JobKeeper audits underway

First reports of ATO audits lands one small business in debt

Imagine going through all the rigmarole to apply for JobKeeper when COVID-19 restrictions were rife, only to find your application rejected months later by Tax Office auditors?

That is what has now happened to one small business owner who took a DIY approach to their JobKeeper application.

The worst part is that they now have a $30,000 debt with the tax office and will not be allowed to recover any JobKeeper payments already paid to their employees.

Because of this, the business is possibly facing bankruptcy.

From the outset of the JobKeeper payment subsidy being made available to eligible Australian employers, the ATO has continually cautioned applicants to keep contemporaneous documentation of their calculations and advice to avoid inevitable audit scrutiny.

While the ATO always declared taking an ‘understanding and sympathetic’ approach when reviewing JobKeeper turnover projections, recipients have been urged to document their application and estimates as much as possible to cover all bases when the ATO comes knocking.

Be assured that the ATO will come knocking. The ATO COVID-19 Taskforce reaffirmed their approach in its Law Companion Ruling 2020/1.

“In terms of our attitude to compliance, this program is about helping Australians who are experiencing financial difficulty and it is not drawn at the hard line in terms of 30 per cent where I go out and investigate the person who is sitting at 29.95 per cent,” the Taskforce Chair said. “The focus is on people who will be deliberately rorting the system.”

Not that the small business owner set out to deceive the tax office. However their misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the rigorous eligibility and reporting requirements caused them to come unstuck, particularly when the rules around the JobKeeper were constantly changing during the first release of the scheme.

Coherent and cogent documentation is the best defence should the ATO start asking you for information. It is being able to produce a piece of paper or record that explains and therefore satisfies an auditor’s demand for proof.

A mistake that many taxpayers make is downgrading the ATO’s seriousness around JobKeeper audits. Thinking ‘I’ll worry about it when it happens’ is compounded by the passing of time which blurs our recollection of events because so much has happened in the interim, so make sure you check that all your pays are correct and on time.*

Had the business owner sought professional advice from a creditable bookkeeping professional, the outcome could’ve been completely different.

From builders to pharmacies, medical clinics to dental practices, Notch Above Bookkeeping has your business bookkeeping covered. If you have questions in relation to eligibility and reporting requirements for the JobKeeper Payment scheme, read more on the ATO’s website or call our team on 1300 015 130 for specific advice regarding your business.

* If JobKeeper is being processed by Notch Above Bookkeeping on behalf of your business, then be assured this is in hand.

Extension of the JobKeeper Payment

The Government is extending the JobKeeper Payment by a further six months to March 2021

Support will be targeted to businesses and not-for-profits that continue to be significantly impacted by the Coronavirus. 

The payment rate will be reduced and a lower payment rate will be introduced for those who work fewer hours. Other eligibility rules remain unchanged.

Summary

The JobKeeper Payment, which was originally due to run until 27 September 2020, will now continue to be available to eligible businesses (including the self-employed) and not-for-profits until 28 March 2021.

The payment rate of $1,500 per fortnight for eligible employees and business participants will be reduced to $1,200 per fortnight from 28 September 2020 and to $1,000 per fortnight from 4 January 2021. From 28 September 2020, lower payment rates will apply for employees and business participants that worked fewer than 20 hours per week.

From 28 September 2020, businesses and not-for-profits seeking to claim the JobKeeper Payment will be required to demonstrate that they have suffered an ongoing significant decline in turnover using actual GST turnover (rather than projected GST turnover).

From 28 September 2020, businesses and not-for-profits will be required to reassess their eligibility with reference to their actual GST turnover in the June and September quarters 2020. They will need to demonstrate that they have met the relevant decline in turnover test in both of those quarters to be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021.

From 4 January 2021, businesses and not-for-profits will need to further reassess their turnover to be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment. They will need to demonstrate that they have met the relevant decline in turnover test with reference to their actual GST turnover in each of the June, September and December quarters 2020 to remain eligible for the JobKeeper Payment from 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021.

To be eligible for JobKeeper Payments under the extension, businesses and not-for-profits will still need to demonstrate that they have experienced a decline in turnover of:

  • 50 per cent for those with an aggregated turnover of more than $1 billion;
  • 30 per cent for those with an aggregated turnover of $1 billion or less; or
  • 15 per cent for Australian Charities and Not for profits Commission-registered charities (excluding schools and universities).

If a business or not-for-profit does not meet the additional turnover tests for the extension period, this does not affect their eligibility prior to 28 September 2020.

The JobKeeper Payment will continue to remain open to new recipients, provided they meet the existing eligibility requirements and the additional turnover tests during the extension period.

Other eligibility rules for businesses and not-for-profits and their employees remain unchanged. Further information on those rules is at ato.gov.au/General/JobKeeper-Payment/.

The JobKeeper Payment rate

From 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, the JobKeeper Payment rates will be:

  • $1,200 per fortnight for all eligible employees who, in the four weeks of pay periods before 1 March 2020, were working in the business or not-for-profit for 20 hours or more a week on average, and for eligible business participants who were actively engaged in the business for 20 hours or more per week on average in the month of February 2020; and
  • $750 per fortnight for other eligible employees and business participants.

From 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021, the JobKeeper Payment rates will be:

  • $1,000 per fortnight for all eligible employees who, in the four weeks of pay periods before 1 March 2020, were working in the business or not-for-profit for 20 hours or more a week on average and for business participants who were actively engaged in the business for 20 hours or more per week on average in the month of February 2020; and
  • $650 per fortnight for other eligible employees and business participants.

Businesses and not-for-profits will be required to nominate which payment rate they are claiming for each of their eligible employees (or business participants).

