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In the past few months, more than 10 million hectares of land has been burned by the devastating Australian bushfire, thousands of homes have been destroyed and millions of animals were dead. The country is suffering billions of dollars’ loss during the bushfire season. Returning life to normal is a long way to go for most of us. Therefore, we summarize some assistance available offered by the ATO and other agencies to those impacted by the recent bushfire.

What we can help with

If you are affected by the bushfire and need assistance and support from the government. We are here to help you out FOR FREE. Of course, we can also reach out to ATO on your behalf to seek some tax relief.  

Tax relief

If you live in one of the identified impacted postcodes, around 3.5 million enterprises, individuals and SMSF have received the relief and support which are listed below:

  • Automatically deferred income tax, activity statement, SMSF, and FBT lodgement, and associated payments until 28 May 2020 
    • Defer does not apply to:
      1. Super Guarantee Contribution and Lodgements
      2. Large PAYG withholders (although they can apply for relief, it will be assessed by the ATO on a case by case basis)
  • Fast tracking of refund due
  • Tax payable can be deferred to 28th May 2020
    • Impacted taxpayers can apply for special consideration. The ATO announced that if the applicant is under the ongoing difficult condition, they might be released from income tax and fringe benefit tax debts.
    • Remit penalties or interest charged during the time you have been affected by the bushfire.
  • PAYG instalment can be adjusted to nil without any penalty

If you are not in one of the identified postcode but have been suffered from the bushfires, you might also be entitled to the relief. We can work with the ATO on your behalf.

Individual and families support

Australian social welfare agencies have mobile units to assist with families in the affected areas. People in the affected areas can also receive economic assistance and other forms of relief:

Disaster Recovery Payment

Disaster recovery payment is a tax free Federal Government payment for those who are seriously injured, have lost their immediate family member, have lost their home and had a significant asset loss during the bushfire period:

  • $1000 for each eligible adult and
  • $400 for children under age of 16
  • Additional $400 of educational expense for the eligible children. These payments are automatic if you are the primary carer of a child affected by the bushfire after 30 June 2019.

Loss of Income: Disaster recovery allowance

You are entitled to apply for the government allowance, if you are an Australian resident over 16 years old who works in a bushfire affected area and have lost your income but haven’t received the Government allowance. The allowance provides the income support for up to 13 weeks (equivalent to the maximum Newstart or Youth Allowance).

To be eligible for this allowance, you are required to prove your income is below the relevant income threshold. Although these payments are normally taxable, the government has announced to put it in law and make it tax-free.

Mental health support

Provide up to 10 free support session through primary health networks. In addition, Medicare rebate for 10 psychological therapy session will be granted if you are treated by the eligible GPs, psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers. (you are not required to have a GP referral for these services)

Phone, internet and energy

Many telecommunication providers offer support package including free call diversion, extended payment period, bill waivers under the extreme hardship, to bushfire victims. Please get in touch with your provider for more information.

Many of the energy providers are also offering support such as freezing accounts.

Support for business

Businesses who are directly or indirectly affected by the bushfire are entitled to :

  • Up to $50,000 recovery grant (tax free)
  • Offer a concessional loan of up to $50,000 to the eligible small businesses (including farmers, fishers and foresters) and non-for-profit organizations who suffered a significant asset and monetary loss during the bushfire period. The loan period can be extended to up to 10 years with the intension to repair and replace damaged assets and working capital.

Besides, a series of State Government Grants are also available.

Support for volunteer firefighters

Volunteer firefighters in NSW and QSL may be entitled to the allowance up to $300 per day with a cap of $6,000.  These kinds of allowance will not to be tested and they are tax-free. The payment is initiated by Federal Government and administered by the State Government (please refer to NSW Volunteer Firefighter Payment and QLD Volunteer Compensation Package for more information).

If you are in public sector, you are entitled to an extra 20 days paid emergency service leave to work on the front lines on the top of your normal annual leave.

Many telecommunication providers offer support to volunteer firefighter and SES (State Emergency Service) volunteers. Optus and Telstra, for instance, waive the payment for them from Dec 2019 to Jan 2020. 

If you are one of the bushfire victims and intending to apply and get assistance from the government, you are more than welcome to reach out to  Pitt Martin on 0292213345 or connect@pittmartin.com.au.

Disclaimer: This article is not providing a formal advice and may not suit to all scenarios. Please make an appointment with us to discuss.