In late March, the federal government announced the launch of the JobKeeper Payment – an unprecedented wage supplementation program that aims to keep the individuals and businesses solvent during the COVID-19 crisis. With parliament having now legislated the Treasurer’s ability to create the scheme, this month’s Technical Blog looks at the rules governing this remarkable social safety net.
The helicopter view
JobKeeper Payment will be paid to businesses that have suffered a significant loss of revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The payments will be a reimbursement of salary and wage costs already incurred by the employer and aims to help them retain employees. Eligible employers will receive $1500 per fortnight, per eligible employee for up to 6 months starting from March 30, 2020. The payment will also be available to the self-employed.
To be eligible for the JobKeeper payment, a business must:
- Where it has annual turnover of less than $1 billion, have had a drop in revenue of more than 30 per cent over a comparable period from a year prior, or
- Where it has annual turnover of $1 billion or more, have had a drop in revenue of more than 50 per cent over a comparable period from a year prior, or
Charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) will be eligible if they have had a drop in turnover of 15 per cent or more.
The period of comparison must be at least a month long.
Businesses that have not experienced a drop in revenue large enough to qualify for the JobKeeper Payment as at the scheme’s commencement on March 30 may qualify for the scheme later. In this instance, payments will not be backdated to the commencement of the payment.
There will be manual assessment processes available for businesses that were not in operation a year prior, or whose revenue a year prior was not representative of their normal revenue.
Eligible employers can receive $1500 per fortnight for each eligible employee on their books on March 1, 2020, who continue to be on their books. These include full-time, part-time, long-term casual and stood down employees. Casual employees are considered long-term if they were on the employer’s books and regularly employed for at least 12 months up to March 1, 2020.
For an employee to be eligible they must be an Australian citizen, hold a permanent resident visa; or hold a Protected Special Category, Special Category (Subclass 444), or non-protected Special Category visa. Non-protected Special Category visa holders must have been residing in Australia continuously for 10 years to be eligible.
Eligible employees must also have been Australian tax residents and aged 16 years or older on March 1, 2020.
An employee can be eligible even if the business let them go after March 1, 2020 and subsequently re-engaged them. Back pay can be made for these individuals to allow them to benefit from the JobKeeper Payment. Back pay can date from the first fortnight of the scheme, March 30 to April 12, and qualify for reimbursement.
Those who are self-employed will be eligible if they have had a drop in revenue of more than 30 per cent over a comparable period (of at least a month) from a year prior.
Payments must flow to the employee
Employees must be paid before a business is eligible for a JobKeeper Payment. JobKeeeper Payment is a reimbursement for salary and wages already paid to employees
Eligible employees for whom an employer receives a JobKeeper Payment must have a minimum of $1500 per fortnight paid to them by their employer as pre-tax income. This includes those who ordinarily earn less than $1500 per fortnight.
It is up to employers as to whether they pay superannuation on top of the JobKeeper Payment for employees where the employer has topped up the employee’s usual income to the minimum $1500 per fortnight amount.
Applying and payment
Employers will need to make an application to the ATO to register for the scheme (expressions of interest can be registered now – click here to do so).
Payments will be made by the ATO monthly in arrears and will start to be received by businesses in the first week of May. To be eligible, each employee must have been paid a minimum of $1500 in pre-tax income in the relevant payment fortnight (the first runs from March 30 to April 12 and the last from September 14 to 27). Those employers who pay monthly must make the equivalent monthly payments.
Employers should make salary and wage payments using their payroll systems, and these will be reported to the ATO via Single Touch Payroll (STP).
Want to know more?
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You can also visit Treasury’s JobKeeper Payment page which includes a lengthy list of Frequently Asked Questions.
The information contained in this publication is based on the understanding knowIT Group Pty Ltd ABN 27755976705 AFSL 333649 has of the relevant Australian legislation as at the date shown in this publication. The information contained in this publication is of a general nature only and is intended for use by financial advisers and other licensed professionals only. It must not be handed to clients for their keeping nor can any copies of sections of this publication be given to clients. knowIT Group is not a registered tax agent under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009. We recommend that your client be referred to their registered tax agent or legal adviser prior to implementing any recommendations that you may make based on the information contained in this publication.