THE Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan today announced he has extended a package of tax assistance for people impacted by the recent devastating bushfires in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania as part of the whole-of-government response to the disaster.

Approximately 3.5 million businesses, individuals, and self-managed superannuation funds in impacted local government areas will now have until May 28, 2020, to lodge and pay business activity statements and income tax returns.

Mr Jordan said he hoped the additional time – on top of the two-month extension already granted – would give people the breathing space they need to recover and start to rebuild.

“If you’ve been impacted by these bushfires, we don't want you to be concerned about your tax affairs," Mr Jordan said. "Now is the time for you, your family and your community. We'll help you sort out your tax affairs later.”

Additionally, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is fast tracking any refunds that are due to taxpayers in the impacted regions.

“If you run a business and you’re expecting a refund – on, for example, as a result of GST credits due to large purchases to replace stock – I encourage you to try to lodge or ask your tax professional to lodge your activity statements on your behalf. Refunds generated by lodging may provide some helpful temporary cash flow relief during these difficult times,” Mr Jordan said.

The ATO will also be remitting any interest and penalties applied to tax debts since the commencement of the bushfires that have been applied to accounts of individuals and businesses located in impacted regions.

Mr Jordan said taxpayers or their agents in these areas do not need to apply for a deferral, a faster refund, or remission of interest or penalties. This will be done by the ATO automatically.

For people who have had documents destroyed by the bushfires, the ATO is able to assist by re-issuing documents it has on hand.

For those taxpayers in affected areas with a tax debt or outstanding obligation, the ATO will not initiate debt recovery action until at least May 28, 2020. Taxpayers can also request payment arrangements for outstanding debts. The ATO will also consider releasing individuals and businesses from income tax and fringe benefits tax debts if they are experiencing serious hardship.

Affected taxpayers are also able to vary their income tax instalments to nil without penalties. This also applies if taxpayers end up in a tax payable situation for that quarter once they have lodged their tax return.

The ATO recognises the ongoing effects of this disaster, such as cash flow problems for business owners who have suffered reduced trade. This includes businesses that are not located in the identified regions.

“If you’ve been affected by this disaster but your postcode is not currently in the identified list, phone our Emergency Support Infoline on 1800 806 218 for tailored help," he said.

“It’s important to note that we recognise everyone’s situation is different. We understand there may be situations where additional support or extensions may be required beyond the automatic deferrals that we’ve announced. We’re standing by, ready to work with people who have been impacted on a case-by-case basis and I have made it clear to my staff that I expect them to be flexible, reasonable and pragmatic when considering each request on its merits,” Mr Jordan said.

The ATO will continue to assess the impact of the bushfires and will keep the community informed as it receives more information on additional impacted postcodes and available support.

This tax assistance currently applies to multiple local government areas in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. A complete list is available on our website at ato.gov.au/NaturalDisasters

Employers are reminded that they still need to meet their ongoing super guarantee obligations for their employees. Automatic deferrals do not apply to large pay as you go withholders however large withholders can contact us for assistance with their tax obligations if required.

Any member of the community impacted by disaster and needing assistance or anyone suffering financial hardship is encouraged to talk to their tax or BAS agent or contact the ATO on 1800 806 218, when they are ready, to discuss their situation.

More information about assistance available is at ato.gov.au/NaturalDisasters including:

  • A list of impacted local government areas
  • Lodgment and payment deferrals
  • Faster processing of refunds
  • Damaged or destroyed property
  • Reconstructing your tax records
  • Fuel tax credits for individuals, businesses and others
  • Donations to assist disaster victims
  • Supporting your wellbeing, and
  • Other support available.

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THE EXCLUSIVE provider of towage services at the Port of Gladstone has been accused by the Maritime Workers Union of using sham contracting to undermine wages, conditions and safety after contracting out a tug delivery job traditionally undertaken by local workers.

Local maritime workers are this morning protesting outside the Gladstone office of multinational Smit Lamnalco, following revelations that the work traditionally carried out by direct employees had instead been outsourced to a business using half the number of crew members and paying them 60 percent less.

The Maritime Union of Australia accused Smit Lamnalco, which was last year awarded a five year contract to operate all towage services at the port, of using sham contracting arrangements to undermine the jobs of local workers.

“Multinational towage operator Smit Lamnalco, which operates more than 180 vessels in 30 countries, has brought sham contracting arrangements to Gladstone, undermining the wages, conditions, and safety of local maritime workers,” MUA Queensland Branch deputy secretary Jason Miners said.

“The decision to contract out this tug delivery job — work traditionally done by local employees — to a company using half the number of crew members and paying them just 40 per cent of the wages is a shocking attack on local workers and threatens safety standards at the port.

“Smit Lamnalco claimed it supported local workers when it was seeking the exclusive contract to provide towage services at the Port of Gladstone, but the decision to use a shadowy arrangement to avoid paying decent rates of pay or adhere to appropriate safety standards shows the exact opposite.

“Instead, the company has undertaken blatant adverse action against local workers, avoiding the conditions negotiated in good faith into a workplace agreement, without any kind of consultation process," Mr Miners said.

“If Smit Lamnalco can get away with this sham arrangement it will open the floodgates for any business wanting to avoid wages, conditions, and safety standards put in place following good faith bargaining.

“Shame contracting does not belong in Gladstone, which is why these workers are seeking the support of their local community for their principled stand against this cancerous practice.”

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WHILE HOUSES in Tasmania have enjoyed exceptional price growth in recent years, there has been a marked drop in this increase which is highly likely to continue, According to the latest RiskWise Property Research Risks & Opportunities Report.

