ATO Coronavirus Support Measures

The ATO earlier this week announced a series of administrative concessions for taxpayers impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19), as follows: 

  • deferring by up to four months the payment of tax amounts due through the BAS (including PAYG instalments), income tax assessments, FBT assessments and excise 
  • allowing businesses on a quarterly reporting cycle to opt into monthly GST reporting to get quicker access to any GST refunds. Businesses can only make this change from the start of a quarter. Therefore, a change now would only take effect from 1 April 2020. 

The change in cycle to monthly does not mean that a business must change its PAYGW reporting cycle also. Rather, this should be managed by specifying the roles that the business is changing. Once a business has made the choice to report and pay its GST monthly, it must keep reporting monthly for at least 12 months before it can switch back to reporting quarterly. 

  • allowing businesses to vary PAYG instalment amounts to zero for from the March 2020 quarter (the current quarter). Businesses that vary their PAYG instalment to zero can also claim a refund for any instalments made for the September 2019 and December 2019 quarters. 

If a business is a monthly PAYG instalments payer and has a base assessment instalment income of $500m or less, and they want to vary their instalment rate and claim a refund on previous instalments paid, the ATO says the taxpayer will need to phone the ATO (13 72 26) to discuss the matter. If a taxpayer realises that they have made a mistake working out their PAYG instalment, the ATO says they can correct it by lodging a revised activity statement or varying a subsequent instalment. 

  • remitting any interest and penalties, incurred on or after 23 January 2020, that have been applied to tax liabilities and 
  • allowing affected businesses to enter into low-interest payment plans for their existing and ongoing tax liabilities. 

Importantly, these measures will not be implemented automatically by the ATO (unlike the relief measures for the recent bushfires). 

Therefore, anyone impacted is required to contact the ATO Emergency Support Infoline (1800 806 218) when they are ready to request assistance. Once a taxpayer contacts the ATO, the Commissioner says a support plan will be tailored for the taxpayer/business.