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ATO Tax Time Support: COVID-19 and Natural Disasters

The ATO has a range of year-end tax time options to support taxpayers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters. Income statements can be accessed in ATO online services through myGov accounts from 14 July. The ATO also reminds those who may have lost, damaged or destroyed tax records due to natural disasters that some records can be accessed through their myGov account or their registered tax agent. For lost receipts, the ATO can accept “reasonable claims without evidence, so long as it’s not reasonably possible to access the original documents”. A justification may be required on how a claim is calculated.

TIP: Even if you can’t pay, it’s still important to lodge on time. We can help you understand your tax position and find the best support for you.

 

JobKeeper

 

Payments received as an employee will be automatically included in the employee’s income statement as either salary and wages or as an allowance. However, sole traders who received JobKeeper payment on behalf of their business will need to include the payment as assessable income for the business.

 

JobSeeker

 

Payments received will be automatically included in the tax return at the Government Payments and Allowances question from 14 July.

 

Stand down payments

 

Employees receiving one-off or regular payments from their employer after being temporarily stood down due to COVID-19 should expect to see those payments automatically included in their income statement as part of their tax return.

 

COVID-19 Disaster Payment

 

The Australian Government (through Services Australia) COVID-19 Disaster Payment for people affected by restrictions is taxable. Taxpayers are advised to ensure they include this income when lodging their returns.

 

Other assistance

 

The tax treatment of assistance payments can vary; the ATO website outlines how a range of disaster payments impact tax returns and includes guidance on COVID-19 payments, including the taxable pandemic leave disaster payment.

 

Early access to superannuation

 

Early access to superannuation under the special arrangements due to COVID-19 is tax free and does not need to be declared in tax returns.

 

Hardship priority processing of tax returns

 

If your business is experiencing financial difficulties due to the latest lockdowns, the ATO may be able to help by processing your tax return faster and expediting the release of any refund to you. To be eligible for priority processing, you’ll need to apply to the ATO and provide supporting documents (within four weeks of your submission) outlining your circumstances. “Financial difficulty” may include many situations such as disconnection of an essential service, pending legal action or repossession of a business vehicle.

 

TIP: Priority processing of a business tax return doesn’t guarantee a refund. If your business has outstanding tax or other debts with Australian government agencies, the credit from a return may be used to pay down those debts.

 

You can apply for ATO priority processing over the phone or through your tax professional after the lodgement of the tax return in question. