Social distancing, travel bans, and a host of other factors engendered by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have had an adverse effect on Australia's economy. Many experts predict that the country is headed towards its first recession since 1991. Businesses across the spectrum, including SMBs, have felt the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In this article, we detail the key resources and opportunities that have been made available to Australian businesses.
On 12 and 22 March 2020, respectively, the Australian government announced its first and second economic stimulus packages to support households and businesses, effective immediately. These were augmented by the announcement of the JobKeeper Payment on March 30, 2020. It was estimated that up to 3.5 million businesses would receive direct assistance in one or more of the following ways:
1. Support for Business Investment:
This entails a commitment of $700 million, allowing the instant asset write-off threshold to be increased from $30,000 to $150,000. Businesses with an annual turnover below $500 million are eligible for this support, where the limit was previously set at $50 million. The intervention is effective between March 12, 2020 and June 30, 2020.
An additional $3.2 billion has been allocated to accelerate depreciation deductions. Until June 30, 2021, businesses with an annual turnover below $500 million can deduct 50% of the cost of new Division 40 assets upon installation or use thereof. Standard depreciation rates will apply to the balance.
2. "Boosting Cash Flow for Employers" Payments:
SMBs and not-for-profits with employees and a turnover of less than $50 million may be entitled to a tax-free payment of up to $100,000. At the very least, eligible entities will receive $20,000. This is intended to help cover operating expenses.
Note that eligible businesses that withhold tax on salaries and wages are being paid up to 100% of what is withheld, where the maximum payout is $50,000. Initially, those that aren't required to withhold tax received a minimum of $10,000.
This form of assistance should support approximately 690,000 businesses that employ an estimated 7.8 million workers, and roughly 30,000 not-for-profits. In terms of rollout, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) started making payments on April 28, 2020. These have taken the form of credits in the activity statement system.
Another payment will be made to qualifying entities between July and October 2020. This will equal the sum of all prior "Boosting Cash Flow for Employers" payments made to each business. This will also take the form of one or more credits, depending on when businesses lodge their activity statements.
Businesses should note that they do not need to apply for these payments. Instead, they are being automatically calculated and delivered by the ATO. For further details, visit business.gov.au and ato.gov.au.
3. Income Support for Sole Traders and Self-Employed Individuals:
Sole traders and self-employed individuals who have had their businesses suspended or turnover markedly reduced are now eligible for the biweekly JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance JobSeeker. These individuals will also receive a Coronavirus Supplement of $550 each fortnight.
This expanded access to payments, as well as the Coronavirus Supplement, started being rolled out at the end of April, and will be valid for six months. Candidates can claim these payments online through myGov or by phoning Services Australia.
4. JobKeeper Payments:
Businesses that have been notably affected by COVID-19 can access biweekly wage subsidies worth $1,500 (before tax) for each eligible employee. These can be used to pay full-time and part-time staff, including those being stood down, as well as casual workers who have been employed by the business for the past 12 months or more (calculated from March 1, 2020). Payments are being made for up to six months.
Worth noting is that the JobKeeper Payment can also be accessed by sole traders and self-employed individuals whose turnover has been reduced due to COVID-19. However, those who receive income support from Services Australia will need to declare this income appropriately, which could affect their eligibility for continued assistance.
Interested parties can visit business.gov.au to learn more about eligibility criteria and the application process. The subsidy was rolled out on March 30, 2020, and recipients were awarded their first payments in the beginning of May.
5. Wage Subsidies for Apprentices and Trainees:
A further $1.3 billion has been committed to supporting the work of roughly 120,000 apprentices and trainees through the provision of wage subsidies. Eligible employers can apply for subsidies of up to 50%. This form of relief may be drawn upon for the period spanning January 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020.
Naturally, small businesses that are unable to support the costs associated with retaining their apprentices will forego this support. Instead, apprentices' new employers will be eligible for the subsidy.
Note that employers will receive up to $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee, which equates to $7,000 per quarter. Businesses were able to register for these wage subsidies from early April. For more on the application process, be sure to locate and contact an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network Provider.
6. Additional Support for Disproportionately Affected Entities:
A further $1 billion has been allocated to support those who have been particularly impacted by COVID-19. Businesses who are heavily dependent on international trade, for example, could use these funds to pinpoint other export markets. Moreover, plans to encourage domestic tourism could eventually spur growth within the hospitality industry.
