Date posted: 07/10/2021

Don’t make business re-opening too taxing

The end is in sight for COVID business support in ACT, NSW and Victoria following statements by the Federal Treasurer and his State counterparts last week, says Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ).

The end is in sight for COVID business support in ACT, NSW and Victoria following statements by the Federal Treasurer and his State counterparts last week, says Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ).

Already anxious small business operators now have a finite amount of time to update their business plans, identify cost savings and – if necessary – engage with employees, financiers, landlords, suppliers and creditors.

According to CA ANZ Tax Leader Michael Croker, clients are telling CAs that official guidance on re-opening in a COVID-safe way is urgently needed well before “Freedom Day”.

Most of all, business operators need certainty. Many can’t survive one more re-opening followed by yet another lockdown,” said Mr Croker.

There is a strong sense in the business community of a desire to get the economy humming again – but that needs support from Government.”

As for what might now need to be considered by a business owner, Mr Croker highlighted the top 10 tasks they need to be doing now:

  1. Lodge applications for all available COVID business support before “hard close” dates. “There are some businesses unaware of the grants available” Mr Croker said. ”Apply, use it or lose it”.
  2. Monitor government websites for COVID-safe workplace guidance and if necessary, implement new workplace procedures. “Communication is key here: employees need to be educated too.”
  3. Encourage vaccinations in your workforce. “This is tricky HR-wise, and guidance is coming from State health officials. In the meantime, consider workplace vaccination incentives in cash or non-cash form such as leave concessions to get the jab.”
  4. Consider the pros and cons of implementing COVID tests. “Rapid antigen tests are a hot occupational health and safety topic at the moment and guidance is urgently required.”
  5. Survey at home workers about returning to the workplace. “Pose questions not just about employees’ preferred work location, but also what concerns they have. For example, some might want car parking benefits rather than commuting by public transport. Craft gradual return to office strategies which emphasise both the business and personal benefits of re-connecting with workmates.”
  6. Be prepared to negotiate. “Don’t shy away from tough conversations with employees, commercial landlords, financiers, suppliers and creditors. Be constructive and candid, seek win-win outcomes.
  7. Falling behind in your tax and super obligations? Talk to the ATO. “Your accountant is experienced in negotiating tax payment plans and reduced penalties and interest. The ATO knows it has an important role to play in getting business back on its feet and will work with your accountant to help you stay in business.”
  8. Look after yourself and your workers. “The end of business support means some tough times for individuals. Business operators should engage in local business discussion forums. Make time to draw upon the support of family and friends. For any stood down workers who will soon lose access to the COVID Disaster Payment, be upfront about your business recovery plans. Stay connected with key workers and provide them with regular updates on when they might get back on the payroll. Use and promote mental health services. ”
  9. Need a business turn-around strategy? “ “When you seek help early, a specialist in turn-around advice can better assess your current financial position and explore options for recovery.
  10. Should I wind-up or sell the business? “There’s no stigma in broaching this topic with your accountant. Remember, some of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs recovered from set-backs.”

Mr Croker also said now was the time for both business and government to look ahead.

The next three months are likely to be a big sugar hit for businesses, with return customers and pent-up consumer demand and that’s great.

But, Government and industry need to sit down now and plan ahead about the incentives and reforms that can help them strengthen businesses beyond this period and return to the strong and sustainable fiscal positions many were in pre-Covid.”