The Commissioner of Taxation will have discretion to set out alternative tests where an employee’s or business participant’s hours were not usual during the February 2020 reference period. For example, this will include where the employee was on leave, volunteering during the bushfires, or not employed for all or part of February 2020.

Guidance will be provided by the ATO where the employee was paid in non-weekly or non-fortnightly pay periods and in other circumstances the general rules do not cover.

The JobKeeper Payment will continue to be made by the ATO to employers in arrears. Employers will continue to be required to make payments to employees equal to, or greater than, the amount of the JobKeeper Payment (before tax), based on the payment rate that applies to each employee. This is called the wage condition.

Additional turnover tests

In order to be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment after 27 September 2020, businesses and not-for-profits will have to meet a further decline in turnover test for each of the two periods of extension, as well as meeting the other existing eligibility requirements for the JobKeeper Payment.

In order to be eligible for the first JobKeeper Payment extension period of 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, businesses and not-for-profits will need to demonstrate that their actual GST turnover has significantly fallen in the both the June quarter 2020 (April, May and June) and the September quarter 2020 (July, August, September) relative to comparable periods (generally the corresponding quarters in 2019).

In order to be eligible for the second JobKeeper Payment extension period of 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021, businesses and not-for-profits will again need to demonstrate that their actual GST turnover has significantly fallen in each of the June, September and December 2020 quarters relative to comparable periods (generally the corresponding quarters in 2019).

The Commissioner of Taxation will have discretion to set out alternative tests that would establish eligibility in specific circumstances where it is not appropriate to compare actual turnover in a quarter in 2020 with actual turnover in a quarter in 2019, in line with the Commissioner’s existing discretion. Information about the existing discretion is at https://www.ato.gov.au/General/JobKeeper-Payment/Employers/.

Businesses and not-for-profits will generally be able to assess eligibility based on details reported in the Business Activity Statement (BAS). Alternative arrangements will be put in place for businesses and not-for-profits that are not required to lodge a BAS (for example, if the entity is a member of a GST group).

As the deadline to lodge a BAS for the September quarter or month is in late October, and the December quarter (or month) BAS deadline is in late January for monthly lodgers or late February for quarterly lodgers, businesses and not-for-profits will need to assess their eligibility for JobKeeper in advance of the BAS deadline in order to meet the wage condition (which requires them to pay their eligible employees in advance of receiving the JobKeeper payment in arrears from the ATO). The Commissioner of Taxation will have discretion to extend the time an entity has to pay employees in order to meet the wage condition, so that entities have time to first confirm their eligibility for the JobKeeper Payment.

To be eligible for JobKeeper Payments under the extension, businesses and not-for-profits will need to demonstrate that they have experienced the following decline in turnover (which remains the same as existing rules):

  • 50 per cent for those with an aggregated turnover of more than $1 billion;
  • 30 per cent for those with an aggregated turnover of $1 billion or less; or
  • 15 per cent for Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission-registered charities (excluding schools and universities).

Registered religious institutions responsible for religious practitioners will continue to be eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment provided they meet existing eligibility requirements and the additional turnover tests during the extension period.

Further information for employers is at https://www.ato.gov.au/General/JobKeeper-Payment/Employers/ or call the team at Notch Above Bookkeeping on 1300 015 130.

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Source: Australian Government (2020). Retrieved from The Treasury https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-07/Fact_sheet-JobKeeper_Payment_extension.pdf
Hands in Boxing Gloves

Business advice for a new financial year

Another new financial year already!

It has gone quickly so we outline our top tips for business owners starting a new financial year and planning ahead.

Four months ago business owners weren’t necessarily comprehending the full impact of COVID-19 but the reality is that it’s really important to make sure you’ve got a plan in place and that you understand where what your goals and targets are, and how you’re going to get there.

Our advice is to simply start from the top – the 30,000 feet above sea-level view – and ask what your goals are for next 3-10 years:

  • What does that look like?
  • What do you want to achieve from a business point of view?
  • More importantly, where do you want to be from a personal point of view, and
  • How does your business deal fit into all of that?

Then break down your goals into smaller targets. Some business owners use the term ‘chunk’ to describe breaking their goals into smaller steps.

We also encourage you to take a step back and consider doing some market analysis

Understand what is going:

  • Do you know what your customers want now?
  • What will they want next, moving forward?
  • What worked well during COVID-19 lockdown?
  • Will you achieve your goals potentially faster with a new business model?

Define your actions and those smaller goals and then set in place what you to achieve them. Write each down with individual action items and then understand the time frames around as well as what is involved from a resource point of view.

Once you have your initial plan drafted, also consider the financial implications of your proposed actions. Look at your Profit & Loss, understand cash flow and determine if your plans are achievable from financial perspective. Ask yourself what the impact financially is with respect to your action items, then repeat the process until you’re comfortable that you have a plan in place that feels like it is a stretch, but is achievable. Then you can track and monitor performance against it.

With financial business modelling and forecasting, you need to understand what’s the best use of your time. Is it something you can confidently do yourself, or should you be asking your financial partners like Notch Above Bookkeeping or your accountants to do that?

Also keep your longer-term strategy in the back of your mind as you’re ticking off each chunky action item. In reality if you look at Mike Tyson’s trainer, he says everyone has got a plan to get punched in the face, so you have got to be nimble and flexible enough to be able to move quickly if required.

It rings true for business. You never know when something will get thrown at you and COVID-19 was the perfect example of that.

Prefer to watch this topic in video format? Click below or browse all of our video topics here.

Notch Above Bookkeeping is a team of Platinum Certified Xero bookkeepers and BAS Agents. Based in Brisbane we help small business clients right across Australia prepare their BAS returns and streamline their bookkeeping processes, payroll and accounting records. Call us to find out how on 1300 015 130 today.

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