Download the fact sheet from treasury.gov.au to learn more.
7. Administrative Relief:
Beyond these financial commitments, the Australian government has announced less stringent tax obligations. This includes the option to defer certain payments by up to four months. Moreover, recipients of government grants could be given extensions on project milestones and reporting deadlines.
For now, the government is also raising the threshold at which creditors may issue statutory demands and providing companies with longer response times. Directors who trade while insolvent will benefit from temporary relief from all personal liability.
More detailed information is available in the treasury.gov.au fact sheet download.
Deferment of Loan Repayments:
On March 20, 2020, Anna Bligh, CEO of the Australian Banking Association, announced that small businesses affected by COVID-19 could have their loan repayments deferred for six months. The offer applies to over $100 billion in existing loans. Depending on the uptake, it is thought that this could put up to $8 billion back into small businesses.
Note that interest will accrue during the six-month window. Payment amounts will be either readjusted after the six month period, or recipients can choose to have the lengths of their loans extended.
Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme:
The Australian government has established the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme with support from the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The Scheme is intended to help SMEs obtain working capital. To this end, the government is guaranteeing 50% of each applicable loan. Below are the salient terms:
- Only SMEs with a turnover of less than $50 million are eligible. This includes sole traders.
- Loans are to be unsecured and capped at $250,000 per borrower.
- Term lengths should be a maximum of 3 years.
- Repayments need only be made from the seventh month after which the loan is awarded.
- Lenders' credit assessment processes still apply, but the uncertainty of the economic climate should be accounted for.
The Scheme was officially rolled out in early April 2020 and will support all new loans secured by September 30, 2020. Interested parties should contact their financial institutions for further details.
The aforementioned interventions are available to businesses across the nation. Worth noting, however, is that there are various state and territory-specific initiatives. We've included some of the most salient ones below.
The Australian Capital Territory:
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has devised and instituted the COVID-19 Economic Survival Package, which is intended to help sustain SMBs as well as families and households. The multifaceted initiative includes the following support for businesses:
Small businesses that use less than 100 megawatts of electricity per year will receive a rebate of $750. This will be added to their next electricity bill between June and July 2020.
Those who own commercial properties with an Average Unimproved Value of up to $2 million will receive a rebate, issued in the form of a credit, on their commercial rates fixed charge. This will be applied automatically in the fourth quarter. Furthermore, the 2020–2021 Fire and Emergency Services Levy will not be increased.
Commercial tenants of ACT government-owned properties could receive rental relief for six months as of April 1, 2020, provided they can demonstrate that their operations have been markedly affected by COVID-19. Tenants should email the ACT Property Group to apply.
Commercial tenants in privately-owned commercial properties will be encouraged to consult with their landlords to discuss relief. Negotiations will be facilitated by a state-appointed Commercial Tenancy Mediator. Landlords, tenants, the government, and financial institutions will collaborate to execute agreed-upon plans.
Selected businesses that purchase less than $3 million in liquor per year had their liquor licensing and food business registration fees waived for 12 months as of April 1, 2020. Their 2020–2021 outdoor dining fees will also be waived. Those that have prepaid their food business registration fees will have 12 months added to their licenses.
Rideshare operators had their rideshare vehicle license fees waived for 12 months as of April 1, 2020. Where licenses have been prepaid, individuals will have 12 months added to their licenses. Government-leased taxi plate fees will also be waived. Moreover, taxi drivers who lease privately-owned plates will receive a payment of up to $5,000.
Businesses that must hold an infection control license will not be charged the applicable fee for 12 months as of April 1, 2020.
The Clubs Diversification fund, which is currently worth $1.8 million, will be freed up to sustain community clubs. This includes retaining staff. The ACT government has pledged an additional $1.5 million to meet this objective.
Businesses that are directly impacted by the ban on certain activities will not be required to pay payroll tax between April and September 2020. Prospective candidates should complete the online application form.
ACT businesses with wages of up to $10 million are able to defer their 2020–2021 payroll tax until July 1, 2022. No interest will be charged. Note that payroll tax returns need to be lodged per usual.
The Vocational Education and Training sector will be supported through increased subsidies for apprenticeships, traineeships, and other categories. No applications are required; adjustments will be made automatically.
