With bushfires sweeping across the country, many of our members and their families are being (or have been) affected by the crisis. Authorities have warned that the fire situation may worsen with the predicted weather conditions, and ICB has received numerous requests for information on where to offer support, and also seek assistance from our members.
- As bookkeepers, how can we best support our clients that have been affected by the fires?
- What resources and support are out there for ICB Members who have been personally affected?
- How can our members help to support each other?
ICB Bookkeepers Helping Each Other
ICB encourages our members to reach out if they need any extra bookkeeping support or assistance (or would like to offer support to fellow members) via your Network Meetings or the ICB Discussion & Support Facebook group.
Members personally affected by the bushfires can reach out to ICB Member Services on 1300 856 181 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, where our team will be only too happy to support and assist with anything we can.
Strategy for Bookkeepers
The bookkeeper-oriented approach to dealing with your own business, or in advising clients about all things bookkeeping related:
- Be safe, and personal safety is king (see Emotional Support Resources)
At different times in a recovery process, there is logic in evaluating your motivation and your ability to re-establish a business. There is also logic in the concept of becoming active in re-establishing a business, which can help with your personal recovery process.
Consider doing business a different way; merging with another business (at least in the short term), or doing business the way you dreamed of; review the products or services you sell.
- Cashflow – we need to understand and plan an approach to managing cash needs
- What cash is on hand?
- What cash is likely to come in and when? (mostly from debtors)
- What is the list of obligations to pay? (for now it is an assessment)
- Employees (amounts outstanding)
- What cash is needed to re-establish the business?
(refer to below steps, and any insurance claims and other support)
- When can you foresee the business beginning to generate income again?
- Schedule and manage the cashflow
- Consider utilising the government financial support program
- Assessing and Re-connecting
- Assess the damage – destroyed or damaged items list
- Liaise with your insurer
- Impact on personnel – try to contact them and establish a return-to-work discussion
- Liaise with customers – advise of your situation and return-to-trade plans, and sensitively seek payment of any outstanding amounts
- Liaise with suppliers – obtain their return-to-trade plans and advise them of yours, discussing your plan or when you will have a plan in relation to payments
- Re-establishing a business – the steps to setting up again
- Establish the list of key equipment.
- Can you re-establish in the same location?
Otherwise can you find a new short or long-term location?
- Review the products or services you have to sell.
Consider ceasing some or taking on some new ideas.
- List and then establish the core solutions and functions you need to trade.
- Map out the cash requirements to re-establish (both equipment and supplies) and build that into the cash flow plan.
- Reconnect to your existing digital platforms.
- Revise your target market: who will you be able to sell to, and how will they know?
- An opportunity – Let’s go Digital
This is a chance to adopt a newer approach, and while the circumstances are not wished for, it provides a chance to implement current solutions:
- Digital point-of-sale terminals
- Internet-based or supported software
- Online communications and marketing presence (e.g. website)
- Compliance – Tax, PAYG, GST and Activity Statements– a plan to lodge and pay
- Be aware of public information and general deferrals granted.
- Establish a plan towards compliance.
- Liaise with authorities when able and required.
- What to do about lost records
- Retrieve physical records, and identify lost records.
- Assess what records need to be recreated.
- Note that a significant number of business records can be recovered online.
- Establish a future digital record-keeping system
The State of Play
Support and Deferrals
- ATO for Activity Statements (PAYGW and GST etc.):
Updated Advice from the ATO (30 January):All Quarterly Activity Statements for Sept '19, Dec. '19 and March '20 aswell as all monthly Activity Statements form October '19 through to April '20 have until 28 May 2020 to lodge (and then pay or arrange payment). Note it is for the listed impacted postcodes or by arrangement and discussion with the ATO.
- In general, those affected in November have until 21 January, and those affected in December and January have until 28 May 2020 as their new lodgment deadlines for activity statements. However, you should check the detailed page on the ATO website and review for your postcode.
- ATO Emergency Support Infoline: 1800 806 218
- ATO for payments outstanding:
In general, call the ATO on 1800 806 218 to discuss your plans, or to implement a payment plan.
- Superannuation – SGC:
ICB hopes that the Government/ATO will not apply any compliance activities to Superannuation Guarantee Contributions which were unable to be made due to the bushfires. If the proposed SG Amnesty becomes law, this will enable businesses to become compliant within 6 months. Current law does not allow any consideration of concessions for the December quarter SG payments that are due by the 28th of January.
In general, a business can stand down employees (without pay) during such disasters. Alternatively, an employer can require an employee to take annual leave. Personal Leave would be for personal injury or care of others only. Unpaid community service leave is also an entitlement for relevant voluntary emergency management activities.
- TPB for Agent registrations and Annual Declarations:
The TPB has announced that they will not take action for agents in affected areas. For all agent inquiries (including those not in the affected areas), call them on 1300 362 829.
Government Support Program Announcement
Small Business Financial Suport Line (provided by Government) 1800 413 828
– Information provided by COSBOA
Government grants and loans, financial support hotline
It is worth noting that the grants and loans for small businesses will be managed by state governments. Online application portals are not yet available for all states and we will be posting links to them on our social media as they become available. Further below are links to relevant state agencies that will provide more information.
The provisions mean that businesses directly affected by the fires are eligible for grants of up to $50,000. Businesses that have suffered a significant asset loss or a significant loss of revenue due to the fires are eligible for concessional loans of up to $500,000.
The Government has also announced that they will establish a Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line and fund 10 additional financial counselors with the ability to provide advice to around 100 small businesses a day. Again, these services are not yet available but we will be posting information on our social media channels when they do become available.
It should also be noted that sole traders and small business operators can apply for a disaster recovery allowance from Centrelink.
Updated: 30th January, 2020