Help when you need it

HELP AT HAND: The Australian Tax Office can help people with information about tax and superannuation changes in what is a stressful financial time.
HELP AT HAND: The Australian Tax Office can help people with information about tax and superannuation changes in what is a stressful financial time.

With so much else to focus on at the moment, the last thing most people are worrying about is the taxation ramifications.

However, with businesses shuttering, job losses and the government stimulus package rolling out in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for people to get their heads around what might be happening to them financially.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has updated its website with information about tax and superannuation changes, which have now become law.

Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan acknowledged many people are being heavily affected by the challenging economic conditions.

"The ATO is standing by ready to help where it can," Mr Jordan said.

"The ATO's coronavirus page provides easy-to-understand and detailed information about what people need to know or do in order to get access to the tax or superannuation measures, as announced by the government as part of its economic response to COVID-19."

Measures in place include:

  • providing early access to superannuation
  • cash flow assistance for employers
  • increasing the instant asset write-off, making more businesses eligible
  • backing business investment by accelerating depreciation deductions

Mr Jordan said each of the measures would have different timings, eligibility and processes.

"Some will be applied automatically and others will require an application," Mr Jordan said.

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.

He also reminded the community of other options that are available to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19, in addition to the new measures announced by the government.

"In these difficult and uncertain times, the ATO is doing everything it can to reduce stress from tax and super-related obligations," Mr Jordan said.

"If you're impacted by COVID-19 and require immediate assistance, contact us to request support on our emergency support infoline on 1800 806 218. If you do not require immediate assistance you can contact us, when you're ready."

Options available to assist businesses include:

  • Deferring by up to six months the payment date of amounts due through the business activity statement (including PAYG instalments), income tax assessments, fringe benefits tax assessments and excise
  • Allowing 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 March 2020 quarter. Businesses that do so 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 existing and ongoing tax liabilities by allowing low interest payment plans.

"Businesses wanting to utilise any of these options can contact us over the coming weeks," Mr Jordan said. "It is not necessary for businesses to contact us immediately.

"Employers will still need to meet their ongoing super guarantee obligations for their employees."