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Posts Tagged COVID-19


Federal Government releases economic update

15th Aug, 2020

On 23 July 2020, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Economic and Fiscal Update July 2020, outlining the key COVID-19 policy response measures announced by the Government since March 2020. The Treasurer said the Government has provided economic support for workers, households and businesses of around $289 billion (14.6% of gross domestic product) in response to the pandemic.

The economic update incorporated the extension of JobKeeper payments for six months beyond its legislated finish date of 27 September 2020. The total cost of the extended JobKeeper regime is now estimated to be $85.7 billion over 2019–2020 and 2020–2021.

While the update did not include any major new financial support measure announcements, it brought information about a range of other changes, including that:

  • the Government will extend the application period to 31 December 2020 for the early release of superannuation (tax-free) by those dealing with adverse economic effects of COVID-19;
  • the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees (SAT) wage subsidy will be extended for a further six months to 31 March 2021, and expanded to include medium-sized businesses;
  • a full income tax exemption will be provided for Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed on Operation Orenda as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali;
  • the start date for the 2015–2016 Budget measure to allow the ATO to pay lost and unclaimed superannuation amounts directly to New Zealand KiwiSaver accounts has been revised; and
  • the start date of the proposal to prevent super funds from transferring new amounts to eligible rollover funds will be deferred by 12 months.

The Economic and Fiscal Update was never meant to be a “mini budget”, and the Federal Budget will be handed down on 6 October 2020. Mr Frydenberg has previously indicated that the Government is looking at the timing of the legislated personal income tax cuts and may consider bringing them forward as part of the Budget in October.

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Coronavirus Supplement extended, with changes

15th Aug, 2020

The Government has announced that it will extend the temporary Coronavirus Supplement payment from 25 September to 31 December 2020 but the rate will be reduced from $550 to $250 per fortnight.

Since 27 April 2020, a Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight has effectively doubled the social security payments for job seekers, sole traders and students in receipt of the JobSeeker Payment, Sickness Allowance, Youth Allowance for jobseekers, Parenting Payment Partnered, Parenting Payment Single, Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance and the Farm Household Allowance. Individuals eligible for these payments receive the full amount of the $550 Coronavirus Supplement on top of their payment each fortnight.

The Supplement will continue to be $550 per fortnight for payments up to and including the reporting period ending 24 September 2020. From 25 September to 31 December 2020, the Government will continue to pay the Supplement to existing and new income support recipients but at a reduced rate of $250 per fortnight.

The Government will also reintroduce a range of means testing, tapering and mutual obligation arrangements to ensure that social security payments are appropriately targeted.

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ATO alert on fraudulence and non- compliance: COVID-19 measures

15th Aug, 2020

The ATO is on the look-out for fraudulent schemes designed to take advantage of the Government’s COVID-19 stimulus measures. This includes JobKeeper, early release of superannuation, and boosting cash flow for employers.

The ATO will be using its wide array of data sources to assess and identify inappropriate behaviour. It has also established a confidential tip-off line for the public to raise concerns of any wrongdoing.

“We’ve received intelligence about a number of dodgy schemes, including the withdrawal of money from superannuation and re-contributing it to get a tax deduction. Not only is this not in the spirit of the measure (which is designed to assist those experiencing hardship), severe penalties can be applied to tax avoidance schemes or those found to be breaking the law. If someone recommends something like this that seems too good to be true, well, it probably is”, ATO Deputy Commissioner Will Day said.

Mr Day said the ATO will be conducting checks, “so if you’ve received a benefit as part of the COVID-19 stimulus measures and we discover you are ineligible, you can expect to hear from us. If you think this may apply to you, you should contact us or speak to your tax professional”. Penalties for fraud can include financial penalties and prosecution, and even imprisonment for the most serious cases.

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Banks further extending loan repayment deferrals

15th Aug, 2020

The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has announced a new phase of support to assist customers to get back to making their loan repayments. With the six-month loan repayment deferral period set to end on 30 September, the ABA said customers with reduced incomes due to COVID- 19 will be eligible to apply for an extension of their deferral for up to four months.

