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Tax assistance for flood-affected small business



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JOINT PRESS RELEASE

THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. BRUCE BILLSON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS, COMPETITION POLICY & CONSUMER AFFAIRS

TAX ASSISTANCE FOR FLOOD-AFFECTED SMALL BUSINESS

Like many in the community, small businesses are already suffering hardship and personal distress from the floods in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. Thousands of small businesses are facing significant economic damage and financial distress, with real impact on the business owners, their employees and customers.

Some small businesses have lost access to their businesses records and their cash flow is being severely affected.

The Coalition is calling on the Gillard Government to implement two practical measures to assist these small businesses.

1. GST and PAYG Holiday

We are asking the Government to provide a GST and PAYG (pay as you go) holiday to small businesses in flood-affected areas.

Under current arrangements, small businesses are required to file a second quarter Business Activity Statement (BAS) by 28 February 2011. Instead, these businesses should have the option of filing their BAS for the second and third quarters on the following deadline of 28 April 2011 and not remitting their GST and PAYG payments until that time.

While the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has already announced a one month deferral for monthly activity statements for flood-affected businesses, this only benefits larger businesses with an annual turnover over $20m. The ATO also offers to defer tax obligations for individuals and businesses on a case-by-case basis.

The Coalition’s proposal would enshrine such assistance as a matter of course and extend automatic deferral of obligations to smaller companies. Such automatic assistance would more directly and readily benefit the thousands of smaller businesses impacted by the floods.

2. Waiver of PAYG variation penalty

Flood-affected small businesses face real uncertainty in accurately estimating their ongoing PAYG tax obligations. Current tax rules impose penalty interest on businesses which do not estimate their PAYG liabilities with an accuracy of greater than 85 per cent.

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For the remainder of 2010-11, we call on the Government to waive this penalty interest for businesses failing to estimate their PAYG obligation accurately.

To be eligible for these two measures, small business would need to be located in the flood affected areas identified by postcode on the ATO website (currently in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria or Western Australia). The ATO should have the discretion to apply this assistance to flood-affected businesses outside these postcodes if appropriate.

These are practical and tangible steps the Coalition urges the Government to take to provide real support and encouragement for small business people and their employees facing the challenge of re-establishing their businesses in the aftermath of these extraordinary natural disasters.

21 January 2011