The ATO will make these payment by way of a credit to your Business Activity Statements

GOVERNMENT GUARANTEED LOANS

  • Federal Government is offering businesses unsecured loans of up to $250,000 for a term of up to three years through your lender.
  • Loans will be repayment free for six months and 50% guaranteed by the government.

INSOLVENCY MEASURES BEING RELAXED

  • The outstanding amounts limits will be increased from $2,000 to $20,000
  • Timing to respond will be six months instead of 21 days.
  • Relief for Directors over the next six months whilst trading insolvent

ASSISTANCE FOR INDIVIDUALS

  • A range of extra payments available including an extra $750 for Jobseeker allowance on top of the $750 originally offered.
  • Support to Casuals and Sole Traders of an extra $550 a fortnight for the next 6 months

VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC SURVIVAL PACKAGE

  • Payroll tax waived – Payroll tax waived in the 2020 financial year for eligible businesses with taxable wages up to $3 million
  • Payroll tax deferrals – The same eligible businesses will also be able to defer any payroll tax for the first three months of the 2021 financial year until 1 January 2021
  • Commercial rent relief – Commercial tenants in government buildings can apply for rent relief
  • Land tax payment deferral – 2020 land tax payments will be deferred for eligible small businesses
  • Liquor licensing fees – 2020 renewable liquor licence fees waived
  • $500m Business Support Fund – The fund will support the hardest hit sectors, including hospitality, tourism, accommodation, arts and entertainment, and retail
  • $500m Working for Victoria Fund – The fund will help workers who have lost their jobs find new opportunities, including work cleaning public infrastructure or delivering food – providing vital contributions to our state’s response to the pandemic and affording those Victorians security when its needed most

All of the above is what we know at the moment. As usual please feel free to contact us to discuss your individual situation and for further advice on the above.

Keeping Your Business Alive

As a business owner, it is important in this time of uncertainty to stay calm and find light. If you are fortunate to be able to help, help other people. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask for help. Coronavirus is a people virus that does not discriminate and affects all of us, therefore people need to help people and realise that it’s not about them. Finding positives is key as business owners, human beings and advisors. Anxiety feeds anxiety. Fear feeds fear.

If you are a business owner that employs staff, you are responsible for the wellbeing of not only the individual that you employ but also inadvertently the wellbeing of their family and household. If this hasn’t dawned on you before then I’m sure it is now.

What can we do:

  1. REACT NOW: This doesn’t need to be perfect, but you need to take immediate and important action to protect the safety of your employees and keep your business alive. Some of these are:
    • determine a plan for your staff to keep working while abiding by government guidelines and social distancing
    • determine the measures that need to be taken for your business to practice good hygiene to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to staff and customers
    • communicate the first two dot points above effectively
    • prepare financial forecasts with ‘what if’ scenarios and a worst-case scenario to determine how much cash flow you will need to survive. If you aren’t able do this yourself, speak to your advisor
    • based on your financial forecast, determine ways you can spread the cash burden and conserve cash, some ideas are:
      • speak to your bank to see if you can have support on reduced or deferred repayments for a period of time. It is important to understand the short and long term impacts of taking this on, speak with your bank and ask how this option might affect you or your business in the future
      • speak to your landlord to see if you can have some assistance with rental payments
      • speak to your advisor about the government stimulus packages on offer and also determine with the ATO if any tax liability payments can be delayed or paid off over a period of time
      • determine any other large fixed costs that will not stop if you have zero revenue and seek assistance from the supplier. Remember the suppliers are in a tight spot as well so it’s important to be understanding if they can’t help.
  1. KEEP GENERATING REVENUE (KEEP YOUR BUSINESS ALIVE): Do whatever you can to keep your business alive through the coming days, weeks and months ahead. If your business can adapt to these challenges you will be a stronger business at the other end of these difficult times. By reacting now, you stand to be in the best possible position to weather the storm. An important thing to remember is that how your business behaves now will be remembered in the future when all is calm.

Here are some examples we have seen when speaking with clients and businesses over the week:

A finance team that has made the decision early to have 50% of the team work from home:

  • The evaluation of who is most appropriate to work from home was based on the risk to the employee and their family, who drove to work and who used public transport
  • They didn’t have enough laptops, so they packed up the desktop computer and sent that home with the employee.  Dual screens and the box with keyboard, mouse and all of the cables.
  • Remote access tools were tested from the office before they went home, so problems could be quickly sorted from the office rather than over the phone
  • The employees working from home also took their office chairs with them as working from the couch wouldn’t help them remain productive for long
  • Microsoft Teams was installed (and tested) for internal communications and Skype for Business for external communications (could be other remote working software such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Hangouts etc
  • Business critical processes were reviewed and people trained as backups to do that process (payroll in this case).  The process was roughly and quickly documented (pen and paper!) to be able to refer to by a 3rd backup person.
  • Mangers communicated clearly and empathically to staff on what was happening, including that not all answers were known, but assured staff they were working on the issues.
  • Stayed in touch regularly using the remote working tools to ensure the team still was a team.  Eating lunch together virtually.

