While economists predict a huge number of small businesses to suffer irreversibly throughout the pandemic, the government has released details of a series of stimulus packages, while banks have vowed to assist small business owners.
$5000 Territory small business grants
Trade Support Scheme Quick Response Grants are now available for NT salons. Funding of up to $5,000 is available to eligible recipients to carry out activities and works that drive increased revenue Territory businesses.
Salon owners rushing for Victoria’s free mentoring program
The Labor Government’s Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring program has allowed salon owners to step back from the coalface and gain advice on digital opportunities, preparing and implementing business plans, improving time management, identifying new opportunities and rethinking marketing strategies.
More than 730 businesses have benefitted from 3,300 hours of one-on-one professional mentoring, with the program open for new participants until the end of the year.
Financial boost for Victorian start-up salons
The Victorian Budget has committed a total of $186.2 million to the continued growth of Victoria’s start-up ecosystem, including salons. As part of the measure, $40 million will be distributed over the next four years to Victorian start-up agency LaunchVic to continue in its role in helping the state’s start-up ecosystem.
A further $60.5 million has been allocated to the Victorian Startup Capital Fund, leveraging up to $180 million in private sector investment, to inject much-needed early-stage funding into start-ups to help them become the scale-ups and unicorns of the future.
A further $10 million has been allocated to a Women Founders Angel Sidecar Fund, which will unlock a further $30 million in private sector equity to increase the number of women founders.
Victorian government announces $143 million COVID-19 support package
The Victorian government has announced a $143 million financial support package for small businesses affected by the snap lockdown that fell on the Valentines and Lunar New Year weekend.
The four-part relief package will target small businesses and sole traders, offering cash grants and vouchers for businesses in those industries hardest hit by the five-day coronavirus lockdown which began on February 12.
Eligible salons will receive cash grants of $2,000. Approved businesses with an annual payroll of up to $2 million will be eligible for the grants.
Business Victoria is expected to make more information available online soon, regarding eligibility and how to apply.
Victorian government provides funding for beauty industry to hire mental health experts
Mental health specialists will be employed to work with key industry associations under a Victorian government program designed to offer support directly to small businesses as they continue to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The $2 million program is part of a broader $26 million mental health support program for Victorian businesses, first announced by the government in July 2020. The Hair and Beauty Industry Association will benefit from the funding.
“Putting mental health specialists on the floor and working closely with industry experts means that business owners and their workers can be supported in effective ways,” said Victorian Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford in a statement.
The Western Australian Government announces relief package for small businesses
The small business relief package includes:
- A $43 million package for small businesses and charities impacted by the 31 January 2021 five day lockdown, including an electricity bill offset.
- $17,500 grants for small businesses with a payroll between $1 million and $4 million.
- The $1 million payroll tax threshold (announced in October 2019) will be brought forward by six months to 1 July 2020.
- The WA Government will waive rental payments for small businesses and not-for-profit groups in State Government-owned buildings for six months.
Victorian digital voucher scheme available for salons
The Small Business Digital Adaptation Program provides eligible Victorian small and micro businesses, including salons, with rebates for selected digital products, as an incentive to build their digital capabilities. To access the rebates, businesses must first trial and then purchase one of the approved digital products, before receiving a rebate of $1,200 to use the product or service for 12 months.
The Victorian government has this week added new providers to the plan, including QuickBooks Online, Reckon Limited, Lawpath, Ecwid Inc, Trade Trak, MYOB, XERO, Squarespace, Square, and Shopify.
ATO launches online services for business portal
The Tax Office has updated its services for small businesses by launching its Online services for business (OSB) portal following an industry consultation.
Key features include:
- digital lodgement of audit complete advices (ACA) and auditor contravention reports (ACR)
- lodgement of multiple ACAs in one report
- instant ACR lodgement confirmation
- print-friendly versions of ACR lodgements
- single login for multiple businesses
- communicating with us through secure mail
- page-specific help and support
- access to the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House
Some salons eligible for $20-$100K in cash-flow boosts
Temporary cash flow boosts will support small and medium salons during the economic downturn associated with COVID-19. Eligible salons who employ staff will receive between $20,000 to $100,000 in cash flow boost amounts by lodging their activity statements up to the month or quarter of September 2020. The cash flow boosts will be delivered as credits in the activity statement system and will be equivalent to the amount withheld from wages paid to employees for each monthly or quarterly period from March to June 2020.
