The Federal Government is making available access to the Jobseeker Payment (which now includes the former “Sickness Benefit”) for those who are over 22 and under pension age and unable to earn because of mandatory isolation due to Covid-19. There is an income test on households, which has been increased to $79,762 per annum, and as well as the Jobseeker Payment there will be a special extra “top up” payment of $550 per fortnight.

The waiting period to qualify for Jobseeker has been waived, so if you find yourself eligible and in need of accessing the benefit because you are not permitted to work you should apply online if you have a MyGov account.

Detailed instructions are available here at Centrelink website.

The Government has also waived the requirement for an employment separation certificate.

Here are more details:

Fortnightly payment for job seekers and sole traders etc

A supplement of $550 per fortnight, effectively doubling the current payment, will be available for new and exciting social security recipients from 27 April 2020.

This Coronavirus supplement will be paid for 6 moths to both existing and new recipients for the JobSeeker Payment, Sickness Allowance, Youth Allowance for jobseekers, Parenting Payment Partnered, Parenting payment Single, Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance and the Farm Household Allowance.

Eligible recipients of these payment will receive the full amount of $550 Coronavirus supplement on top of their payment each fortnight.

Fortnightly payment – expanded eligibility

From 27th April 2020, the eligibility and qualification criteria for Job Seeker Payment and Youth Allowance for Job Seeker Payment have been expanded for 6 months to include:

  • A sole trader, self-employed, a casual or contractor whose income has reduced. They will be able to meet mutual obligation requirements by continuing operating their businesses. Sole Traders and Self-employed applicants will need to make a declaration that their business has been suspended or had turnover reduced significantly.
  • A permeant employee who has been stood down or lost their job
  • People caring someone infected or in isolation as a result of contact with Corona Virus.
  • Students who receive Youth Allowance, AUSTUDY OR ABSTUDY (Living Allowance).

Eligibility conditions to qualify for some payments have been waived temporarily, including the:

  • Assets test ( waived for 6 months from 25th March 2020)
  • Ordinary waiting period ( already waived until 12 June 2020)
  • Liquid assets waiting period
  • Seasonal workers preclusion period
  • Newly arrived residents waiting period

From 27th April 2020, the requirement for an Employment separation Certificate, proof of rental arrangements and verification of relationship status has been temporarily removed.

Partner income test has been relaxed to ensure that an eligible person can receive the JobSeeker Payment and associated coronavirus supplement, providing their partner earns less than $3,068 per fortnight, around $79,762 per year.

Fortnightly payment – making a claim

To claim the supplement online, people who do not already deal with Services Australia will need to:

  • set up a myGov account
  • call to verify their identity, and get a link to their Centrelink online account.

Applicants for Jobseeker Payment and Youth Allowance Jobseeker will need to make an initial declaration about their identity, residency status, income and your particular economic circumstances (that they have been made redundant, or had their hours reduced (including to zero)) as a result off the economic downturn due to corona virus.

In the case of sole traders and the self-employed, applicants will make a declaration that their business has been suspended or had turnover reduced significantly by the virus.

Further payment to income support recipients

Two $750 tax free payment will be made to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession card holders.

  • The first $750 payment will be made from 31 March 2020 to people who will have been on one of the eligible payment any time between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020.
  • The second payment will be available to those eligible for certain payments and concession card holders on 10 July 2020. The second payment will be made automatically on 13 July 2020.

There are two criteria to receive the first $750 payment. First of all, you’ve got to be an Australia Resident. Secondly, you have to have been receiving or be eligible to receive any of the below benefits at any time from 12 March to 13 April:

If you have lodged a claim for one of the eligible payments or concession cards at any time from 12 March to 13 April, and the claim is subsequently granted, you’ll also receive the first $750 payment. An eligible person doesn’t have to apply for the first $750 payment. The payment will be made automatically from 31 March, with most people receiving it by 17 April 2020.

The second $750 payment has slightly different criteria. Almost everyone who’s getting the first $750 will be eligible for it EXCEPT those people who are getting the $550/fortnight Corona virus supplement. In other words, to be eligible for the second payment, one much be an Australian resident, and receiving one of the payment or holding one of these concession cards in the table above that were eligible for the first $750 payment, but excluding the below payments that’ll qualify for the coronavirus supplement:

  • job seeker payment
  • youth allowance for job seeker
  • parenting payment (single or partnered)
  • farm household allowance
  • special benefit

Job Keeper Payment

Business impacted by the Coronavirus will be able to access a subsidy from the government to continue to pay their employees.

An affected employer will be able to claim $1500 per fortnight per eligible employee from 30 March 2020 for a maxiam period of 6 months.

The subsidy will start from 30 March, with the first payment to be received by the first week of May 2020.

Payments will be made to employers by ATO monthly in arrears.

A person receiving job seeker payment can’t also receive the job keeper payment.

More details about the Job keeper payment is included in another post.

