// The coronavirus outbreak has been classified as a ‘pandemic’. The ATO has some advice – and in some cases relief – for affected businesses…
This week, the World Health Organisation reclassified the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak as a ‘pandemic’.
In the past fortnight, the number of cases worldwide has risen 13-fold, and the number of countries affected has tripled.
This week, the Australian government announced a $2.4B health package, and then a $23B stimulus package aimed mainly at pensioners and small business.
Tax-free grants of up to $25K to 7,000 small businesses that turn over less than $50M and employ people are available. There are also wage subsidies for apprentices and expanded instant asset write offs.
Where are we with Coronavirus?
As of the time of writing, there were 126 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), including 3 deaths, in Australia. 24 of the 126 cases have already recovered.
7 cases have been reported in WA.
The vast majority of reported cases (81,000) have been in China, and most new cases are from Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea. The fatality rate is less than 4%. Travel bans have been put in place.
No, coronavirus is NOT passed on my mossies, there is no evidence that it can be spread to or by pets, and eating garlic will not protect you.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has also announced a series of administrative measures to assist Australians experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan is encouraging businesses impacted by the coronavirus to get in touch with the ATO to discuss relief options.
“We know that many businesses and communities are being heavily affected by the challenging economic conditions created by the outbreak of COVID-19,” he said.
“The ATO will work shoulder-to-shoulder with businesses to assist them through this difficult period and do what we can to ease the pressure.
“Once you contact us, we’ll tailor a support plan for your needs and circumstances.
“Support measures could include deferral of some payments, quicker access to GST refunds, and options to enter low interest payment plans for existing or future tax debts.”
This is a time of significant uncertainty and the ATO have said that they will need to be flexible in how they help businesses.
Options available to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19 include:
- Deferring by up to four months the payment date of amounts due through the business activity statement (including PAYG instalments), income tax assessments, fringe benefits tax assessments and excise;
- Allow businesses on a quarterly reporting cycle to opt into monthly GST reporting in order to get quicker access to GST refunds they may be entitled to;
- Allowing businesses to vary Pay As You Go (PAYG) instalment amounts to zero for the April 2020 quarter. Businesses that vary their PAYG instalment to zero can also claim a refund for any instalments made for the September 2019 and December 2019 quarters;
- Remitting any interest and penalties, incurred on or after 23 January 2020, that have been applied to tax liabilities;
- Working with affected businesses to help them pay their existing and ongoing tax liabilities by allowing them to enter into low interest payment plans.
Employers will still need to meet their ongoing super guarantee obligations for their employees.
To make it easier for people to apply for relief the ATO will be increasing its presence in the areas of highest impact. Additional temporary shopfronts and face-to-face options are currently under consideration.
Outside of business, the ATO will also work with individuals experiencing financial hardship, and their tax agents, and will apply appropriate tax relief measures for serious and exceptional circumstances, such as where people cannot pay for food or accommodation.
Unlike the bushfire relief measures, which applied automatically to particular geographic areas, assistance measures for those impacted by COVID-19 will not be automatically implemented.
Anyone impacted by COVID-19 is advised to contact the ATO to request assistance on their Emergency Support Infoline 1800 806 218, when you are ready to discuss your situation.
This article was updated since first published.
Main Photo: Image of COVID-19 outbreaks globally, as of 11th March 2020. Source: WHO