ATO extends working-from-home shortcut method for tax deductions to EOFY
Australian business owners and employees will have access to the shortcut method for claiming working-from-home tax deductions until the end of this financial year. The Australian Taxation Office introduced the simplified method for claiming deductions in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused most Australian employees to move to remote working. The method allows taxpayers to claim a flat rate of 80 cents per hour for all running expenses while they work from home, instead of calculating costs for specific running expenses.
Victorian government offers boost to start-up salons
The Victorian Budget has committed a total of $186.2 million to the continued growth of Victoria’s start-up ecosystem, including salons. As part of the measure, $40 million will be distributed over the next four years to Victorian start-up agency LaunchVic to continue in its role helping the state’s start-up ecosystem.
A further $60.5 million has been allocated to the Victorian Startup Capital Fund, leveraging up to $180 million in private sector investment, to inject much needed early-stage funding into start-ups to help them become the scale-ups and unicorns of the future.
A further $10 million has been allocated to a Women Founders Angel Sidecar Fund, that will unlock a further $30 million in private sector equity to increase the number of women founders.
Return to Work grants for women
Women in NSW will be able to apply for grants up to $5,000 through a new Return to Work program which is part of the 2020-21 state budget.
Acknowledging the obstacles women have faced at work throughout 2020, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the funding would enable women to seek financial assistance and targeted support including mentoring and leadership training. The money can also be used for childcare, including before and after school care and transport, aimed at helping mothers transition back to work more freely.
South Australia unveils $10,000 grants for small business
A second round of $10,000 grants for small businesses that are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been announced. The grants package comes as part of a $4 billion ‘adrenaline hit’ to the economy, expected to be unveiled in the budget.
Available to small businesses and not-for-profits, such as sports and community organisations, the grants are expected to assist some 10,000 entities, valuing the scheme at about $100 million. Grants will be available to cover outstanding or ongoing costs, such as rent, power bills and raw material costs, a statement on the package said.
The ‘Big 4’ pass on rate cuts to business loans
NAB and ANZ, have joined CBA and Westpac in passing the Reserve Bank’s rate cut on to borrowers, effectively lowering interest rates on some business loans.
NAB is knocking 200 basis points off the interest rate of its unsecured QuickBiz loan for the next three months, which follows the first reduction of 200 basis points earlier in March.
As the Reserve Bank’s actions on Tuesday feed through to the government’s SME guarantee scheme, NAB announced reductions of interest on business support loans late Wednesday. ANZ is also slicing rates for borrowers eligible for the government’s guarantee scheme.
ATO to extend ‘shortcut’ method to claim ‘working from home’ deductions
First announced in April, the method allows individuals to claim a rate of 80 cents per hour for all running expenses while working from home, instead of needing to calculate costs for specific running expenses. Australians working from home during the coronavirus pandemic will be able to continue to use a simplified way for claiming tax deductions, after the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) extended its shortcut method for making work-from-home claims to December 31, 2020.
Fee-free TAFE courses online
NSW salon owners are able to access a number of fee-free short courses to gain skills through the pandemic. These include:
- enhance your digital impact
- improve leadership performance
- develop administration skills
- grow health and medical knowledge
- practical business skills
Super deferrals and tax cuts proposed for small businesses
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has suggested the deferral of superannuation guarantee increases for two years and cutting the 15 per cent tax on compulsory employer superannuation guarantee contributions to 7.5 per cent for the same period of time.
In a letter to the federal Treasurer, Carnell points out that the combined measures offset each other, ensuring that workers end up with a similar superannuation amount as they would have under the increase scheduled before COVID hit.
Ms Carnell said that by implementing this proposal, the federal government would be supporting small businesses and every Australian, giving them the chance of a dignified retirement.”
Victoria’s Business Resilience Package
The Victorian Government is investing $3 billion to help businesses impacted by ongoing restrictions and prepare for COVID Normal business. $3 billion in cash grants, tax relief and cashflow support will be delivered to Victorian businesses that have been most affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The package will help businesses survive and keep Victorians in jobs.
Federal Government considers extending insolvency protections
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed the government is considering extending rules that absolve directors of personal liability for trading while insolvent and increase the debt thresholds for pursuing statutory demands.