The government aims to expedite the rollout of the Canberra Institute of Technology's (CIT's) "Study Work Anywhere Any Time" initiative by harnessing the expertise of local SMBs. This will support businesses and retain those with valuable technological skills.
The Canberra Business Advice and Support Service is designed to help small businesses address the effects of the recent environmental and health emergencies on their entities. Their interventions include four hours of one-on-one support and business development resources. Interested parties can call (02) 6297 3121 to make a booking.
A business liaison team has been established to inform businesses about available support and to issue practical guidance to those that remain operational. Businesses can call (02) 6205 0900.
New South Wales:
The New South Wales (NSW) government has rolled out an economic stimulus package that is designed to support SMBs. The most salient aspects include:
The COVID-19 Support Grant:
NSW-based businesses will be eligible for a grant of up to $10,000, provided that they:
- Employ less than 20 people and have an annual turnover of more than $75,000.
- Have a total payroll of less than $900,000.
- Had an Australian Business Number that was valid on March 1, 2020.
- Employed at least 1 person on March 1, 2020.
- Have been significantly impacted by the Public Health Order 2020.
- Use the grant to cover operating expenses and other unavoidable fees.
- Submit the relevant paperwork when applying for the grant.
- The tax-free threshold has been raised from $900,000 to $1 million for the 2020–2021 financial year.
- Businesses with payrolls over $10 million can defer their payroll tax for 6 months.
- Pubs, hotels, clubs, and lotteries can defer their gaming tax payments for 6 months, provided that the funds are used to promote staff retention.
Fee Deferrals and Waivers:
- Parking space levies can be deferred for 6 months.
- Tenants of government-owned facilities can defer their rent payments for 6 months, provided that they have less than 20 employees.
- Eligible individuals and businesses need not pay the usual license, permit, and registration fees. This applies to new applications and renewals, but excludes fees associated with license amendments, replacements, and similar services.
$250 million has been set aside to enlist the cleaning services of SMBs. The intention is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while sustaining approximately 550 cleaners. Companies can apply online.
The Northern Territory (NT) has adopted a multi-pronged approach to helping businesses weather the effects of COVID-19. Key interventions are described below.
Jobs Rescue and Recovery Plan:
The NT has begun to issue grants as part of its Jobs Rescue and Recovery Plan. Key aspects of the intervention include:
A new $50 million Small Business Survival Fund that is designed to support businesses in the retail, entertainment, tourism, and hospitality sectors. Once applications open, businesses can apply for up to four grants including an immediate survival payment worth between $2,000 and $5,000; a rapid adoption payment worth between $1,000 and $5,000; an operational boost payment; and an operational support payment for companies with annual revenue of at least $75,000.
As the names suggest, these grants are intended to help businesses to weather the immediate and long-term pressures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Interested parties should keep an eye on the NT government's website where application details will likely be released.
Also worth noting is that some NT businesses were eligible for the Business Improvement Grant. This is intended for the purchase of products and services, and to cover the cost of permanent physical alterations to business's buildings and/or land. The grant is worth up to $20,000: half is awarded as a grant, and the remainder is provided when businesses contribute $10,000.
As of May 2020, all funds have been committed and applications for the grant are closed.
Another major intervention being offered in NT is the Immediate Work Grant which is designed to cover the costs of repairs, renovations, and upgrades within not-for-profit and community organizations. It is worth up to $100,000: half is provided as a grant, and the remainder is matched dollar-for-dollar against the business's own contributions.
As with the Business Improvement Grant, all funds have been allocated and applications are no longer being accepted.
NT-based businesses that earn less than $50 million per year and have lost 30% or more of their income due to COVID-19 can apply to have their payroll tax waived (in the case of SMBs) or reduced (in the case of large businesses) for six months. Moreover, all businesses can have their water, sewerage, and power bills reduced by 50%. Applications opened on May 1, 2020.
Businesses with annual revenue below $50 million that have lost 30% or more of their income due to COVID-19 should request rent relief from their landlords. In addition, landlords will not be required to pay the property activation levy in instances where their properties become vacant as a result of COVID-19.
Commercial landlords who refuse to negotiate in good faith will not be able to access the abovementioned relief or any other government support.
Suspension of Planning Approval Process Requirements:
Those who would like to start construction on projects linked to the Business Improvement Grant or the Immediate Work Grant do not need to apply for approval.
