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  • Small Business Stewardship Group special briefing 16 April 2020

    COVID-19

    Early release of superannuation

    • The ATO is ready to start accepting applications from Monday 20 April 2020. Systems are deploying over the weekend. Web content and call centres are ready.
    • We are expecting significant demand on our services and ask for patience while we work through various processes and as applications move through the system.
    • To assist the provision of affordable advice on early access to super, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has permitted registered tax agents to give advice to existing clients about early access to superannuation without needing to hold an Australian Financial Services licence. Further details on ASIC’s temporary relief measures can be found at asic.gov.auExternal Link

    Members' comments

    There is no need to provide evidence when lodging the application for early release of superannuation. However, individuals should keep records to confirm their eligibility as the ATO may ask for this information. Those who are genuinely in need and have assessed their eligibility in accordance with the criteria do not need to be concerned.

    JobKeeper

    • The ATO recognises how important the JobKeeper measure is for business and the community. We are mindful of the importance of getting payments out to eligible businesses while also balancing that obligation with an appropriate sense of governance and integrity.
    • We appreciate there is a lot of interest in the measure and the importance of making information available as soon as possible. Information on the JobKeeper payment, including information on sole traders and other entities, can be found on the ATO website. Additional information will be added to the website as it becomes available.
    • As at 10.00am on 16 April 2020, 853,835  unique ABN holders had subscribed to receive JobKeeper updates. Businesses that have registered their interest and subscribed to receive updates will still need to enrol for JobKeeper payments.
    • From 20 April 2020, eligible employers can enrol for the JobKeeper scheme. Employers must enrol by the end of April to claim JobKeeper in early May, for wages and salaries paid in April. Businesses will need to confirm their eligibility based on their own self-assessment and provide some standard information to enrol. Documents do not need to be submitted to support the enrolment.
    • The ATO will provide a reference number and acknowledge that we have accepted the enrolment based on a business’s self-assessment and the information provided against the key criteria. This confirmation may assist small businesses approaching banks for credit to assist them with bridging their cash flow gap for April.
    • There is a JobKeeper employee notification notice that will need to be completed between the employer and employee. The form needs to be completed by the end of April if you would like to claim the JobKeeper payment for April. Applicants should keep and/or provide a copy to their registered tax agent if using one.
    • From 4 May 2020, eligible businesses can apply for the JobKeeper payment for their eligible employees. This will trigger the payment. The ATO’s focus will be on getting the payments out as soon as possible.
    • For the first two fortnights (30 March – 12 April and 13 April – 26 April), we will accept the minimum $1,500 payment for each fortnight provided it is paid by the employer by the end of April, i.e. employees can be paid later than their usual pay date as long as they are paid by 30 April.
    • Checklists are being developed to assist eligible employers and eligible employees to navigate the process. These will be published on ato.gov.au
    • We are committed to tackling any reported illegal behaviour relating to JobKeeper or other COVID-19 support measure to protect honest businesses and the community. Information on making a tip-off can be found on ato.gov.au

    Members' comments

    • Finding cash flow to pay employees by the end of April will be difficult for some businesses that cannot or do not want to obtain bridging finance.
    • The ATO confirmed that it cannot accept a commitment from employers to pay employees for April – employees must have actually been paid in April. The Government, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have taken coordinated action to ensure the flow of credit to small businesses. Further details can be found on treasury.gov.auExternal Link. See Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman press releaseExternal Link for participating lenders.
    • The ATO is working on providing more details regarding the Commissioner’s discretion in cases where a new business satisfies all eligibility criteria but does not have a relevant comparison period. The Commissioner’s discretion is limited but we understand that some otherwise eligible businesses may not meet the criteria as set out in the law. Further information on the Commissioner’s discretion will be provided through a Legislative Instrument.
    • Moving from a quarterly activity statement reporting period to a monthly reporting period will not impact eligibility when calculating the comparison period. This is a self-assessment regime and there are not prescriptive requirements for evidence.
    • Different small business structures including sole traders, partners in a partnership and beneficiaries of a trust do not have the traditional employer and employee relationship so there will be some nuances to the pathway for accessing JobKeeper payments. Further information for these different business structures will be made available.
    • Some reports in the media discuss an employer’s discretion to decide which employees in their business will be eligible for JobKeeper payments. This is not the case. The ATO will ensure that information on ato.gov.au makes the situation clear that it is a ‘one employee-in, all employees-in’ process.
    • A member highlighted a situation where an individual was in both permanent and casual employment but aspects of the eligibility criteria mean they may not be eligible for a JobKeeper payment for either employer.

    Cash flow boost

    • The cash flow boosts will be delivered as credits in the activity statement system from 28 April 2020. The first eligible period is the March period up to the month or quarter of September 2020.
    • For eligible businesses, the cash flow boost will automatically be credited to your account when you lodge your activity statement. The ATO will assess eligibility based on the information we have, and a separate application is not required.

    Members' comments

    Some of the state-based assistance measures / grants will be reflected as income on a business activity statement. There are concerns raised by some businesses that having to declare such grants as income will reduce the amount they receive as a credit through this scheme.

    Other stimulus measures

    The ATO reminded the group that expanded instant asset write-off measure needs to be claimed as part of a business’s 2019–20 income tax return at Tax Time.

    Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman update

    The Ombudsman highlighted the intersection of the JobKeeper rules with the current industrial relations regime. For example, a business cannot reduce an employee’s hourly rate and must reach an agreement with their employees to reduce their hours to align to any payments made under the JobKeeper scheme. The ATO is working closely with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

    Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources update

    A COVID-19 contact centre has opened as part of the business.gov.au helpline run by the Department of Industry Science, Energy and Resources (DISER). Businesses affected by the coronavirus can talk to dedicated customer representatives via phone, live chat or email. The team are available for calls on 13 28 46 between 7.00am–9.00pm across Australia, seven days a week. Further details of the contact centre can be found on business.gov.auExternal Link

    Members' comments

    Members noted that some information on COVID-19 measures available on both ato.gov.au and business.gov.au uses different language and can be confusing.

    The ATO will work with DISER on ensuring the web-content is fully aligned.

    Treasury update

    The Treasury has a new division focusing on COVID-19 measures and working closely with the ATO.

      Last modified: 07 May 2020QC 62533