COVID-19 daily updates: 21-25 September

25 September

NEWS
Tasmania’s business growth loans now open
Opening last week, Tasmania’s $60 million Business Growth Loan Scheme will provide concessional loan funding to support the state’s businesses to recover, adapt, grow and develop enhanced business models that support employment retention and business growth. It will also support new projects that contribute towards employment and growth of the Tasmanian economy. The program will remain open for one year or until the funding has been exhausted.

Bureau of Statistics survey shows business has warmed to some COVID modifications
Many businesses expect modifications put in place to manage the impacts of COVID-19 will be kept long-term, according to the latest survey results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It shows that two-thirds of businesses have been able to keep trading with modifications made because of the pandemic, and that many businesses are expecting to keep changes they have made to keep operating.

Tasmanian payroll tax exemption for JobKeeper payments extended
The Tasmanian Government has announced that its Payroll Tax (Pandemic) (No 2) Amendment Order 2020 (Tas) amends the Payroll Tax (Pandemic) Order (No 2) 2020 (Tas) to extend the state’s payroll tax exemption for JobKeeper payments to 28 March 2021.

STP delayed adoption concession for micro employers
The ATO says micro employers (those with one to four employees) who need more time to move to Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting can ask their registered tax or BAS agent to report on their behalf on a quarterly basis until 30 June 2021. This concession will only be considered for those micro employers experiencing exceptional or unforeseen circumstances.

24 September

NEWS
JobKeeper extension webinar tomorrow
Helpline queries to Tax & Super Australia regarding the JobKeeper extension will be answered after our webinar on this topic this coming Friday (details and bookings here). The webinar is free of charge for members and non-members are also invited to participate. Our Tax Counsel, John Jeffreys, will cover all of the important information with reference to real-world applications and examples, and as always, all attendees will receive access to detailed notes as well as a recording of the webinar. Note that there is a lot of ATO information that has just been released, which will be critically addressed for client outcomes.

Some “fingers crossed” guidance from Queensland about the ACT
The Queensland Government has issued information that will only be applicable if there are zero cases in the Australian Capital Territory between now and 1am Friday 25 September. It builds on restriction easing that has already been put in place (as reported in the Daily Update for 23 September). The new/maybe measures will de-classify ACT as a “hotspot” and release ACT residents from having to quarantine upon arrival in Queensland.

COVID-19 support for NSW commercial tenants and landlords to continue to year end
The NSW legislation Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2020 is to be extended until 31 December 2020 (it was to expire 25 October). Landlords will also be able to receive up to 25 per cent land tax concession where they provide rent relief to commercial and residential tenants in financial distress from October to December. Tenants will be required to re-establish their eligibility under the extension to the Regulation if they wish to request further rent relief, while landlords will also be required to respond to a tenant’s request for further rent relief in a reasonable time frame. Also see here for information on commercial lease support in NSW.

23 September

NEWS
Extension of critical health services nationwide
Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics, home medicines delivery, public and private hospital services will all be extended to 31 March 2021, says the National Cabinet. Telehealth is also being extended for essential specialist services, such as consultant physician, geriatrician, and neurosurgery services. Eligible people will continue to get free home delivery of essential medicines by the Home Medicines Service.

Energy grants for more Tasmanian businesses
Tasmania’s COVID-19 Small Business Energy Support Grant Program provides one off grant payments of $1,000 to eligible businesses who have not been eligible for the COVID-19 electricity, water and/or sewerage wavier available from service providers. The program is now open for applications and remains open until 12 noon on 26 October 2020.

New Queensland border directions take affect from 3pm today
Queensland Health has scheduled new border restrictions (direction no. 14, which supersedes direction no. 13) which kick-in from 3pm, 23 September. The new rules will:

  • give effect to the Queensland Freight Protocol
  • allow people to enter Queensland to fulfil informal shared parenting and child contact arrangements
  • allow NSW border zone residents to travel anywhere in Queensland for informal shared parenting arrangements, without quarantining. Similarly, Queensland residents can travel to the NSW border zone for this purpose and re-enter Queensland without quarantining
  • introduce a new ‘H’ category for the border declaration pass for people coming to Queensland for day health appointments
  • make the use of the approved Queensland Health approved essential health care form (DOCX) mandatory for private health practitioners providing health care to people entering Queensland from hotspots. 

