COVID-19 Business & Stimulus Updates

Roberts & Morrow hold ourselves to a high standard of transparent communication with our clients and like you, have been closely monitoring the developing impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Therefore, we would like to update you on the measures we have implemented, as your health and well-being – along with that of our employees – is our #1 priority.

This Live Blog will be updated as frequently as possible to communicate:

  1. All relevant and up-to-date Government, Business and Tax updates as they relate to COVID-19.
  2. Roberts & Morrow’s current response to COVID-19, including all internal policies and procedures in place to protect our greater community.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Roberts & Morrow will be providing live updates on our policies as situations can change rapidly. We remain committed to you and to doing our part as an organisation to continually support your needs alongside the health and well-being of all our clients and our staff. We will continue to review our operations are in line with current recommendations and government regulations to ensure we are in the best position to remain at full capacity during this time of uncertainty.

If you have any questions please contact us by email at enquiries@rm.net.au or by calling our offices directly:

Armidale 02 6774 8400

Tamworth 02 6768 1111

Glen Innes 02 6739 7600

Narrabri 02 6792 9700

CURRENT OFFICE STATUS: DOORS CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC (all locations)

In response to current state and federal government recommendations, we have decided to shut our front doors to the public and will continue to serve our clients remotely. We are fortunate to be in the position to continue our operations by providing our clients with options to meet and serve you via electronic means. 

RESOURCES FOR CLIENTS

Roberts & Morrow are committed to taking a proactive & reactive approach to our COVID-19 response. We are in the position to continue to serve our clients and consider this a test of our capabilities to change the way we do business.

We will continue to offer our services by:

  • Offering remote meetings for clients via phone or virtual options
  • Offering document sharing via Email, MYOB Portal and OneDrive links
  • Offering digital services through our mobile app including document uploading and signing capabilities.

Please note: 

We understand that all of our clients do not have the ability to send documents electronically and would like to offer the following options for submitting documents:

  • Send to us directly via Australia Post (visit our website for our postal address listings)
  • Deposit documents via a physical ‘drop box’ at all of our locations
    • Please call your local office during regular hours for more details on how to notify us of a deposit

You can also Follow Us on our social channels as we will be sharing relevant news and updates from credible sources:

Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

SUMMARY OF THE ECONOMIC RESPONSE | FEDERAL

The Government’s economic response will support households and business through the period ahead. It is designed to support businesses in managing short-term cash flow challenges, provide support to individuals, severely affected communities and regions, and to ensure the continued flow of credit in the Australian economy. A summary of the first two measures in the response is contained below:

1. Support for individuals and households

(i) Income support for individuals – Over the next six months, the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of Jobseeker Payment, Youth Allowance JobSeeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

(ii) Payments to support households – The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 and the second payment will be made from 13 July 2020. Note – The second payment will not be made to those eligible for the Coronavirus supplement mentioned above.

(iii) Temporary early release of superannuation – The Government is allowing individuals affected by the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

(iv) Temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown rates – The Government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21. This measure will benefit retirees with account-based pensions and similar products by reducing the need to sell investment assets to fund minimum drawdown requirements.

(v) Reducing social security deeming rates – On 12 March, the Government announced a 0.5 percentage point reduction in both the upper and lower social security deeming rates. The Government will now reduce these rates by another 0.25 percentage points. As of 1 May 2020, the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent and the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent. Around 565,000 Age Pensioners will, on average receive around $324 more of the Age Pension in the first full year the reduced rates apply.

2. Support for businesses

(i) Boosting Cash Flow for Employers – The Government is enhancing the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure it announced on 12 March 2020. The Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and not-for-profits (NFPs) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. These payments will help businesses and NFPs with their cash flow so they can keep operating, pay their rent, electricity and other bills and retain staff. Small and medium-sized business entities with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers are eligible. NFPs, including charities, with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers will now also be eligible. Under the enhanced scheme, employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their PAYG Withholding from their salary and wages (up from 50 per cent), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000. In addition, the minimum payment is being increased from $2,000 to $10,000. An additional payment is also being introduced in the July — October 2020 period. Eligible entities will receive an additional payment equal to the total of all of the ‘Boosting Cash Flow for Employers’ payments they have received. This means that eligible entities will receive at least $20,000 up to a total of $100,000 under both payments.

(ii) Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses – The Government is temporarily increasing the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and to initiate bankrupt proceedings against an individual as well as temporarily increasing the time companies and individuals have to respond to statutory demands they receive. The package also includes temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent, and providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 to provide targeted relief from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus health crisis. The ATO will tailor solutions for owners or directors of business that are currently struggling due to the Coronavirus, including temporary reduction of payments or deferrals, or withholding enforcement actions including Director Penalty Notices and wind-ups.

(iii) Increasing the instant asset write-off – The Government is increasing the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanding access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020.

(iv) Backing business investment – The Government is introducing a time-limited 15 month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions. Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct 50 per cent of the cost of an eligible asset on installation, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance of the asset’s cost.

(v) Supporting apprentices and trainees – The Government is supporting small business to retain their apprentices and trainees. Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to a new employer that employs that apprentice. Employers will be reimbursed up to a maximum of $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee ($7,000 per quarter).