Mr Frydenberg said there were more than 80 separate regulations the government had adjusted, delayed or deferred to support businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but did not provide any detail on which measures may be extended beyond September 25.
It came as Australia officially fell into its first recession in almost 30 years on Wednesday, with thousands of SMEs across the country doing it tough as household spending plummets in response to public health restrictions.
The Australian reported last week the government was running the ruler over a potential plan to introduce some form of bankruptcy protection for SMEs beyond September, but Wednesday’s comments were the first time the Treasurer confirmed an extension was being actively considered.
Phase 2 of the SME Guarantee Scheme rolling out on October 1
Under Phase 1 of the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, the Government provided a guarantee of 50% to banks for new unsecured loans to be used for working capital.
SMEs and sole traders with a turnover of up to $50 million were eligible to receive these loans.
Until 30 September 2020, the Government is providing participating lenders with a guarantee for loans with the following terms:
- maximum total size of loans of $250,000 per borrower
- the loans will be up to three years, with an initial six-month repayment holiday
- the loans will be in the form of unsecured finance, meaning that borrowers will not have to provide an asset as security for the loan.
Phase 2 of the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme will start on 1 October 2020 and run until 30 June 2021. Further details will be available soon.
The Victorian Government launches mental health initiative
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell says the Victorian Government’s $26 million wellbeing initiative for small business owners and workers will save lives. “The enormity of this second wave lockdown and the psychological distress it is causing for small business owners cannot be underestimated,” Ms Carnell said. “Given small business loans are often secured against the family home, the stakes are incredibly high and that is understandably taking a huge toll on small business owners’ mental health. Ms Carnell said the there was little doubt the Victorian government’s fund injection into mental health services would save lives. “The Victorian Government is responding to the needs of the small business community, including sole traders, who will require ongoing mental health support for the duration of this crisis.
Victorian Government launches Extreme Hardship support program
The Extreme Hardship Support Program can provide financial assistance, information and referrals to people living in Victoria who are experiencing significant hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and who are unable to access other forms of Victorian Government and Commonwealth Government income support. The program may support for temporary and provisional visa holders and undocumented migrants with little or no income, savings or community support. This is relevant for both salon owners and staff they may have had to let go.
Tax relief measures for Victoria
As part of the Victorian government’s COVID-19 economic survival package the following tax relief measures are available to eligible businesses. The relief will include:
- Businesses with annual taxable wages up to $3 million will have their payroll tax waived for the 2019-20 financial year.
- Eligible businesses must continue to lodge returns but do not need to make further payments for this financial year.
- The State Revenue Office will directly contact eligible businesses in relation to reimbursement for payroll tax already paid in the financial year.
- Businesses can defer paying payroll tax for the first quarter of the 2020-21 financial year.
- Information about the administration of these relief measures will be sent directly to eligible businesses.
- Any additional payments made to bridge the gap between an employee’s wage and the $1500 a fortnight required for the JobKeeper program are now exempt from payroll tax.
- Eligible businesses with payrolls up to $10 million can defer their liabilities for the first half of the 2020-21 financial year.
Push for Pandemic Leave
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated paid pandemic leave could become a reality for all workers, as Australian governments continue to urge people to self-isolate if they experience coronavirus symptoms.
On Wednesday, Morrison said he has asked Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter to discuss the issue with business groups and unions, as part of the “ongoing discussions between government, employer groups and employees on a range of issues around managing the pandemic”.
Western Australia announces $2.7 billion stimulus
The ‘WA Recovery Plan’ aims to deliver “many thousands” of jobs, according to WA premier, Mark McGowan. Approximately 60,000 positions are expected to be ‘freed up’ one the re-opening of the economy is complete.
Mr McGowan said the estimates were calculated with the assumption that WA’s interstate border would remain closed.
The Government would communicate with businesses “over the next month to six weeks” to ensure each industry knew what stimulus was available, Mr McGowan added.
Back to Work South East Queensland
The lack of employment opportunities for long-term unemployed and underemployed people has long been an issue for the Australian economy, and the Back to Work program run by the Queensland government is attempting to ameliorate this. Businesses in certain regional areas of Queensland that employ young, or long-term unemployed people can claim payments of up to $20,000 for doing so. Apply here.