Superannuation Early Release Scheme

Individuals affected by Coronavirus are entitled to release tax-free up to $20,000 over two financial years, provided they meet certain criteria.

Each person is permitted to have up to two releases of $10,000: one for an application made during 2019 – 2020 financial year and one for an applicate made during 2020 – 2021 financial year.

Amounts released to individuals under this new condition of release are none accessible, non exempt income. In simple terms, tax free. Any amounts released are not taken into account under any income or means tests in relation to benefits. This means they will not affect Centerlink or Veterans’ affairs payments.

Superannuation early release eligibility

  • One must be either unemployed or eligible for job seeker payment, parenting payment, special benefit, farm household allowance or youth allowance (other than a person is undertaking full time study or is a new apprentice).
  • Alternatively, on or after 1 Jan 2020, a person must have been made redundant or their working hours have been reduced by more than 20% (including to zero).
  • A sole trader will be eligible if, on or after 1 Jan 2020, their business was suspended or has suffered a reduction in turnover of 20% or more.
  • The regulations do not specify any minimum documentation or evidentiary conditions for meeting those requirements.
  • The requirement about a person’s eligibility to receive the various payments listed above can be satisfied if the person is receiving such a payment or is eligible to receive such a payment payment. this allows a person to apply for the determination quickly instead of having to wait for the payment to commence.

Applications:

Eligible individuals must apply directly to ATO through myGov to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation before 1 July 2020.

Eligible individuals will able to access to up a further $10,000 from 1 July 2020 until 24 September 2020. That is an application for coronavirus early release can’t be made 6 months after the day the regulation commences. Provided an application is made during this period, the commissioner can make the determination after the period has expired.

After the ATO has processed the application, they will issue the person a determination, which can’t exceed $10,000.

ATO will also provide a copy of this determination to the superfund which will then make a payment to the individual without the person needing to apply to the superfund directly.

A person can’t make multiple applications in the same financial year to release more than $10,000 in that year. Likewise, a person who requests an amount less than $10,000 can’t make a subsequent application in the same financial year to release a further amount up to the $10,000 total limit.

Cashflow assistance for business

The key qualifying measure for this one is that organisations must employ people. If your organisation don’t employ anyone, you won’t quality for this measure.

The government will provide tax-free payments to up to $100,000 to eligible small to medium sized entities (SMEc) and not for profit entities (including charities NFPs) that employ people with a minimum amount of $20,000. More details to be included in another post coming soon.

Wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees

The government is providing support to small businesses to retain their apprentices and trainees.

Employers with less than 20 full time employees can apply for a wage subsidy for 50% of of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage paid during the 9 months period from 1 January to 30 September 2020.

Employers will be reimbursed up to a maximum of $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee for the 9 months period.

The apprentice or trainee must have been in training with a small business as at 1 March 2020.

Employers can register for the subsidy from early April 2020. Final claims for payment must be lodged by 31 December 2020.

FBT emergency assistance

There’s an exemption for FBT where certain benefits are provided to employees in an emergency situation.

The ATO has accepted that in the context of COVID-19, the emergency assistance exemption applies if the assistance is provided to an employee who is located in high risk area, and has been relocated or otherwise required to self-isolate.

If employers provide or pay for emergency accomodation, meals, food transport or other assistance ( such as face masks, sanitisers etc) for an employ who is or is at risk of becoming sick of COVID-19, these should be exempt from FBT, if this benefit is provided for the employee’s immediate relief.

With the increase of employee working from home, employers may provide employees with laptops, printers or other portable electronic devices to enable them to work from home. These should be exempt from FBT providing they are used primarily for the employee’s employment.

Backing business investment

The BBI measure package is a separate concession for purchase of new depreciating assets:

A tax payer will be able to deduct 50% of the cost of a new deprecating asset purchase between 12 March to 30 June 2020 (existing second hand assets and Div 43 assets are excluded).

The deduction is made available “on installation” which must occur before 30 June 2021.

No entity has previously claimed depreciation deductions (including instant assets write off) in respect of the asset

The remaining 50% of the cost of asset will be recovered over the life of the asset through usual depreciation rules.

This measure only applies to tax payers with aggregated turn over under $500 million.

The measure doesn’t apply if the asset’s depreciation is worked out under a low value of software development pool or in relation to primary production depreciating assets such as water facilities, fodder storage, horticulture plants and fencing assets (available for immediate deduction already anyway).

The measure doesn’t apply where a commitment to acquire or construct the asset was entered in before 12 March 2020.

Instant Asset Write Off

The instant asset write off regime has been expanded to allow an immediate deduction for purposes of new and used depreciating assets made from 12 March to 30 June 2020. To be eligible, the assets must cost less than $150,000. The current cost limit is $30,000. The business’s annual turnover must be less than $500 million. The current turnover limit is $50 million per annum

The threshold applies to GST exclusive cost of the asset. The instant asset write off is due to revert to $1,000 for small businesses from 1 July 2020.