Tourism Business Support:
Tourism Northern Territory has partnered with financial consultancy firm KPMG to create a $200,000 grant program. Specialists will meet with interested parties to unpack their concerns and issue practical guidance. These private, hour-long appointments will take place between March 24, 2020, and July 31, 2020. Applications can be submitted online.
The NT government has also devised a $2 million Tourism Resilience Plan that comprises four programs. Ultimately, these are designed to generate more interest in tourism, and to promote learning. Interested individuals can download a summary of this initiative to read more about it.
Support for the Sport and Active Recreation Sector:
$1.3 million has been set aside to support the NT's sport and active recreation sector. There are four key elements of this intervention:
Grants designed to promote learning by funding or offsetting the enrollment fees when coaches, trainers, and officials partake in accredited courses.
An Online Active Recreation Stimulus Package to assist providers in formulating and delivering stipulated training programs.
A Sport Surfaces and Sewerage Stimulus Package designed to offset the costs associated with maintaining sporting facilities.
A Remote Sport Program Stimulus Package to assist remote areas with partaking in and delivering sports and other recreational activities.
Streamlined Access to Job Seekers:
The NT government has partnered with the Industry Capability Network Northern Territory (ICN NT) and software provider Cited to create the Territory Jobs Hub – an online portal where local businesses can connect with job candidates. The service is completely free for employers and job seekers alike, and can be used to fill casual, contract, and permanent positions.
Interested parties should visit the ICN NT's website for a step-by-step guide on how to use the platform.
Queensland businesses have access to a range of interventions. These include:
Tax relief for SMBs with a payroll of up to $6.5 million. Businesses ought to have been affected by COVID-19, whether directly or indirectly. The package includes a two-month refund of their payroll tax (for November and December 2019), as well as a three-month payroll tax holiday from January to March of 2020. The remainder of 2020 payroll tax payments can be deferred.
Tax relief for large businesses, which are classified as those with payroll above $6.5 million. Once more, businesses must have been impacted by COVID-19. The package includes a two-month refund of their payroll tax (specifically, for November and December 2019 payments). As with SMBs, large businesses will be able to defer the remainder of their 2020 payroll tax payments.
Zero payroll taxes for businesses that are set to pay at least $1.3 million in taxable wages this year. This applies to the 2019–20 financial year. Eligible companies should apply for this form of relief online.
Fee waivers for tourism operators and hospitality providers. These include application fees for certain types of liquor licenses, registration renewal fees normally paid by Inbound Tour Operators, and daily fees associated with commercial activity agreements and permits. More detailed information is available on business.qld.gov.au.
One or more land tax rebates for commercial landowners who had difficulty securing tenants due to COVID-19, or whose tenants have been unable to make their usual rent payments due to the pandemic. Eligible individuals can apply online.
Rent waivers for those operating tourism businesses on state land (unless they pay minimum rent, in which case they may be eligible for a rent deferral). Waivers apply to the period spanning April 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020, while deferrals apply to the period between January 1, 2020, and March 31, 2020. Businesses can view detailed eligibility criteria and application procedures online.
Rent waivers for certain businesses in Categories 11, 13, 14.2, 15, and 16 (valid from April 1, 2020, to September 30, 2020), and rent deferrals for those that pay rent on a quarterly basis and do not qualify for the stated waiver. In the latter case, rent that is due for the period spanning April to June 2020 can be paid up until September 1, 2020.
Market Diversification and Resilience Grants to support food, fishing, and agriculture exporters plus their supply chain partners. This includes up to $7,500 for new equipment when applicants contribute 25% of the total costs and project funding of up to $50,000 when applicants cover 50% of the overall costs. Applications have closed, but businesses can email MDRG@daf.qld.gov.au to receive updates about the program.
At least $2.5 million to support Queensland's arts sector. Most funds are to be disbursed in the form of grants.
Low-interest Jobs Support loans of up to $250,000, intended to help businesses retain staff and preserve operations. These ten-year loans feature no interest or repayment requirements during the first year. Applications close on September 25, 2020, or once the $500 million scheme has been depleted.
A Mentoring for Growth (M4G) program that aims to provide eligible businesses with one-on-one guidance. The initiative is being delivered telephonically, in person, and online. Those who wish to partake in M4G should register their interest online.