The Australian Government has launched the bussiness.gov.au chatbot
The Federal Government has launched a new chatbot service to support the high number of businesses enquiring about government measures in response to the coronavirus.
The business.gov.au chatbot will:
- provide 24/7 assistance
- guide you to information and services
- answer frequently asked questions
The business.gov.au chatbot is not replacing the webchat feature on the website, but is another way you can find information.
Second stimulus cash boost due with June activity statements
Businesses currently receiving the COVID-19 PAYG withholding credits are eligible for an additional cash flow boost after filing their June activity statements. Businesses with turnover below $50 million were handed credits based on tax they withheld for employee salaries, with varying amounts from $10,000 to $50,000 handed to eligible employers based on the number of staff they had in March. Businesses which received the initial cashflow boost are now eligible for additional support, worth as much as the initial payment, but split evenly across lodgements between June and September.
The cash flow boosts will be processed automatically upon business activity statement (BAS) lodgements, but how much is paid for each period will depend on whether a participant lodges monthly or quarterly.
Government allows businesses to claim ridesharing services as tax exemption
The federal government has deemed that employers using ridesharing services, such as Uber, will be eligible for fringe benefits tax (FBT) exemptions, after the ATO claimed otherwise last year. Previously, exemptions applied to taxi travel only, and did not include ridesharing.
The ATO said in July last year that even though ridesharing drivers pay GST, the service is not a ‘taxi’ for the purposes of the FBT exemption.
Queensland government announces grants for small businesses
Following lobbying from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland, the State Government also announced a second round of small business grants. Eligible small businesses will receive up to $10,000 from a $100 million fund. When the first round of small business grants was announced last month, they were snapped up in just four days.
“In travelling across the regions last week, I heard the message loud and clear that small businesses are hurting and need more support,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Energy providers to be held accountable
Energy companies will be held to account for misconduct, with penalties handed down for anti-competitive behaviour or moves to manipulate electricity prices.
The so-called “big stick” legislation is hoped to provide some relief to families and small businesses doing it tough during the coronavirus pandemic.
In announcing the new measures, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg quoted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), noting that, for too long, electricity companies have “played a major role in poor outcomes for consumers”.
“The ‘Big Stick’ legislation will ensure reductions in wholesale costs are passed on to customers, while penalties will apply for anti-competitive behaviour or moves to manipulate electricity prices,” Mr Frydenberg said.
ACCC issues rent relief ruling
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has ruled that small-business tenants may collectively bargain with landlords if they’ve been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in a bid to gain some form of relief from rental payments.
“Small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19 and although restrictions are starting to be eased, the impacts of COVID-19 on individual businesses and the economy nationally will be felt for some time”, Mary Aldred, CEO of Franchising Council of Australia (FCA) said.
COVID-19 (coronavirus) and payroll tax
The NSW Government has announced payroll tax relief measures as part of its economic stimulus package to help businesses impacted by COVID-19. The 2020 Payroll Tax annual reconciliation will be available from Monday 22 June 2020.
The due date for lodgement and payment of the 2020 annual reconciliation has been extended to 30 October 2020. This extension is only available for the 2020 annual reconciliation. Employers must pay their eligible employees a minimum of $1500 per fortnight to receive the JobKeeper payments. The government will exempt from payroll tax any additional wages paid to employees to meet the requirements of the JobKeeper scheme. This means, where an employee is stood down, the full $1500 payment would be exempt from payroll tax. In the case of employees whose earned wage is less than the amount of the JobKeeper payment, the amount between the $1500 payment and the earned wage will be exempt from payroll tax.
Business Continuity Plan
The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission has created a planning tool that can help you develop a plan to keep your workers, customers and the community safe as you reopen or increase your business activities. In a bid to assist businesses emerging from lockdown, the templates are downloadable, come with step-by-step interactions, and can be tailored to your business.
Business Concierge Service
NSW Service and the NSW Government have launched the Business Concierge Service, which can help business owners with regulation requirements, help with permits, deal with councils and provide support and advice for all pandemic-related concerns. Call 13 77 88.
The Small Business Relief Fund
The Small Business Relief Fund aims to help small businesses adapt and innovate in order to emerge from this challenging period in a strong position. The grants will be offered as a one off payment of $10,000 (including GST) to 67 businesses across Australia that:
- are a for-profit business with an Australian Business Number (ABN)
- have between 2 and 50 employees
- have been in business since 1 March 2018
- have an annual revenue between $150,000 and $2 millionApplications close on June 1 and successful recipients will be announced on June 29.