3. Supporting the flow of credit

(i) Support for immediate cash flow needs for SMEs – Under the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, the Government will provide a guarantee of 50 per cent to SME lenders to support new short-term unsecured loans to SMEs. The maximum total size of loans are $250,000 per borrower.

(ii) Quick and efficient access to credit for small business – The Government is cutting red tape by providing a temporary exemption from responsible lending obligations for lenders providing credit to existing small business customers. This reform will help small businesses get access to credit quickly and efficiently.

The bill containing the first two measures was passed in the parliament on 23 March 2020 with the only amendment being the $550 coronavirus supplement will also be paid to students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy payments.

A third measure in the response was announced by the Federal Government on Monday 30 March 2020, which announced the introduction of the JobKeeper Payment.

  • JobKeeper Payment – The Government announced the JobKeeper Payment for eligible businesses, which may include sole traders, whose turnover had reduced by more than 30 per cent if they have a turnover of less than $1 billion or by more than 50 per cent if they have a turnover of more than $1 billion. Following registration by the eligible business, the Government will provide $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee for a maximum of 6 months for the period 30 March 2020 to 30 September 2020. Employers will notify employees if they are claiming the fortnightly payment of $1,500. The payments will be subject to income tax, similar to normal wages earnt.

For clarification on all eligibility requirements, easy access to all components of the package and detailed worked examples please refer to the three attachments titled ‘Economic Response To The Coronavirus As At 31 March 2020 Support For Businesses’, ‘Economic Response To The Coronavirus As At 31 March 2020 Support For Individuals And Households’ and ‘Economic Response To The Coronavirus As At 31 March 2020 Overview’ outlining the Australian Government’s Economic Response to the Coronavirus.

JobKeeper Payment – Frequently Asked Questions document: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-04/JobKeeper_frequently_asked_questions_0.pdf

Australian banks will defer loan repayments for 98% of all businesses affected by COVID-19 for six month: https://www.ausbanking.org.au/campaigns/financial-hardship/

NSW Government economic stimulus announcement in response to COVID-19: https://www.revenue.nsw.gov.au/taxes-duties-levies-royalties/payroll-tax

Commercial and residential tenancies: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-cabinet-statement

SUMMARY OF THE ECONOMIC RESPONSE | NSW

Financial stimulus package for small business

The NSW Government has announced a stimulus package that includes the following initiatives for small business:

Payroll Tax

Payroll tax deferral arrangements for businesses with total grouped Australian wages over $10 million

Payroll tax customers whose total grouped Australian wages for the 2019/20 financial year are over $10 million, will have the option of deferring the payment of payroll tax for up to six months.

These businesses will not need to make their payment for the March period, normally due on 7 April 2020.

More information will be provided on the deferral arrangement in the upcoming days.

Payroll tax relief for businesses with grouped Australian wages of no more than $10 million

Payroll tax customers whose total grouped Australian wages for the 2019/20 financial year are no more than $10 million will have their annual tax liability reduced by 25% when they lodge their annual reconciliation, which is due on 28 July.

For those customers who lodge and pay monthly and whose total Australian wages will be no more than $10 million for the current financial year, no payment for the months of March, April or May 2020 will be required.

These customers will also have the option of deferring these payments for an additional three months and more information will be provided on the deferral arrangements in the upcoming days.

When lodging your annual reconciliation, you will still need to provide wage details paid in these months and will receive the benefit of a 25% reduction in the amount of tax you would have had to pay for 2019-20.

Threshold increase – 2020/2021 financial year

The tax-free threshold will increase from $900,000 to $1 million for the financial year commencing on 1 July 2020.

Other Initiatives

Deferral of gaming tax for clubs, pubs and hotels, and lotteries tax for 6 months, conditional on these funds being used to retain staff. This improves liquidity and helps these businesses stay afloat. Deferral of the parking space levy for 6 months.

Deferral of rents for 6 months for commercial tenants with less than 20 employees in all Government-owned properties.

Updated: 23/03/2020 11:30

INTERNAL MEASURES

What is Roberts & Morrow currently implementing to limit the spread of COVID-19 within our offices and our community?

  • Increased employee sanitation and cleaning measures to ensure a clean and safe working environment in our offices.
  • All employees returning from any overseas travel are self-isolating for 14 days (in accordance with Federal Government guidelines).
  • All employees are asked to STAY HOME if they are:
    • Feeling unwell
    • Have a family member or reside with someone who is a confirmed case of COVID-19
    • Have been in contact with someone who is a confirmed case of COVID-19
    • Are considered to be, or who live with an individual, in a high risk category
  • Promoting social distancing protocols such as:
    • Maintaining a distance of four square meters between individuals
    • Limiting face-to-face contact between individuals by encouraging the use of virtual and phone call for all meetings between staff and clients.
    • Limiting or cancelling all travel or movement of employees between offices (not including essential travel between offices for Partners where necessary).
    • Asking that staff currently capable to work from home to do so immediately.
    • Further initiatives are currently being put in place in the coming days to substantially increase the number of employees who can work from home.

Our COVID-19 “task force” has developed a four stage approach towards an internal Mitigation Plan in response to current regulations and recommendations from credible authorities. Our current focus is on Stage 3: Being Proactive.

 

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