22 September

NEWS
Revenue NSW spells out payroll tax changes to support COVID-19 conditions
The payroll tax threshold in NSW has increased to $1 million (from $900,000) effective 1 July 2020. But apart from this, Revenue NSW has also announced a payroll tax deferral arrangement. In addition, businesses with total grouped Australian wages for the 2019-20 financial year of $10 million or less will be able to have their annual tax liability reduced by 25% when they lodge their annual reconciliation.

International arrival caps for returning Australians under review, mostly
National Cabinet has announced that Queensland and Western Australia will adopt a two-stage increase in international passenger arrival caps over the weeks to the first full week in October that will see an additional 500 Australians returning through each jurisdiction each week. Queensland will commence with an additional 200 passengers from Monday 28 September 2020, increasing to 500 passengers from Monday 5 October 2020. Western Australia will commence with an additional 200 passengers from 28 September, increasing to 500 passengers from Monday 12 October 2020. New South Wales and South Australia will continue to implement existing plans to accommodate more returning Australians by increasing their current international passenger arrival caps by 28 September 2020 by 500 and 100 respectively. National Cabinet also agreed that any facilitation of special commercial services would be carried out through the jurisdictions of South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. Victoria remains under lockdown.

Income tax exemption for small and medium business grants in Victoria
The Federal and Victoria Governments have reached an agreement to make the grants to small and medium business recently announced under Victoria’s Business Resilience Package exempt from income tax. The Federal Government will extend this arrangement to all states and territories on an application basis. Eligibility would be restricted to future grants program announcements for small and medium businesses facing similar circumstances to Victorian businesses. Any tax exemption would be time limited for grants paid until 30 June 2021.

21 September

NEWS
NSW workers to get pandemic leave
The NSW Government has partnered with the Federal Government to give NSW workers without leave entitlements access to the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment arrangements. Under the arrangement, any NSW worker who has no leave entitlements will be eligible for a one-off $1,500 payment for each 14-day period that they are directed by NSW Health to self-isolate or quarantine, or during which they are caring for someone with COVID-19. This includes holders of a temporary visa that gives them the right to work in Australia.

Queensland’s moratorium on commercial leaseholder evictions extended
The Queensland Government’s moratorium on evictions for commercial leaseholders has been extended to the end of 2020. The state’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Yvette D’Ath, said the three-month extension, effective to 31 December 2020, means that to the end of 2020 commercial leaseholders under affected leases can’t have their lease terminated if they fall into arrears as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Third round of support grants to Victorian businesses
The Victorian Government recently announced a third round of the Business Support Fund – ensuring businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions continue to receive the support they need to make it through restricted trading. Through this third round of the Business Support Fund, eligible businesses will receive grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 depending on a business’s annual payroll. Apply here.

Pandemic ongoing, working-from-home short-cut claim method not so robust?
The short cut method for calculating home office expenses is set to expire on 30 September 2020 and (so far) there has been no mention of a further extension (despite the ongoing pandemic impacts, particularly in Melbourne).

JobKeeper extension webinar this week
Helpline queries to Tax & Super Australia regarding the JobKeeper extension will be answered after our webinar on this topic this coming Friday (details and bookings here). The webinar is free of charge for members and non-members are also invited to participate. Our Tax Counsel, John Jeffreys, will cover all of the important information with reference to real-world applications and examples, and as always, all attendees will receive access to detailed notes as well as a recording of the webinar. Note that there is still certain information yet to be released by the ATO, which is why we have scheduled the webinar for 25 September so that we can give attendees as much information as is possible.

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