South Australia has also taken a multi-pronged approach that includes emergency cash injections, tax and fee waivers, job accelerator grants, and the awarding of temporary liquor licenses.
Emergency Cash Grants:
Small businesses and not-for-profit organizations with employees may be eligible for a $10,000 grant if they have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The full list of criteria, as well as application procedures, are detailed on the Department of Treasury and Finance's website.
Payroll Tax – Waivers and Deferrals:
Businesses with grouped wages of $4 million and below will receive a six-month payroll tax holiday. Specifically, they will not need to pay payroll tax for the months spanning April to September 2020. Businesses that were not required to pay payroll tax in the 2018–2019 financial year will be required to apply for the waiver.
Businesses with grouped wages over $4 million that have been demonstrably impacted by COVID-19 can defer payroll tax payments for the period spanning April to September 2020. Successful applicants will need to honor the revised deadline of October 2020.
In both of the abovementioned instances, businesses still need to submit tax returns per usual. Interested parties should visit RevenueSA's website to determine whether they should submit the online application.
Land Tax Relief:
Those that have been paying land tax quarterly between 2019 and 2020 can defer this year's third and fourth quarter payments by up to six months. No applications are required, and businesses need not contact RevenueSA in order to institute this arrangement.
Moreover, in instances where landlords provide rent relief to tenants who have been affected by the COVID-19, they could be eligible for a 25% reduction on the amount of land tax owed. Applications details have yet to be released, but RevenueSA has indicated that these will close on 30 June 2020.
Finally, land tax transitional relief will be raised from 50% to 100% of eligible taxpayers' increase in their 2020–2021 land tax assessment. Existing criteria still apply.
Less Stringent Job Accelerator Grant Eligibility Criteria:
Current Job Accelerator Grant (JAG) criteria require employers to have sustained their overall employment levels for one year in order to receive their second JAG payment. However, this may not be feasible due to the effects of COVID-19.
Rather than reviewing staff levels on the applicable two-year anniversary date, the government will review staffing levels valid on January 31, 2020 when assessing claims for the second JAG payment.
Reduced or Waived Liquor Licensing Fees:
The government is set to waive annual liquor licensing fees in the following categories: Liquor Production and Sales; Restaurant and Catering; Club; Residential; On Premises; Small Venue. Those who hold a General and Hotel license will receive a fee reduction if they have a bottleshop, and a complete waiver if they do not.
Licensees in each of the abovementioned categories can also apply for short-term licenses which will allow them to sell alcohol for takeaway or delivery. Applications opened on March 26 and can be made free of charge. Successful businesses will be required to observe the applicable restrictions.
Finally, businesses should note that Packaged Liquor Sales licensing fees won't be cut or waived. Businesses that think they may be entitled to a discount can request a fee reduction from June 1. All applications are to be made on the Consumer and Business Services website.
The Victorian government has developed a $3+ billion Economic Survival Package that includes:
A $500 million Business Support Fund to support sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. These include tourism, hospitality, entertainment, retail, and more. Eligible businesses will each be able to access a grant of up to $10,000. Interested parties can view additional details, including application procedures, online.
Payroll tax waivers for businesses that have annual taxable wages of up to $3 million. This intervention is applicable to the 2019–2020 financial year. Eligible businesses will be reimbursed for payroll tax that they have already paid during the financial year. They can also defer their payroll tax payments for the first quarter of 2020–2021.
Waivers on renewable liquor license fees in 2020. Businesses that have paid this fee will receive a refund from the State Revenue Office.
The fast-tracking of outstanding supplier invoices. This entails payments that are made within ten business days and is projected to release up to $750 million into the economy.
Land tax deferral for those who own one or more non-residential properties and have total taxable landholdings of less than $1 million. The revised deadline will be after December 2020. Candidates need not apply – instead, they will be contacted by the State Revenue Office.
A 25% reduction in 2020 land tax for landlords who have provided rent relief to struggling tenants. Owners who experience difficulty securing tenants due to the COVID-19 pandemic will also receive this form of support.
Rent relief for commercial tenants who occupy government buildings.
The Tasmanian government has devised a Support and Stimulus Package that is designed to provide socio-economic aid to businesses within the area. The most salient components of this package include:
The Primary Healthcare Grant Program:
General practices and community pharmacies can apply for one-off grants of up to $10,000. These are intended to sustain the provision of primary healthcare services during the pandemic. Candidates should view the [program guidelines] before applying online. Submissions will close at 3 p.m. (AEST) on June 30, 2020.
