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ATO announces relief for businesses hit by COVID-19

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
12 March 2020 2 minute readShare

Following the government’s stimulus package announcement, aimed to help keep “Australians in jobs and businesses in business”, the ATO has announced a series of administrative measures to assist those 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, including deferral of some payments, quicker access to GST refunds and options to enter low-interest payment plans for existing or future tax debts.

“We know that many businesses and communities are being heavily affected by the challenging economic conditions created by the outbreak of COVID-19,” Mr Jordan 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.”

Options available to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19

Options available to businesses 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 are being advised that they will still need to meet their ongoing super guarantee obligations for their employees.

Pop-up shops

To make it easier for people to apply for relief, the ATO said it will be increasing its presence in the areas of highest impact. A temporary shopfront with staff specialising in assisting small businesses will be established in Cairns within the next few weeks. 

In addition, the Tax Office is considering additional temporary shopfronts and face-to-face options in other significantly affected regions, making it easier for people to apply for relief.

“We will also continue to work with the tax profession, other government agencies and local organisations to make sure other impacted communities are also supported during this time,” Mr Jordan said.

“We will ensure our services are tailored to the needs of the community and will work with taxpayers and their tax agents to tailor support to their individual circumstances.”

Outside of business, the ATO confirmed it will 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.

The Tax Office explained that unlike the bushfire relief measures, which applied automatically to particular geographic areas, assistance measures for those impacted by the COVID-19 will not be automatically implemented. Businesses and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 are being advised to contact the ATO to request assistance on 1800 806 218, when they are ready, to discuss their situation.

ATO announces relief for businesses hit by COVID-19
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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business. 

Maja has a decade-long career in journalism across finance, business and politics. Now a well-versed reporter in the SME and accounting arena, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies and enabling citizens to influence decision-making.

You can email Maja on [email protected] 

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