The 2020-21 Federal Budget is a road to recovery paved with cash.
Key initiatives include:
Personal income tax cuts from 1 July 2020
A $4 billion 'JobMaker' Hiring Credit to encourage businesses to take on additional employees aged 16 to 35 years old
$110 billion in infrastructure investment over 10 years
Immediate deductions for business investment in capital assets
Changes to how companies can manage losses
Access to generous tax concessions for a wider range of businesses
The Budget also contains two additional Economic Support payments to pensioners and other eligible recipients to drive money back into the economy.
By comparison to many, Australia has managed the COVID-19 pandemic well, but good management isn't enough to protect us from the $213.7 billion deficit in 2020-21. The Government has taken to heart the old adage, "You have to spend money to make money" to trade our way out of a black hole.
Some of the measures are aimed at addressing the harsh lessons COVID-19 has taught us and seek to centralise production back in Australia to ensure our industries can be self-reliant.
Outside of the big ticket tax measures, what is striking about this Budget is the sheer volume of initiatives it funds - too many to itemise in this update. Many of the initiatives aim to improve how Government interacts with the community and business in particular. This funding is focussed on streamlining interaction and compliance with Government requirements and investing in the IT infrastructure required to digitise the compliance process.
The final comments in the Treasurer’s Budget speech paint a cautionary tale. The focus right now is on the path to growth and stabilising debt in an effort to boost consumer and business confidence. However, once “recovery has taken hold and the unemployment rate is on a clear path back to pre-crisis levels” of below 6%, the second phase will kick in - the deliberate shift from providing temporary and targeted support to stabilising debt.
5 Key Focuses for SME business
1. Instant asset write-off SME businesses will get a full tax deduction for the cost of any new asset they acquire from now through until 30 June 2022 (or to 30 June 2021 for second hand assets).
Review and plan your capital expenditure
If your business sells depreciable assets, or provides services to those businesses (e.g. engineers), engage with your customers
2. Loss carry back SME businesses that make tax losses in FY20, FY21 or FY22, but have paid tax in FY19 or later years, will be able to “carry back” the tax losses and get a refund of the tax paid in the earlier years. P around the impact on franking account balances and dividend payments will be critical.
Review your FY20 tax position – is it likely to be a loss?
The refund can’t be obtained until the FY21 (or FY22) tax return is lodged, so focus on PAYG Instalment variations in the interim.
3. JobKeeper and JobMaker The Budget implies that JobKeeper arrangements will cease on 28 March 2021, and the new job support payments for businesses are much less financially generous. Under the new JobMaker system, a subsidy is available for new apprentices, and for hiring new employees aged 16 – 35 who have previously been on JobSeeker or similar benefits.
Review your JobKeeper eligibility for the December 2020 quarter and the March 2021 quarter
Assess the impact that the cessation of JobKeeper will have on the profitability and cashflow of your business
Assess your eligibility for the new JobMaker subsidies
4. Economic stimulus measures The Budget includes a range of spending initiatives in areas such as manufacturing, research, roads, infrastructure and residential construction. This will directly benefit SME businesses in these industries, and indirectly benefit SME businesses that supply into these industries.
Consider how your SME Business can be positioned to take advantage of the unprecedented level of Government spending that will occur now and over the coming years.
5. Cashflow forecasts The Budget is built on the assumption that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available by the end of 2021, that we won’t see more widespread outbreaks, that state boarders (other than WA) will open by Christmas and that business conditions will move from recessionary to growth. COVID-19 support measures will be made more targeted, and much more limited. Many existing payment deferral arrangements are now coming to an end.
Cash flow management over the coming months is going to be critical
Build a robust cashflow forecast
Consider how to fund the growth phase of your SME Business, but balance this with managing cash in uncertain economic conditions.
Plan for the cash flow impact on deferral arrangements (such as tax instalments) and the normalisation of the timing of future payments
The increase in the $10M to $50M turnover threshold for small business tax concessions The increase in the turnover threshold for small business tax concessions is, in some ways, a welcome change that has been sought for years. It now means that most Australian private businesses will qualify for a range of tax concessions that simplify their tax compliance. But don’t expect to see an immediate financial benefit. Most SME businesses will find benefit from only a small number of the concessions, and the benefit is more likely to be a saving in compliance costs rather than a reduction in your tax liability. The real benefit will be seen in future years if future Governments commit to maintaining the $50M turnover threshold for new tax concessions that they announce, and if they continue to work to use this simpler and more generous eligibility test for a broader range of tax concessions.