Covid-19 Financial Update #15 – Queensland Relief & Stimulus Packages Summary

In response to the coronavirus (‘COVID-19’) pandemic currently impacting the economy and businesses generally, each Australian State and Territory Government has announced relief and other support packages as part of the broader economic stimulus measures.

Payroll Tax

The following measures are available, based on Australian Taxable wages:

  • If grouped Australian wages are $6.5 million or less – A refund of payroll tax paid for November and December 2019 and a payroll tax holiday for January, February and March 2020.

Employers can also apply for a deferral of payroll tax for the 2020 calendar year.

  • If Australian Taxable wages are more than $6.5 million – Employers can apply for a payroll tax deferral for the 2020 calendar year and a refund of payroll tax paid for January and February 2020.

https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/employing/payrolltax/lodging/coronavirus-tax-relief

Payments made under the Federal Government’s JobKeeper Scheme are expected to be exempt from payroll tax (note, this is yet to be confirmed).

Land Tax / Rates

Landowners may be entitled to one or more of the following relief measures:

  • A land tax rebate of 25% for eligible properties for the 2019/20 assessment year (landowners will need to apply for the rebate).

Landowners may be eligible for the land tax rebate for eligible properties, for the 2019/20 year, if at least one of the following circumstances apply:

  1. The landowner leases all or part of a property to one or more tenants and all the following apply:
  • The ability of one or more tenants to pay their normal rent is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The landowner will provide rent relief to the affected tenant(s) of an amount at least commensurate with the land tax rebate.
  • The landowner will comply with specified leasing principles (refer to 3. below), even if the relevant lease is not regulated.
  1. All of the following apply:
  • All or part of the landowner’s property is available for lease.
  • The landowner’s ability to secure a tenant(s) has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The landowner requires land tax relief to meet their financial obligations.
  • The landowner will comply with specified leasing principles (refer to 3. below), even if the relevant lease is not regulated.
  1. An automatic waiver of the 2% land tax foreign surcharge for foreign entities for the 2019/20 assessment year (a refund will be issued if the assessment has already been paid).
  • An automatic three-month deferral of land tax liabilities for the 2020/21 assessment year.

https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/tax/covid-19

Relief for Landlords and Tenants

On 29 March 2020, the QLD Government committed to implementing a six month moratorium on rental evictions for commercial and residential tenants in financial distress, and a mandatory code of conduct for commercial tenancies to support small and medium sized businesses affected by COVID-19, as agreed at National Cabinet.

Commercial Tenancies

Landowners may be eligible for a land tax rebate (refer to 2. above), if they comply with the following leasing principles aimed at supporting and protecting tenants:

  • Negotiate in good faith with the tenant to seek a mutually agreeable resolution if their ability to pay is impacted by COVID-19.
  • Not evict the tenant if they are in financial distress and unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • Not increase rent, except where rent is linked to turnover.
  • Not penalise a tenant who stops trading or reduces opening hours.
  • Not charge any interest on unpaid or deferred rent.
  • Not make a claim on a bank guarantee or security deposit for non-payment of rent.

These principles will also be introduced into Queensland law.

In addition to these principles, landowners with small and medium enterprise (‘SME’) commercial tenancies are advised to familiarise themselves with the Federal Government’s ‘National Cabinet Mandatory Code of Conduct – SME Commercial Leasing Principles During COVID-19’.

Residential Tenancies

A package of measures has been introduced to implement a freeze on evictions (as of 29 March 2020) due to rental arrears for COVID-19 impacted tenants, including the following:

  • Access to information and resources to help landlords and tenants negotiate a solution that works for all parties.
  • Compulsory conciliation through the Residential Tenancies Authority for disputes where the parties cannot reach an agreement.
  • Property owners will be prohibited from evicting a tenant if their lease expires during the COVID-19 crisis (they must offer an extension to the lease for at least a further six months).
  • Tenants that cannot pay rent due to the impacts of COVID-19 will be allowed to end their lease early if they wish to do so.
  • Tenants experiencing hardship may be eligible for rental grants up to four weeks’ rent (or a maximum of $2,000) “as a last resort” if they are in need of support while waiting on Federal Government support to prevent homelessness.
  • Tenants experiencing domestic and family violence situations will be protected by legislation that allows access to immediate support to end tenancies quickly, changing locks without seeking approval, access to bond and separation from co-tenancies.

Government Premises Rent Relief

Six months relief for businesses renting government premises.

Small business

A $500 million Jobs Support Loan scheme provides eligible businesses (including small businesses) impacted by COVID-19 with concessional loans of up to $250,000 (with no repayments or interest for the first year, plus two years interest only) to assist with retaining staff and maintaining operations.

Note, due to overwhelming demand, the Jobs Support Loan scheme has now closed to new applications.

Grants

The Market Diversification and Resilience Grants (‘MDRG’) program offers the following grants to assist Queensland agriculture, food, forestry and fishing exporters, their supply chain partners (e.g., a fishing business, grower, producer, wholesaler etc.), and industry organisations, to build resilience by diversifying into new markets:

  1. Equipment purchase grants of up to $7,500 to support new equipment purchases up to a maximum cost of $10,000. Applicants must contribute 25% of the total cost. Applications are assessed on an on-going basis.
  2. Project grants of up to $50,000 will be available to support project activities (e.g., market evaluation, staff training and new equipment). Applicants must co-invest 50% of the total cost of their project activities or equipment purchases. Note, applications close on 20 April 2020.

Utility Assistance

Sole traders, small and medium businesses will get an automatic rebate of $500 on their electricity bill. Any business consuming less than 100,000 kilowatt hours will receive the rebate.

Households will receive an automatic rebate of $200 to assist with their utility bills (electricity and water).

Liquor Licence

The waiver of 2020/21 liquor licencing fees.

https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/hospitality-tourism-sport/liquorgaming/coronavirus-advice

Fees and Levies

The waiver of a range of fees, charges and levies to support tourism operators to continue to operate. This includes application and liquor licencing fees for businesses impacted by enforced shutdowns, registration renewal fees for Inbound Tour Operators, rebates on marina charges and passenger levies.

It also includes a deferral of tourism lease rent payments.

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