A manufacturing firm that has:

  • Split shifts with time in between shift changes to help with the ’social distancing’.
  • Hand sanitizers not only near time clocks and around machinery panels, but in walkways so people can ‘pump and go’ as they move between factory areas as they perform their normal day to day tasks

A professional services business that:

  • Introduced a no public transport policy in conjunction with work from home.
  • Spoke to their landlord for temporary rent payment relief
  • Rather than cancel external meetings, contacted a client and changed it to video conference
  • Had their sales team proactively call all customers to keep communication going

Cafes that have

  • Changed payments to totally contactless
  • Changed their product offering to take away coffees, and sealed packaged sandwiches and cakes that customers can ‘buy and leave’ quickly

A construction industry business that

  • Prepared several very quick financial models to ‘what if’ analyse (without overanalysing) 3 scenarios enabling them to make better decisions based on facts rather than emotion
  • Kept their people focused; still allowing discussion and addressing issues, but then carrying on business as normal.  After all, customers still needed them.

You will notice in the examples above, a lot of the actions focus on protecting the health, well-being and trust of staff members and customers. This is extremely important: without staff and customers, we don’t generate revenue.

The examples also show a focus on keeping revenue coming into the business and reducing cash going out of the business. If your business is affected at this time, we don’t need to make record profits or any profits at all but we do need to keep money coming into the bank to pay the bills, staff and keep the business alive.

Whilst the above suggestions and examples are based on situations and measures we have seen implemented this week, we acknowledge that there is no perfect solution for any one business with much changing each day. It’s important to note that the suggestions are general and some may require discussion to determine whether there are any potential adverse consequences in the future for your business. Please call to discuss if you need any help or guidance in measures you can take for your business

Please remember at this time to maintain optimism, respond to facts not opinions and ask for help when needed. Speak to your accountants and business advisors, they are there to walk through this with you.

The Government’s Coronavirus Stimulus Package in a nutshell

Information is still being released about the Government’s Coronavirus Stimulus package, however, below is what we know so far in a nutshell.

More information will become available over the coming days and weeks. Please feel free to contact us on 1300 978 320 or info@spire-business.com.au if you have any questions or would like to discuss how the below stimulus affects you or your business individually.

$25,000 to Small and Medium Businesses:

  • Businesses with turnover up to $50 million that employ staff between 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2020 may be eligible
  • A business that pays income tax on behalf of employees (PAYG Withholding) may be eligible for a payment equal to 50% of the sum of all employees’ total PAYG Withholding, to a maximum of $25,000
  • If you are a business that pays wages but not required to pay tax you may be eligible to receive a minimum payment of $2,000
  • This stimulus will be issued automatically based on Business or Instalment Activity Statements lodged from April 28
  • This payment is tax free
  • Payments are expected to be paid within 14 days

For Apprentices:

  • The business must employee less than 20 full-time employees
  • Businesses will be offered up to $21,000 ($7,000 per quarter for the first three quarters or 9 months of the 2020 calendar year) for each apprentice
  • The payments will be equal to 50% of the apprentice’s wages
  • A large business or Group Training Organisation may also be eligible for these benefits if they employ an out-of-trade apprentice who has been in-training with a small business as of 1 March 2020
  • Employers can register for the subsidy from 2 April 2020
  • Further information available on the governments Australian Apprenticeships website

Instant Asset Write-Off Extension:

  • The current tax write-off of $30,000 for businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million is now extended to include businesses with a turnover of up to $500 million and purchases of up to $150,000
  • This extension will apply until 30 June 2020

One-off payments:

  • The government will provide one-off payments of $750 to people on Newstart and to pensioners
  • The payment is tax-free and will not be assessable income

Support to particular sectors:

  • The Government will be committing $1 billion to support businesses that have severely affected such as the travel and tourism sector

Further to the above stimulus, the ATO will be looking to be more flexible in the way they will handle taxpayers’ affairs, this is what we know so far:

  • The ATO will allow businesses who usually report GST quarterly to opt in for monthly GST reporting in order to receive GST refunds quicker
  • Businesses will be allowed to vary their Pay As You Go (PAYG) instalment to zero for the March 2020 quarter
  • Businesses who vary their PAYG instalment to zero will also be able to claim a refund made for the September and December 2019 quarters
  • The ATO will look to remit any interest and penalties applied on or after 23 January 2020 and will also be offering low interest payment plans to businesses with a tax debt owing
  • All of the above will not be applied automatically and will require a phone call or request put forward to the ATO