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ATA backs small business bushfire impact assistance

Canberra announces suite of measures that aims to aid recovery


The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has welcomed new federal government measures to support small businesses affected by the bushfire crisis. 

The government rolls out the big guns in prime minister Scott Morrison, treasurer Josh Frydenberg and small and family business minister Michaelia Cash for the announcement of five measures making up the package.

The “immediate priorities” for “those who have suffered direct fire damage, or have been indirectly economically impacted following the bushfires” are:

  • grant funding
  • concessional loans
  • tax relief
  • a dedicated and single contact point to help access the support that is available
  • financial counselling services.

“This initial package responds to the needs expressed by small businesses on the ground and at the small business roundtable last week which saw chambers of commerce from fire affected regions, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia come together with the government to discuss the impacts of this natural disaster on small business,” the announcement states. 

“This comprehensive package will make it easier for those who have suffered direct fire damage, or have been indirectly economically impacted following the bushfires, to get back on their feet.”

The ATA gives the move its thumbs up.

“The new measures come as welcome news to affected Australian trucking businesses and will provide a great deal of assistance in getting them back on their feet,” the ATA says. 

“Trucking is an industry of small businesses, accounting for 98 per cent of all trucking operators in Australia. 

“The establishment of the Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line will give small businesses the information they need to understand what support and assistance is available to them. 

“Meanwhile, businesses that have sustained damage as a result of the fires will be able to access up to $50,000 in grant funding, or concessional loans of up to $500,000 for those who have suffered significant asset loss or a significant loss of revenue.”  

The ATA General Council is due to meet today to discuss the need for immediate income support for trucking businesses who may not have been in bushfire zones but are still affected. 

“Hundreds of trucking businesses have lost income as a direct result of the bushfire crisis, incurring additional costs and setbacks due to road closures and lengthy delays,” the ATA says. 

“Following our council meeting, the ATA will join a teleconference with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to set out the trucking industry’s proposed assistance package for affected trucking businesses and employees.,”

The ATA had also been working with the Australian Tax Office to ensure trucking businesses that aren’t located in the bushfire affected postcodes but who have been affected can access tax relief. 

Read about actions taken in NSW and by the NHVR in response to the crisis, here

Commissioner of taxation Chris Jordan says he has extended a package of tax assistance for people impacted by the recent devastating bushfires in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania as part of the whole-of-government response to the disaster.

About 3.5 million businesses, individuals, and self-managed superannuation funds in impacted local government areas will now have until May 28 to lodge and pay business activity statements and income tax returns.

Australian Taxation Office (ATO) hopes the additional time – on top of the two-month extension already granted – would give people the breathing space they need to recover and start to rebuild.

“If you’ve been impacted by these bushfires, we don’t want you to be concerned about your tax affairs,” Jordan says.

“Now is the time for you, your family and your community. We’ll help you sort out your tax affairs later.”

Additionally, the ATO aims to fast-track any refunds that are due to taxpayers in the impacted regions.

“If you run a business and you’re expecting a refund on – for example as a result of GST credits due to large purchases to replace stock – I encourage you to try to lodge or ask your tax professional to lodge your activity statements on your behalf,” Jordan says.

“Refunds generated by lodging may provide some helpful temporary cash flow relief during these difficult times.”

The ATO will also remit any interest and penalties applied to tax debts since the bushfires began that have been applied to accounts of individuals and businesses located in impacted regions.

Jordan says taxpayers or their agents in these areas do not need to apply for a deferral, a faster refund, or remission of interest or penalties. This will be done by the ATO automatically.

For people who have had documents destroyed by the bushfires, the ATO is able to assist by reissuing documents it has on hand.

For those taxpayers in affected areas with a tax debt or outstanding obligation, the ATO will not initiate debt-recovery action until at least May 28.

Taxpayers can also request payment arrangements for outstanding debts. The ATO will also consider releasing individuals and businesses from income tax and fringe benefits tax debts if they are experiencing serious hardship.

Affected taxpayers are also able to vary their income tax instalments to nil without penalties. This also applies if taxpayers end up in a tax payable situation for that quarter once they have lodged their tax return.

The Emergency Support Infoline is 1800 806 218 and more ATO information can be found here.

The information includes:

  • a list of impacted local government areas
  • lodgement and payment deferrals
  • faster processing of refunds
  • damaged or destroyed property
  • reconstructing your tax records
  • fuel tax credits for individuals, businesses and others
  • donations to assist disaster victims
  • supporting your wellbeing
  • other support available.

More information regarding available assistance can be found in an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry portal here.


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