As projected in previous reports, the Tasmanian market has been experiencing decelerated price growth over the past year.

RiskWise CEO Doron Peleg said one of the key reasons for the deceleration was that the state remained less affordable than five of the states and territories (in price-to-income ratio) making the market less attractive to investors and owner-occupiers.

“Other factors include the economic growth of Tasmania, which is ranked fifth in Australia, having the lowest median weekly wage and low annual wage growth of 2.3 percent,” Mr Peleg said.

“As house prices continue to rise, they are becoming less affordable due to the low median household income and less affordability means less demand, which affects price growth.”

He said houses in the southern state had enjoyed exceptional capital growth in recent years due to low supply, affordability, lack of attractive investment destinations at the time, for example the Sydney and Melbourne markets, a tighter rental market and strong rental returns.

“However, while houses in Tasmania are expected to deliver positive capital growth in the short term, the market has been experiencing decelerated price growth and we expect this to continue in 2020 with some areas likely to deliver very low or negative capital growth," Mr Peleg said.

“It should also be noted that the recovery of the Melbourne market, with its strong fundamentals and affordability in a number of areas, such as the Western suburbs and Geelong, are providing more attractive investment opportunities than Tasmania, especially Hobart which has become less affordable.”

CoreLogic figures show the annual price growth for houses in Hobart is 3 percent compared with 9.7 percent last year.

Mr Peleg said, however, that houses in Tasmania carried a low-medium risk level as approximately 86 percent were owner-occupied.

“In addition, houses in high-demand areas, particularly affordable houses, still enjoy strong demand and present low risk,” he said.

“Furthermore, unlike some other states, lending restrictions have had a relatively modest impact.”

Mr Peleg said while units had also delivered strong growth, they carried a higher level of risk due to the relatively high number in the pipeline compared to population growth.

“The relatively high proportion of units that are investment properties also increases the risk associated with such properties, particularly with the improved attractiveness of the Melbourne market,” Mr Peleg said.

“Also, there are a number of risk factors that may have a negative impact on units in the medium to long term. For example, off-the-plan units carry a significantly higher level of risk.

“Furthermore, the unit-to-house price ratio in Tasmania is high. Our research shows that, statistically, if the unit-to-house ratio exceeds 65 percent it makes houses a much better investment option for buyers with significantly higher capital growth.

“Conversely, if it falls below 45 percent, units are preferred. In Greater Hobart, the median unit price is $378,846, while the median house price is $492,465, placing the unit-to-house ratio at 77 percent, which is considered high and this means there is certainly a higher risk for units.”

www.riskwiseproperty.com.au

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NEW YORK and Hong Kong-headquartered investment banking firm Jefferies has announced that on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, the firm will dedicate a day of trading to support relief efforts needed after the devastation caused by the recent wildfires taking place in Australia.

Specifically, Jefferies will donate net trading commissions on Wednesday, January 22 for all trading in Asia Pacific securities, including equities, fixed income and FX, by the firm’s clients globally.

Simultaneously, all of the firm’s global employees will also be given the opportunity to personally donate to the relief effort. Jefferies will match all client trading commissions generated that day, as well as match all employee donations from across the firm. The total contribution will then be donated to relief organizations directly involved in the rescue and recovery efforts in Australia.

Rich Handler, CEO, and Brian Friedman, president, of Jefferies said, "All of us at Jefferies, including our 57 colleagues in Australia, 423 across Asia Pacific and 3,813 globally, are deeply saddened and concerned about this catastrophic devastation. We hope this donation from Jefferies will help, in some small way, to ease the pain of those affected by this disaster, and we encourage our global clients and employees to join our efforts to contribute to those in need.”

Jefferies Group LLC, is said to be the largest independent full-service global investment banking firm headquartered in the US, focused on serving clients for over 55 years, and is a leader in providing insight, expertise and execution to investors, companies and governments.

The firm provides a full range of investment banking, advisory, sales and trading, research and wealth management services across all products in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Jefferies Group LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jefferies Financial Group Inc. (NYSE: JEF), a diversified financial services company.

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NEW HOME starts have hit a seven-year low, but infrastructure starts have finally begun to kick in, according to Master Builders Australia.

“The number of new homes started during the September 2019 quarter has dropped to its lowest point since early 2013, although the news on infrastructure work was a little better,” Master Builders chief economist Shane Garrett said.

“Official results released this morning by the ABS indicate that new home building starts suffered an 11.7 percent reduction during the September 2019 quarter. The volume of engineering construction work done inched up by 0.5% over the same period,” Mr Garrett said.

 “The fall in new home starts was more pronounced in the high-density part of the market where a 21.9 percent decline occurred during the September 2019 quarter. This was due to a number of one off factors including the reputational issues around apartments during the middle of last year as well as the adverse fall out from the banking Royal Commission and its detrimental impact on credit.

“Despite these disappointing figures, the latest indicators around building approvals and house prices do suggest that a resumption of growth in new home building is not too far off,” he said. 

“Having recently sagged to a decade low, engineering construction did take a small step in the right direction during the September 2019 quarter. Engineering activity is positioned to benefit the most from the host of new infrastructure projects announced in recent times.

“It is taking longer than we would like to see new infrastructure announcements translate into real action on the ground. The figures today provide welcome evidence that activity here is finally gaining ground, albeit it gradually,” Mr Garrett said. 

“There remains a strong onus on government to ensure that infrastructure project work is still delivered as quickly as possible so that the considerable gap in economic growth can be closed."

www.masterbuildersaustralia.com.au

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