Freezes, Waivers, or Caps on Certain Charges:
Small businesses on tariffs 22, 75, 82, and 94, as well as those on market contracts that are eligible for these tariffs, will not need to pay their first water and electricity bill received after April 1, 2020. Electricity prices are set to be capped, and water prices will be fixed during the next financial year.
In addition, the Tasmanian government will freeze all fees and charges that are subject to the Government Fee Units Act 1997. All businesses that have been notably impacted by COVID-19 need not pay land tax for their commercial properties during the 2020–2021 financial year.
Also worth noting is that Tasmanian businesses that operate within the tourism, hospitality, or seafood sectors will have their payroll taxes waived for the 2019–2020 financial year. All other businesses with payrolls below $5 million can request to have their payroll taxes waived for the period spanning April to June 2020.
The Business Vehicle Registration Relief Package:
Small businesses hoping to suspend their activity can apply to have their business vehicle registrations frozen for up to twelve months. This applies to both light and heavy vehicles. Registrations can be reactivated for free once operations commence.
In addition to this form of relief, the Tasmanian government will waive registration fees for heavy vehicles weighing more than 4.5 tonnes. The government will also waive the road component of motor tax. However, businesses will still be required to pay the regulatory portion of their motor tax.
Applications for both forms of relief can be made online. Candidates will need to furnish their Australian Business Number, as well as other details pertaining to their business. This includes a declaration that their business's operations have ceased or suspended.
Cultural and Creative Industries Stimulus Package:
A dedicated package has been designed to support individuals and organizations involved in Tasmania's cultural sector. It includes new operational measures worth more than $2 million, as well as $1.5 million in funding. Arts organization contracts that are due to expire will also be extended by one year. Further details are available online.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) temporary supply register:
Many businesses require PPE to keep operating safely. As such, the Department of State Growth has put together a temporary supply register where providers of PPE can list their details. The database will be removed once the need for such equipment has subsided.
Access to Qualified Staff:
Businesses that are looking to hire staff will have access to a pool of job-ready candidates via the Rapid Response Skills Matching Service. This could be a time and cost-saving alternative to traditional recruitment methods. Businesses with vacancies can register for this service by visiting skills.tas.gov.au.
Free Business Coaching:
Enterprise Centres Tasmania is offering free business coaching in the form of one-on-one consultations and workshops. The organization can offer guidance on most business processes, from starting a successful company to remaining operational during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Interested individuals can register their interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1800 440 026.
Collins SBA, in association with the Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA), will also be providing hospitality businesses with one free 45-minute phone call to help ascertain their needs and identify solutions. Furthermore, Collins SBA will assist businesses in preparing a cash flow budget for the next year.
THA representatives will reach out to businesses to offer this support, but those in need of immediate support can contact Stephen Long on 0439 100 290 or email@example.com.
In addition to these initiatives, all businesses can request a complimentary two-hour coaching session from a member of the Digital Ready team. These appointments, which will be delivered telephonically or via Zoom, can be used to address any aspect(s) of running a business online. Bookings can be made by calling 1800 955 660.
Finally, businesses can reach out to the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) for free guidance on navigating industrial relations issues, specifically. Interested parties should call 1300 559 112 or visit www.tcci.com.au to register their interest.
The Western Australian (WA) government has implemented various measures to support local businesses during the pandemic. Core interventions include:
Payroll Tax Relief:
The WA government will increase the payroll tax threshold to $1 million as of July 1, 2020.
Businesses with combined Australian taxable wages of less than $5 million on February 29, 2020, will not be subject to payroll tax for the period spanning March to June 2020. The waiver will be applied automatically.
Businesses that exceeded this threshold in February, but anticipate that their payroll will equal less than $7.5 million by June 30, 2020, can qualify for the abovementioned benefit. The same is true for new employers who are registered to pay payroll tax from March 1, 2020. However, these businesses must apply online.
Finally, businesses with combined Australian taxable wages of at least $7.5 million can request an interest-free payment plan if they are concerned about meeting their obligations.
One-off $17,500 Grants:
In addition to the payroll tax waiver mentioned above, businesses that have more than $1 million but less than $4 million in annual Australian taxable wages will receive a one-off grant of $17,500. Payments are likely to be made from July 2020 onwards.
