The Government yesterday released a second, far reaching $66.1 bn stimulus package that boosts income support payments, introduces targeted changes to the superannuation rules, provides cash flow support of up to $100,000 for small business employers, and relaxes corporate insolvency laws. The stimulus measures are not yet legislated. Parliament will reconvene on Monday 23 March. The Prime Minister has warned that there are no “quick solutions” and that business should prepare for 6 months of disruption.
- Tax-free payments up to $100,000 for small business and not-for-profit employers. An increase in the previously announced initial tax-free payments for employers to a maximum of $50,000. In addition to this, a second round of payments will be made up to a maximum of $50,000, accessible from July 2020.
- Solvency safety net – temporary 6 month increase to the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company from $2,000 to $20,000, and an increase in the time companies have to respond from 21 days to 6 months. Directors also are provided with temporary relief from personal liability for trading while insolvent for 6 months.
- Access to working capital – Introduction of a Coronavirus SME guarantee scheme protecting financial institutions by guaranteeing 50% of new loans to SMEs.
- Sole traders and self-employed eligible for Jobseeker payment – the eligibility criteria to access income support relaxed for the self-employed and sole traders.
- Temporary relief from some Corporations Act requirements
- Early release of superannuation – individuals in financial distress able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20, and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. The withdrawals will be tax-free and will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.
- Temporary reduction in minimum superannuation draw down rates – superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account based pensions and similar products reduced by 50% in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
- Deeming rates reduced – from 1 May, superannuation deeming rates reduced further to a lower rate of 0.25% and upper rate of 2.25%.
- Supplements increased, access extended and eased – for 6 months from 27 April 2020:
- A temporary coronavirus supplement of $550 will be paid to existing income support recipients (people will receive their normal payment plus $550 each fortnight for 6 months).
- A second one-off stimulus payment of $750 will be paid automatically from 13 June 2020 to certain income support recipients (in addition to the payment made from 31 March 2020).
- Eligibility for access to income support eased to include sole traders and the self-employed, and to those caring for someone infected or in isolation.
- Waiting periods and assets tests temporarily waived.
- Bankruptcy safety net – temporary 6 month increase to the threshold for the minimum amount of debt required for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against a debtor from $5,000 to $20,000.
Support for business
Tax-free payments up to $100,000 for employers
- From: 28 April 2020
- Eligibility: Small and medium business entity employers and not-for-profit entities, with an aggregated annual turnover under $50 million.
- The first phase ensures that eligible employers receive a credit equal to 100% of the PAYG amounts withheld from salary and wages paid to employees during the relevant period, up to the maximum amount of $50,000.
- The second phase ensures that eligible employers receive another series of credits, equal to the credits that were received under the first phase. For example, if a business received $40,000 of credits in the first phase it will receive a further $40,000 of credits in the second phase. These additional credits will be spread over two or four activity statement periods, depending on whether the employer lodges on a quarterly or monthly basis.
Solvency safety netA safety net has been put in place to protect businesses in temporary financial distress as a result of the pandemic by lessening the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push them into insolvency and force the winding up of the business. These include:
- A temporary 6 month increase to the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company from $2,000 to $20,000.
- The time a company has to respond to statutory demands will increase from 21 days to 6 months.
- For 6 months, directors will be provided with temporary relief from personal liability for trading while insolvent.
- See also bankruptcy safety net below
Access to working capital for SMEs – supporting lendersThe Government has announced a Coronavirus SME guarantee scheme that will guarantee 50% of new loans to SMEs up to $20 billion. These loans are new short-term unsecured loans to SMEs. SMEs with a turnover of up to $50 million will be eligible to receive these loans. The Government will provide eligible lenders with a guarantee for loans with the following terms:
- Maximum total size of loans of $250,000 per borrower.
- The loans will be up to three years, with an initial six month repayment holiday.
- The loans will be in the form of unsecured finance, meaning that borrowers will not have to provide an asset as security for the loan.
- An exemption to the responsible lending obligations to enable financial institutions to provide new credit, credit limit increases, and credit variations and restructures,
- $15bn to the Australian Office of Financial Management to invest in wholesale funding markets used by small banks and non-banks to enable these lenders to support SMEs, and
- Australian Banking Association members will defer loan repayments for 6 months for small businesses (affected small businesses will need to apply for relief).
Sole traders and self-employed eligible for Jobseeker paymentThe eligibility criteria to access income support payments will be relaxed to enable the self-employed and sole traders whose income has been reduced, to access support. More:
Temporary relief from Corporations Act requirementsThe Treasurer has been given a temporary instrument-making power to amend the Corporations Act to provide relief or modifications to specific compliance obligations. ASIC has announced measures for those companies with a 31 December financial year that need to hold their AGMs by 31 May 2020, providing a two month no action period and enabling hybrid virtual AGMs.
Early release of superannuationFrom mid-April, individuals in financial distress will be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20, and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. The withdrawals will be tax free and will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments. To be eligible to access your superannuation you need to meet the following requirements:
- you are unemployed; or
- you are eligible to receive a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers, parenting payment (which includes the single and partnered payments), special benefit or farm household allowance; or
- on or after 1 January 2020:
- you were made redundant; or
- your working hours were reduced by 20% or more; or
- if you are a sole trader — your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20% or more.
Temporary reduction in minimum superannuation draw down ratesSuperannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products will be reduced by 50% in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
|Age||Default minimum drawdown rates (%)||Reduced rates by 50 per cent for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 income years (%)|
|95 or more||14||7|
Time limited fortnightly $550 ‘coronavirus supplement’For the next 6 months, the Government is introducing a new Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This supplement will be paid to both existing and new recipients in the eligible payment categories. The payment will be made to those receiving:
- Jobseeker payment (and those transitioning to the jobseeker payment)
- Youth allowance jobseeker
- Parenting payment
- Farm household allowance
- Special benefits recipients
- Permanent employees who are stood down or lose their job
- Casual workers
- Sole traders
- The self-employed
- Contract workers who meet the income test
Second $750 payment to householdsThe Government is now providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders residing in Australia (see the full list here). The payment will be exempt from taxation and will not count as income for the purposes of Social Security, Farm Household Allowance and Veteran payments.
- Payment 1 from 31 March 2020 (previously announced on 12 March): Available to people who are eligible payment recipients and concession card holders at any time between 12 March 2020 to 13 April 2020;
- Payment 2 from 13 July 2020: Available to people who are eligible payment recipients and concession card holders on 10 July 2020.
Bankruptcy safety netA temporary 6 month increase to the threshold for the minimum amount of debt required for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against a debtor will increase from $5,000 to $20,000. In addition, the time a debtor has to respond to a bankruptcy notice will be temporarily increased from 21 days to six months. Where someone declares their intention to enter voluntary bankruptcy, the period of protection from unsecured creditors will be extended from 21 days to 6 months. More:
- Joint media release with The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Prime Minister
- Treasury: Support for Businesses
- Treasury: Supporting Individuals and Households