10M hectares, lives lost, wildlife on the brink, billions in lost revenue and clean-up costs

For many, returning life to normal is a long way off this summer. We summarise the help available to those impacted by the bushfires.

bushfiresWhat we can do for you
If you are impacted by bushfires, we can help. Many will need to lodge economic loss claims to ensure that the true value of what they have lost is recognised. 

We will help with these claims pro-bono. And, of course, to work with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) on disaster relief requirements. 

Tax relief
Approximately 3.5 million businesses, individuals, and self-managed superannuation funds in identified areas (see the list of affected postcodes) have been granted special concessions and relief by the ATO:

  • An automatic extension until 28 May 2020 to lodge and pay activity statements, income tax, SMSF and FBT lodgements.
    • The deferral does not apply to:
      • Superannuation guarantee payments or lodgements
      • Large PAYG withholders (although they will be assessed on a case by case basis if they apply for relief from the ATO)
  • Fast tracking of refunds due
  • Tax debt recovery on hold until 28 May 2020. 
    • Impacted taxpayers need to apply for special consideration. The ATO has stated they will, "consider releasing individuals and businesses from income tax and fringe benefits tax debts if they are experiencing serious hardship."
    • Interest and penalties accrued by taxpayers in affected areas since the bushfires commenced will be remitted
  • Income tax instalments able to be varied to nil without penalty

If you are not in one of the identified postcodes but have been impacted by the bushfires, relief might still be available to you. When can work with the ATO on your behalf.

Support for individuals and families
Services Australia have mobile units assisting those in fire affected areas. Several payments and different forms of relief are available to those in fire affected areas:

Disaster recovery payments
The Disaster recovery payment is a tax exempt Federal Government payment available to those who are seriously injured, have lost an immediate family member, have lost their home or had it significantly damaged, or have lost major assets (or damaged):

  • $1,000 for each eligible adult, and 
  • $400 for a dependent child under the age of 16. 
  • An additional $400 to help with education expenses for eligible children. These payments are automatic if you are the primary carer of a child affected by the bushfires after 30 June 2019.

Loss of income: Disaster recovery allowance
If you work in a bushfire affected area, are an Australian resident over 16 years of age, are not already receiving a Government allowance, and have lost income as a result of the fires, you might be able to claim the Disaster recovery allowance. The allowance provides income support for up to 13 weeks (equivalent to the maximum Newstart or Youth Allowance).

You will need to prove that you earnt below the relevant income threshold to access the payment. While these payments are normally taxable, the Government has announced that it plans to introduce legislation that would make them tax-free, but this is not yet law.

Mental health support
Up to 10 free support sessions are available through primary health networks. In addition, Medicare rebates for 10 psychological therapy sessions through eligible GPs, psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers (you will not need a GP referral to access these services).

Phone, internet and energy
Many of the telecommunications providers are offering support packages for those impacted by the fires including free call diversion, extended time for bill payments, bill waivers in extreme hardship, and free prepaid recharges. Contact your provider.

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

Collins Hume partners with you to achieve greater business and lifestyle success as your trusted advisers. Call us in Ballina or Byron Bay on 02 6686 3000.