Our Shout: Cash flow lifeline offered to small and medium businesses

Australia Publication March 2020

Tourism and hospitality operators should act now to investigate whether they can take advantage of the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measures announced by the Federal Government in March 2020. These measures could make the difference between small and medium businesses closing permanently, or being able to ride out the COVID–19 storm.

Tourism and hospitality operators need to engage in business planning now and assess whether they meet the eligibility criteria.

What is the Federal Government offering?

The measures offer up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses that employ people. The minimum amount available under the measures is $20,000.

These sizeable payments will go a long way towards keeping some struggling businesses operating.

Which businesses are eligible?

The measures are only available to small and medium sized businesses that employ workers and which have an aggregate annual turnover of less than $50 million based on the prior years’ turnover. The business must have been an active eligible employer as at 12 March 2020, so if you want to start up a new business now, you will not qualify for the measures.

The measures are also available to not-for-profit entities (NFPs), including charities, with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers regardless of when they are registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. This recognises that new NFPs and charities may be formed to counter the impact of COVID-19. The measures are a welcome relief for many charities as they will be needed now more than ever.

How is payment made?

Do not expect to immediately receive a lump sum cheque for $100,000 in the mail from the Federal Government.

Instead eligible businesses will receive an automatic credit from the ATO in their activity system when they lodge their activity statements (eg. BAS). This means that the payments will be set off against the GST and other ATO liabilities of the business, with any refund delivered by the ATO to the business within 14 days.

The payments will be made in two stages:

  1. Employers will receive an amount equal to 100 per cent of any Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding amount payments made by the business between January 2020 1 and June 30, 2020, up to a maximum of $50,000. The minimum payment is $10,000.
  2. A further payment will be made for the July to October 2020 period, again up to a maximum amount of $50,000, with a minimum payment of $10,000. To qualify for the additional payment, the entity must continue to be active.

What should I do now?

It is important that you act now as eligibility for the payment will be based on your March 2020 activity statement, and in some cases, subsequent activity statements.

There are complex rules that the ATO applies to calculate the payment that a business may claim. Even if you usually prepare your own activity statements, it may be worthwhile seeking professional accounting advice now before preparing your March BAS to ensure that you plan ahead so that you do not adversely impact on your eligibility to claim the measures or the amount you are entitled to claim.

Cameron McKenzie-Fowle from Conroys Accountants who has acted for small and medium businesses for over 25 years tells us that “I have already seen first-hand how these new measures can potentially make the difference between clients staying afloat in the midst of the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and having to close their doors and walk away from a once profitable business.”

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