JobKeeper and annual leave
While the JobKeeper provisions in the Fair Work Act enable employers to request employees receiving wage subsidies draw down on their annual leave, there are conditions.
Foremost, employers aren’t allowed to run down an employee’s leave balance below two weeks. Employers must seek agreement from workers about taking their annual leave, but there must not be an unreasonable refusal of any requests.
Banks to offer ‘Bridging Finance’
Australia’s major banks will fast-track “bridging finance” for small businesses struggling to pay their workers ahead of receiving JobKeeper payments under an agreement struck between the federal government, lenders and the tax office. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that Australia’s four largest banks will establish “dedicated hotlines” for SMEs to apply for wage loans, following widespread criticism many businesses can’t front up the cash to keep workers on before wage subsidy payments start flowing in early-May.
Unpaid pandemic leave
Employees who are employed under one of the affected awards can access up to 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave (or more by agreement with their employer) if they’re prevented from working by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the pandemic (for example, an enforceable government direction restricting non-essential businesses). The leave is available in full immediately to full-time, part-time and casual employees – they don’t have to accrue it. Employees don’t have to use all their paid leave before accessing unpaid pandemic leave. The leave needs to start before 30 June 2020, but can finish after that date. All eligible employees can take the 2 weeks’ leave. It is not pro-rated for employees who don’t work full-time.
Tax cuts for landlords that slash rent
The New South Wales government has announced $220 million in tax concessions for commercial landlords that cut rent for small business tenants. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet unveiled the funding this week, saying landlords will be offered concessions — as either rebates or waivers — on up to 25 per cent of their 2020 land tax liability for delivering rent relief to small businesses in the state. Landlords that have yet to pay their land tax bill in NSW this year will be offered a three-month deferral, provided they extend rent relief to their commercial tenants.
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 on top of their existing income support payment. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of Jobseeker Payment, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Austudy, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, and Special Benefit. The Government is also temporarily expanding access for the JobSeeker Payment by relaxing the partner income test.
$30 billion job-rescue plan
On Monday (March 30), Scott Morrison announced an unprecedented move, when he unveiled the job-rescue plan.The package will see the government pay wage subsidies of $1,500 every two weeks per employee, to help struggling businesses keep people in work. The payments will begin from May 1, and will be back0-dated to March 1, allowing salons to effectively re-employ staff while they wait out the pandemic.
Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses
There is a temporary increase to the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive. This includes temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent, and providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 to provide temporary and targeted relief from provisions of the Act.
The elements of the package are:
- A temporary increase in the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive
- A temporary increase in the threshold for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings, an increase in the time period for debtors to respond to a bankruptcy notice, and extending the period of protection a debtor receives after making a declaration of intention to present a debtor’s petition
- Temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent
- Providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 to provide targeted relief for companies from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the coronavirus health crisis.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will tailor solutions for owners or directors of businesses 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.
Backing Business Investment (BBI)
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.
Increased and accelerated income support
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 supplement will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the eligible payment categories. These changes will apply for the next six months.
SME Guarantee Scheme
This will provide businesses with funding to meet immediate cash flow needs, by further enhancing lenders’ willingness and ability to provide credit. Businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million will be eligible to receive these loans.
$66 billion stimulus package
An economic lifeline is being thrown to business owners, with the announcement of a second-stage stimulus package. Small businesses will receive cash payments of up to $100,000, with a minimum payment of $20,000 for eligible companies. The payments will be delivered by the ATO as a credit on activity statements in late April. The Government will also allow people to access up to $10,000 from their superannuation this financial year and in 2020-21.
The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has announced it would suspend principal and interest loan repayments for six months, for small business owners who have been negatively affected by COVID-19.
The Big Four (ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and ANZ) have each outlined how they will be supporting those affected by Coronavirus and what are expected to be long-lasting effects.
“This is a multi-billion dollar shot in the arm for businesses that need it the most,” said Anna Bligh, CEO of ABA. “It will pour $8 billion back into small business’s pockets. Businesses are doing it tough, but rest assured, banks have got your back,” she said.
For more news and updates, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.