“I’ve written to the Federal Member for Herbert seeking a guarantee that the Commissioner will exercise discretionary powers to give North Queensland businesses a fair and fast hearing…”
Author: Michael Brennan
The JOBKEEPER support package is quite possibly the largest piece of direct business support in many of our lifetimes. It may well be the difference between our economy recovering and the decimation of the small business community.
Businesses are now at the pointy end of the application process and minds are turning to the detail required to gain access to this vital assistance.
For many, proving a 30% drop in business activity compared with the same period in 2019 will be a straightforward calculation. For those of us operating in Townsville when 2019 started with a one-in-500-year monsoon event, it’s not so straightforward. We also know large parts of the country were experiencing extreme drought in this same period last year.
For those businesses already suffering significant loss due to disaster and drought events, showing a 30% drop in business activity will be nigh impossible.
In drafting the assistance package, the Australian Government did provide a get out of jail card for some businesses with a discretion being provided to the Commissioner of Taxation to apply a test other than the 30% business decrease.
As both a business owner and a business advisor, I have some real concerns about the practical application of this discretion.
Clarity needs to be provided around when the Commissioner will exercise this discretionary power. Will it be a blanket approach to North Queensland businesses impacted by the monsoon disaster event? Or for those in severe drought at this time last year?
Business owners also need to be made aware that the Commissioner does have discretionary powers. Too many people I have assisted over the past 12 months didn’t apply for funding last year when they could and should have because of eligibility guidelines that did not clearly state that there are discretionary powers within the legislation.
Given the information that is publicly available, it appears that businesses qualifying for JobKeeper will be paid in the first week of May. For businesses that will be relying on discretionary powers to get their application over the line, how will this be factored in during their application process? Unless the discretion is included in the automated application system, a significant number of local businesses will be rejected at first instance because they may not meet a 30% turnover reduction.
Obviously timely payment is going to be crucial to the survival of small businesses and keeping the workforce in paid employment. Business owners are not in a position to go through lengthy, bureaucratic appeals processes.
The practical realities of the situation are that many businesses are barely holding on to staff now and are only doing so because they have factored in receiving reimbursement for JobKeeper in the first week of May.
I’ve written to the Federal Member for Herbert seeking clarification around these issues, along with a guarantee that the Commissioner will exercise discretionary powers to give North Queensland businesses a fair and fast hearing.
By making those determinations now and widely publicising it, the Australian Government can achieve what it set out to do with JobKeeper- keep the doors of businesses open and people in jobs.