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Your guide to small business help

Small and medium businesses across the country are feeling an unprecedented cash flow squeeze as the coronavirus lockdown continues to make business as usual a distant notion. This makes it worth knowing how to access all the help available.

While Australia has seen some promising success battling the health impacts of coronavirus, the economic pain may be far from over. Major downturns in trade are affecting many industries and cash flow pressures are creating ripple effects throughout the economy.


The Government has launched multiple stimulus packages to keep the wheels of business turning. If you’re one of the many business owners who has seen trade affected, it’s worth spending a little time making sure you are applying for and factoring in whatever government help is available to your planning.

As certain incentives in the various economic packages will only be available for a short period of time, businesses should consider taking action as soon as practicable



Small and medium businesses that have had their turnover drop by at least 30% because of the pandemic can access payments of $1500 a fortnight for each eligible employee. Known as JobKeeper, this temporary program is aimed at ensuring employers keep on as many staffas possible, paying them at least $1500 a fortnight. Although JobKeeper payments will be made for as far back as March 30, payments are not set to commence until the first week of May. You can assess eligibility here, and must notify all eligible employees that you intend to participate in the scheme.


Once that is done, you or your registered tax agent must enroll your business in the program.

Wage subsidies


One of the first items of financial assistance announced was a wage subsidy for apprentices and trainees. If you have fewer than 20 full-time employees and at least one apprentice or trainee, you can access a wage subsidy of 50%.


Worth up to $21,000 per apprentice or trainee this calendar year, the payment is for wages paid between the beginning of the year and September 30.


For more information on applying, contact an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider.

Cash flow boost


Although it has flown under the radar, the government’s Boosting Cash Flow program is one that could have a major impact on many small and medium businesses.


Available for eligible businesses with annual aggregated turnovers of less than $50 million, the program means payments of between $20,000 and $100,000, beginning at the end of April.


The cash flow boosts are delivered in instalments in the activity statement system, as credits based on the value of tax withheld for employee salaries and wages, up to a cap to $100,000. They will be paid out in instalments.


For more information, visit the ATO website.

Seek tax relief


The old saying about death and taxes being the only certainties in life could use a little updating post-pandemic, with the ATO urging businesses experiencing Corona-related cashflow disruptions to get in touch to discuss relief options. Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan says the ATO is tailoring support plans to meet the individual needs and circumstances of different businesses.


“Support measures could include deferral of some payments, quicker access to GST refunds, and options to enter low interest payment plans for existing or future tax debts.”


Other available options include:

  • Allowing businesses to set their PAYG instalments for the most recent quarter to zero and claim refunds for instalments made in previous quarters
  • Letting those on quarterly GST reporting move to a monthly cycle to get quicker access to GST refunds
  • Cancelling interest and penalties incurred on recent tax debts and
  • Giving businesses up to six months’ more time to pay taxes such as PAYG instalments, income tax assessments and fringe benefits tax assessments.


Unlike the Boosting Cash Flow program, the ATO measures will not be applied automatically, meaning you have to contact the ATO to be eligible. To apply, call 1800 806 218.

State and territory grants


The Federal Government isn’t the only one opening its coffers to help businesses ride out the pandemic storm. Each state and territory has also announced a raft of assistance packages, from grants to tax cuts. Many particularly hard-hit industries are also up for special assistance.


Find out more about what help is available in your region:


A spokesman for accounting and consulting firm BDO said businesses should move quickly to make use of any of the initiatives.


“As certain incentives in the various economic packages will only be available for a short period of time, businesses should consider taking action as soon as practicable,” he said.


“Taxpayers eligible for grants should also ensure that their postal addresses with their respective State Revenue Offices are correct so that appropriate payments can be received as soon as possible.”


Taxation considerations are general and based on present taxation laws and may be subject to change. You should seek independent, professional tax advice before making any decision based on this information. Colonial First State is also not a registered tax (financial) adviser under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and you should seek tax advice from a registered tax agent or a registered tax (financial) adviser if you intend to rely on this information to satisfy the liabilities or obligations or claim entitlements that arise, or could arise, under a taxation law.