28 April 2020
AMENDMENTS TO THE JOBKEEPER SCHEME
It was another busy week of updates to the JobKeeper Scheme with Treasury announcing on Friday a number of changes and the ATO updating its time frame around enrolment and payment for the first JobKeeper payments over the weekend. For everything you need to know about these changes please see below.
EXTENSION OF TIME
The Commissioner has now announced an extension of time for those employers wanting to participate in the first two fortnights of the JobKeeper Scheme. These fortnights ran from 30 March to 12 April, and 13 April to 26 April, and enrolment and payment were previously required by April 30 in order to receive payments for these fortnights.
The ATO has now provided both an extension of time to enrol and pay, with employers now having until 31 May to enrol however it is critical that employee payments for the first two fortnights are made by 8 May. Employers have the option of making two fortnightly payments of at least $1,500 per fortnight, or a combined payment of at least $3,000 by this date to be eligible.
The extension of time will not affect those entities that have already enrolled and have paid their eligible employees at least $1,500 per fortnight, with the ATO reimbursing these entities from next week. This extension of time recognises that the ATO are still issuing guidance as to the application of the Rules which impacts employers’ own assessments of their eligibility.
POLICY CHANGES TO THE JOBKEEPER PAYMENT
The Government has announced further changes to the operation of the JobKeeper rules. Here’s what we know so far:
Special purpose employment entities
In response to extensive industry lobbying, an additional alternative decline in turnover test will be provided where an employment entity or special purpose service entity is utilised within a group of companies to employ staff, and that employment entity is unable to demonstrate a decline in its own turnover.
The alternative test will be by reference to the combined GST turnovers of the related entities using the services of the employer entity. The related entities must carry on a business deriving revenue from unrelated parties.
This is a very welcome change and it is pleasing to see that Government has responded to industry concerns around what is a common business structure, which otherwise risked being excluded from eligibility to the scheme.
‘One in, all in’ principle to be strengthened
The existing JobKeeper Rules provide that all eligible employees that agree to be nominated by a participating employer must participate in the scheme. This includes all eligible employees who are undertaking work for the employer or have been stood down.
It is understood that the rules will be amended to strengthen the ‘one in, all in’ principle that an employer cannot choose which eligible employees will participate in the scheme. This likely follows various concerns from unions about the perception that some employers might pick and choose amongst eligible employees, or otherwise use the scheme to pressure employees to change their employment conditions.
Prospective ineligibility for full time students aged 16 and 17 years old
Under the current rules, 16 and 17-year-old students that work as casual employees are eligible for the payment. The rules will be amended so that full time students who are 17 years old and younger, and who are not financially independent, will not be eligible for JobKeeper payments.
This clarification will apply prospectively, so that eligible employers that have already met the wage condition of paying such an employee $1,500 for a fortnight could still be entitled to a JobKeeper for that fortnight.
Employers will need to consider how they can satisfy themselves that any 16 and 17 year old employees, being a typical profile for casual employees, are financially dependent or not.
Other policy changes
Charities: Those ACNC registered employing charities in receipt of funding from the government can elect to exclude this funding when applying the 15 per cent turnover test.
International Aid Organisations: Changes will allow entities that are endorsed under the Overseas Aid Gift Deductibility Scheme or for developed country relief to meet the requirement that not-for-profits pursue their objectives principally in Australia. As was the case previously, employees must be Australian residents to be eligible under the JobKeeper program.
Universities: Changes will clarify that the core Commonwealth Government financial assistance provided to universities will be included in the JobKeeper turnover tests.
Religious practitioners: Changes will allow JobKeeper Payments to be made to religious institutions in respect of religious practitioners (with the exception of those that are students only), recognising that many religious practitioners are not ‘employees’ of their religious institutions.
EXPLORATION COMPANIES still left out
Despite industry lobbying, junior mining and exploration companies and those entities with no form of revenue have not been offered an alternative means of testing a decline in turnover and as such cannot satisfy the turnover test needed to access support under the JobKeeper Scheme. There maybe circumstances where such entities could be eligible but they are likely to be limited given that such companies generally have minimal GST turnover.
Following feedback from businesses that employers were experiencing delays and roadblocks with their financiers in the process of applying for finance to assist in meeting early JobKeeper payments, particularly after Treasury and the ATO had openly encouraged businesses to consider accessing the $250,000 loans being made available to SMEs in order to fund the required payments to employees, Australia’s Big Four banks and the Government will create a hotline to assist businesses who need finance to bridge the gap until the first JobKeeper payments are made. The banks have also agreed to bring JobKeeper-related applications to the front of the queue and work with the ATO (to confirm an employer’s notification of entitlement for the JobKeeper Payment) to accelerate the finance assessment process.
WHERE WE CAN ASSIST YOU
- We can assist in determining which alternative test best applies to your circumstance.
- We can assist with assessing eligibility for the JobKeeper Payment, including cashflow forecasting and preparation of the entire program application.
- We can conduct independent reviews on the first round of reporting and claims to ensure accurate and within the Rules of eligibility.
This newsletter is current as of 28 April 2020, however, please note that announcements and changes are being made by the Government and the ATO regularly, and we expect that the tax and business-related responses will continue to evolve. Please contact us to discuss.
Cooper Partners is committed to providing general advice to our clients at no charge as part of our commitment to assist you through this period.