A deferral extension of up to four months will not be automatic. It will only be provided to those who genuinely need some extra time. Bank customers with reduced incomes and ongoing financial difficulty due to COVID-19 will be contacted as they approach the end of their initial deferral period. Wherever possible, borrowers are expected to return to a repayment schedule through a restructure or variation to their loan.

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Tax time 2020 is here

15th Jul, 2020

Don’t jump the gun and lodge too early

Tax time 2020 is here, but it’s likely to be anything but routine. Many individuals on reduced income or have increased deductions may be eager to lodge their income tax returns early to get their hands on a refund.
However, the ATO has issued a warning against lodging too early, before all your income information becomes available. It’s important to remember that employers have until the end of July to electronically finalise your income statement, and the same timeframe applies for other information from banks, health funds and government agencies.

For most people, income statements have replaced payment summaries. So, instead of receiving a payment summary from each employer, your income statements will be finalised electronically and the information provided directly to the ATO. Your income statements can be accessed through myGov and the information is automatically included in your tax return if you use myTax.

TIP: Tax agents can also access this information, and we’re here to help you get your return right this year.

Although you may be eager to lodge as soon as possible, the ATO has warned against lodging too early, as much of the information on your income may not be confirmed until later. It’s generally important to wait until income statements are finalised before lodging a tax return to avoid either delays in processing or a tax bill later on. Your income statement will be marked “tax ready” on myGov when it’s finalised, and other information from banks, health funds and government agencies will be automatically inserted into your tax return when it’s ready towards the end of July.

If you still choose to lodge early, the ATO advises carefully reviewing any information that’s pre-filled so you can confirm it’s correct. When lodging early you’ll also have to formally acknowledge that your employer(s) may later finalise income statements with different amounts, meaning you may need to amend your tax return and additional tax may apply.

Tax return tips

With the great disruptors of the Australian bushfires and the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the associated government economic stimulus measures, there are some key tax-related matters for everyone to be aware of this year.

The ATO has a range of approaches to support taxpayers through tax time 2020, especially where new circumstances mean you might be receiving a different type of income or be able to claim new deductions.
The ATO’s Tax Time Essentials page (www.ato.gov.au/taxessentials) provides a one-stop- shop for the things that are a little different this year and how they impact tax returns.

People accessing super early as a part of the COVID- 19 early release scheme can rest assured that this money will not form a part of their assessable income. To date, 1.98 million people have withdrawn an average of $7,475 from their super under the scheme.

Another key difference this year is the introduction of the optional simplified method for claiming work from home expense deductions. This method allows you to claim 80 cents for each hour you worked from home from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, to cover all deductible expenses. However, if you were working from home before 1 March 2020 or have documented actual expenses that work out to be more than 80 cents per hour you can still use the usual method to claim expenses related to working from home.

If you were unable to work from home and had to take leave or were temporarily stood down, if your employer made any kind of payment, either regular or one-off, those amounts will need to be declared as wages and salary on your return and tax will apply at your usual marginal rates. This applies regardless of whether the payments are funded by the government JobKeeper scheme.

If you’ve been made redundant or had your employment terminated, any payment you receive may consist of a tax-free portion and a concessionally taxed portion, which means that you could potentially pay less tax.

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Additional cash flow boost coming for businesses

15th Jul, 2020

If your business is one of many that received the initial cash flow boosts as a part of the government’s COVID-19 economic stimulus measures, prepare for more help coming your way. When you lodge your monthly or quarterly activity statements for June to September 2020, your business will receive additional cash flow boosts.

Generally, the additional amount will be equal to the total amount that you initially received and will be split evenly between the lodged activity statements.
Quarterly payers will generally receive 50% of their total initial cash flow boost for each activity statement, while monthly payers will generally receive 25% of their total initial cash flow boost for each activity statement.

However, if you’ve made adjustments or revised your activity statements after lodgment, the amount of additional cash flow boost payments you receive may be different.

Remember, if you haven’t made payments to employees subject to withholding, you need to report zero for PAYG withholding when lodging your activity statements to ensure you receive the additional cash flow boost payments. It’s important that you don’t cancel PAYG withholding registration until you have received the additional cash flow boosts.

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