Small businesses and not-for-profit organizations operating from WA government-owned properties will not have to pay rent between March 30, 2020, and September 30, 2020. Tenants who paid in advance will enter negotiations with state government agencies to ensure that they are not financially disadvantaged. Applications can be submitted online.
Land Tax Aid:
The Land Tax Assistance for Landlords program has been established to assist landlords who provide at least three months of rent relief to tenants who have lost 30% or more of their income due to COVID-19. Aid will be disbursed in the form of grants, which will be valued at 25% of each recipient's land tax bill for the 2019–2020 financial year.
Assistance with Electricity Bills:
Small businesses who are customers of Horizon Power and Synergy will receive a one-off credit worth $2,500 to help cover their electricity costs, provided that they consume less than 50MWh per year. The WA government has also indicated that there will be no utility disconnections or interest charges in instances where clients defer their electricity bill payments.
Relief for the On-Demand Transport Industry:
A $9 million package has been created to support the on-demand transport industry. It includes:
- $4.7 million worth of Regional Taxi Assistance Payments (due to be made in July).
- $1.5 million worth of $2,500 payments to support approximately 600 authorized, on-demand service providers.
- The waiving of all PTV authorization renewal fees for 12 months.
- The waiving of all on-demand booking service authorization renewal fees for 12 months.
In addition, metropolitan and regional taxis will not be required to have new or upgraded cameras until at least July 1, 2021. The previous deadline was set for July 2, 2020. Further details about the aforementioned interventions will be released in due course.
Support for the Tourism Industry:
At least $43.2 million has been set aside to support the tourism industry. This includes:
- One-off $6,500 grants for businesses that have annual taxable wages below $1 million. Businesses should read the applicable guidelines to determine their eligibility. If appropriate, they should proceed to complete the required documentation and submit their applications by 6 p.m. (AWST) on June 12, 2020.
- Business survival grants to support tourism operators who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each award will be valued between $25,000 and $100,000. Interested individuals should keep an eye on Tourism Western Australia's website, where further information is due to be released.
- Regional Economic Development Grants that will be used to support community-driven initiatives that benefit parts of the Regional Development Commission areas. The third round of submissions, which is currently underway, will close on July 7, 2020. Application-related information is available online.
Relief for the Business and Construction Industry:
$24.5 million has been set aside to support the building and construction industry. This has been distributed through, inter alia, one-off $2,000 payments to businesses that employ trainees and apprentices and currently receive Construction Training Fund (CTF) payments. Those who are eligible will receive an email from the CTF if they have not already been contacted.
The COVID-19 Assistance Center:
The Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) has created a dedicated COVID-19 assistance center to provide businesses with information about the available interventions, as well as strategies for weathering the pandemic. Businesses can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 133 140 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. during the week.
Resources for Australian Business Owners:
Below, we've rounded up a list of national and state-specific, authoritative resources that business owners can use to keep abreast of current affairs.
The Commonwealth of Australia:
- Coronavirus Information and Governmental Support for Businesses.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Business Support: Contact Details (Chat, Email, Phone).
- Australian Apprenticeship Support Network Locator.
- Australian Government Department of Health.
- National Coronavirus Helpline (available 24/7): 1800 020 080
New South Wales:
- New South Wales Department of Health: COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
- New South Wales Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, Fair Trading Division: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for Businesses and Consumers.
- South Australia Consumer and Business Services: COVID-19 Updates.
- South Australia Department of Health: Coronavirus Disease 2019.
- Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: COVID-19 Business Resources.
- Tasmanian Department of Health: Coronavirus.
- Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Resources for Businesses.
- Victorian Department of Health and Human Resources: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
What is the Australian government doing to assist businesses affected by the coronavirus?
All arms of government have committed a combined total of $189 billion, which is intended to support businesses and households. Key business-centered interventions include cash injections into SMBs, accelerated depreciation deductions, wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees, guarantees on new business loans, and deferments on tax payments.
What is the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme?
Australia's Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) obtain working capital in the form of unsecured loans. These are intended to help SMEs withstand the effects of the coronavirus. Under the Scheme, the Australian government will guarantee 50% of applicable loans. The Scheme was rolled out in April 2020 and will support all new loans secured by September 30, 2020.