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On 21 July 2020, the Federal Government announced that they will be extending the JobKeeper program until 28 March 2021, which is six months beyond the current legislated finish date of 27 September 2020.

Further updates were announced by the Federal Government on 7 August 2020, which ease the business and employee eligibility rules in response to the current worsening situation in Victoria. Treasury estimates that these changes will see an additional 500,000 workers become eligible for the existing and extended JobKeeper wage subsidy, increasing the total cost of the JobKeeper scheme by $15.6billion ($13billion of which is expected to flow into Victoria).

This is great news for businesses that have been experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19; however, there are some significant changes to be aware of.

The JobKeeper program will continue to be made available for eligible companies, sole traders, trusts and partnerships. The initiative will also be accessible for new recipients that meet the criteria.

When Will These Changes Commence?

The expanded employee eligibility for the JobKeeper 1.0 program commences from 3 August 2020 and the new proposed extended JobKeeper 2.0 program will commence from 28 September 2020 and conclude on 28 March 2021.

WHAT ARE THE JOBKEEPER 1.0 CHANGES?

Employee eligibility for the existing JobKeeper 1.0 program has been expanded, effective from 3 August 2020. The existing employee eligibility test is now based on the two fortnightly pay periods prior to 1 July 2020 (previously 1 March 2020); therefore, more employees will be eligible from 3 August 2020, including:

• a full-time, part-time or fixed-term employee at 1 July 2020; or
• a long-term casual employee (employed on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months) as at 1 July 2020 and not a permanent employee of any other business.

What should businesses enrolled in JobKeeper 1.0 do now?

You will need to review your employee payroll information to determine whether there are any:

• Full-time, part-time or fixed-term employees hired between 1 March and 30 June 2020 who are now eligible employees; or
• Long-term casual employees on your payroll that fell short of the 12-month requirement on 1 March 2020; however, meet this eligibility requirement on 1 July 2020.

If your business is currently enrolled in the JobKeeper program and you believe you will now have more eligible employees, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

WHAT ARE THE JOBKEEPER 2.0 CHANGES?

The JobKeeper 2.0 program will see a reduction in compensation, as well as additional criteria for recipients to qualify.

New Payments

JobKeeper 2.0 will introduce two types of rates for employees:

1. Full rate: For employees who worked on average 20 hours or more per week during the two fortnightly pay periods prior to 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020*; and

2. Reduced rate: For employees who worked less than 20 hours per week on average during the two fortnightly pay periods prior to 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020*.

*The above employee eligibility rules apply from 3 August 2020; therefore, increasing employee eligibility for the existing scheme (JobKeeper 1.0) and the extension (JobKeeper 2.0). The period with the higher number of hours is to be used for employees who were eligible at 1 March 2020.

We are also awaiting further guidance from the Commissioner of Taxation on the alternative tests for calculating an employee’s average weekly hours, where the hours worked in February and/or June 2020 were not indicative of that employee’s usual weekly hours (for example when an employee was on leave, volunteering during the bushfires, or not employed for the entire month).

For business participants, the 20-hour test will be based on the average weekly hours they spent “actively engaged in the business” during the months of February or June 2020.

Currently the JobKeeper payments are $1,500 per fortnight for eligible employees and businesses, regardless of the number of hours worked by the employee.

The proposed JobKeeper 2.0 will see rates decrease to:

1. 28 September 2020 – 3 January 2021: $1,200 per fortnight at the full rate and $750 per fortnight at the reduced rate.
2. 4 January 2021 – 28 March 2021: $1,000 per fortnight at the full rate and $650 per fortnight at the reduced rate.

New Criteria

For businesses to qualify for the proposed JobKeeper 2.0, employers must re-satisfy the ‘Decline in Turnover Test’ for the quarter immediately preceding the relevant JobKeeper period.

To qualify for the JobKeeper 2.0 program the rate of decline in GST turnover remains the same as the current requirements:

• 50% decline for entities with an aggregated turnover of more than $1 billion;
• 30% decline for entities with an aggregated turnover of $1 billion or less; and
• 15% decline for ACNC-registered charities.

One of the main changes under the proposed JobKeeper 2.0 program is that GST turnover must be based on actual turnover, rather than estimated turnover (see below eligibility criteria for a non ACNC-registered entity with an aggregated turnover of $1 billion or less).

To qualify for the 28 September 2020 – 3 January 2021 JobKeeper period:

1. Actual GST turnover for the September 2020 quarter must be at least 30% less than in the September 2019 quarter.

To qualify for the 4 January 2021 – 28 March 2021 JobKeeper period:

1. Actual GST turnover for the December 2020 quarter must be at least 30% less than in the December 2019 quarter.

Our current understanding is that the quarterly reduction in turnover test will apply, even if businesses report their GST to the ATO on a monthly basis.

We also expect further guidance from the Commissioner of Taxation in respect to the alternative tests available where it would not be appropriate to compare the actual GST turnover in a period to the corresponding comparison period.

How do I apply?

As the proposed JobKeeper 2.0 program changes are yet to be legislated, the above requirements may be subject to change.

Dates have also not yet been released for enrolling in the JobKeeper 2.0 program; however, we expect the process will remain largely the same. Once enrolments are available, employers will need to log into the ATO Business Portal and complete the relevant JobKeeper 2.0 enrolment form.

Alternatively, we at WMS can enrol your business for the JobKeeper 2.0 program on your behalf via the ATO Tax Agent Portal.

When the monthly JobKeeper 2.0 declarations are lodged with the Australian Taxation Office for the extension period, 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).

Other COVID-19 stimulus package updates, changes and extensions

• ATO PAYGW Cash Flow Boost – the ATO are beginning to apply Tranche 2 credits upon lodgement of the June 2020 Business Activity Statement (BAS) for businesses.
• Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy extended for a further six months to 31 March 2021.
• JobSeeker – Coronavirus supplement extended but reduced to $250 per fortnight from 25 September to 31 December 2020 (down from the current rate of $550 per fortnight).
• Instant asset write-off deductions extended until 31 December 2020.
• Early super release of $10,000 – second release period closure date extended from 24 September 2020 to 31 December 2020.
• SME (Small and Medium Entity) Guarantee Scheme.

Should you have any questions or require assistance in relation to the COVID-19 stimulus packages and upcoming changes, please don’t hesitate to contact our office on (07) 5556 3300 or info@wmssolutions.com.au

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice.

© 2020 WMS Solutions Pty Ltd