By Kat McCully, Principal Tax Advisor

I believe that 2020 has been a struggle for a lot of us. As a society, we have had to adapt to new rules, loss of social gatherings and home confinement. As well as job losses in order to protect the most vulnerable in our society by stopping the spread of COVID-19 and ‘flattening the curve’.

However, due to these health measures over the past few months, there have been economic consequences. A significant number of individuals and families have been greatly impacted due to either a full loss or partial reduction of income. This situation has prompted unprecedented local, state and federal government support for these individuals and families that have come under financial stress by the exceptional circumstances.

For those of you that may need some additional support to get through the next few months, here is a brief overview of some services that can still be accessed:

Job Keeper: This is a program that provides a subsidy to employers to continue paying employees. Affected employers and sole traders will be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee until September 2020. Employers that weren’t previously eligible for the scheme can become eligible in a later month to access the subsidy.

Job Seeker: This is a federal government benefit that is managed by Services Australia (Centrelink). At present, there is no asset test for this payment. There is also a COVID-19 supplement added to this payment of $550 per fortnight. If you have a partner, they can earn up to $3,068.80 per fortnight for you to remain eligible for this payment.

Superannuation Withdrawals: You can apply for early release of your superannuation through the ATO via the myGov app. To be eligible for this withdrawal, you must meet the ATO’s criteria of being unemployed, on Job Seeker (or other specific Centrelink benefits), made redundant or your working hours being reduced by 20% or more (including for sole traders). Individuals can apply until 30 June to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation. Then can apply for a further $10,000 between 1 July – 24 September. You can only submit one application for COVID-19 early release of super per financial year.

Casual Leave: The Queensland Government has introduced a new scheme where casual workers that do not have access to sick leave. It provides a $1,500 lump sum payment if they test positive for COVID-19.

Bank and Finance Assistance

Individuals and small business are able to contact their bank to request loan repayment deferrals, fee and charge waivers, interest free periods or debt consolidation.

Now is also the time to reassess your finances and see if there are any savings to be had by re-negotiating electricity bills/ bank loans. Research if there are cheaper phone plans or ask for a discount when purchasing items. Any dollar saved in interest charges or reduced service costs means that those dollars are in your bank account able to be used on other household expenditure items.

There are many professional services that can help you navigate through the information overload. Have a chat to your accountant, financial planner or even your local bank manager to tap into their expertise.

Finally, if you are struggling through this period there are charities and local support groups that are available and willing to help. Salvation Army, Lifeline and Beyond Blue are just some of the charities that you can connect to. They are able to help with food support, mental health support and social support.

As Winston Churchill said, “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”

We will survive these current challenges and get through these troubled times. Remember, there are many of us in the same row boat and if we row together solid ground gets closer each day.

About OTC Tax & Accounting

OTC Tax & Accounting are a Brisbane based accounting practice that provide business solutions advice, tax consulting and compliance, bookkeeping and payroll help to our client base of small to medium businesses, self-managed super funds and individuals. 

The team take pride in the relationships they build with their clients and provide each client with personalised service. 

They also offer flexible packages to suit a range of client needs.

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