As we all come to terms with the short-term and unknown longer-term implications of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and what a stage 3 lockdown could mean, the Federal and State Governments have been on the front foot announcing a series of measures to assist businesses and individuals during this difficult time.
The swift reaction by the hospitality and retail businesses of standing down or sacking workers within just a few days of self-isolation announcements was somewhat unexpected but evidence of the ‘everyone for themselves’ survival instinct that occurs in such uncertain times.
A summary of the major Australian Government policy announcements so far include:
Pension drawdown changes
The minimum pension drawdowns for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been cut by 50 per cent, as they were during the GFC. That means if you are under 65, you only need to draw 2 per cent of your 1 July 2019 balance, or 2.5 per cent if between 65-74. The same discount applies to each of the other age brackets.
ATO tax & cash flow boost
For small businesses, the ATO is offering a Cash Flow Boost, by crediting any business activity (BAS) or PAYG amounts that are payable on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Specifically, businesses with turnover of less than $50m will not be required to pay PAYG to the ATO on behalf of their employees where it is less than $50,000. In fact, every business will be afforded a $10,000 credit whether they withhold tax or not.
Early access to Super
The Federal Government is offering early access to superannuation under a loosening of the hardship provisions. This will allow those who are unemployed, eligible for job seeker payments or have been made redundant or lost working hours of 20 per cent or more since 1 January 2020. It is limited to $10,000 this financial year and next.
Victorian refunds of payroll tax
Closer to home, the Victorian State Revenue Office will be refunding payroll tax paid by businesses thus far in 2019-20 but only for those with payroll below $3 million. This is a case refund and no further amounts will be payable for 2019-20 or the first quarter of 2020-21.
It’s worth noting this is simply the first round of support measures. These come on top of the various actions taken by the Reserve Bank (RBA), which have allowed Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB and ANZ Banking Group to offer significant packages to their customers.
Both the state and Federal Government appear acutely aware of the risk that mass unemployment would have for the future of the Australian economy.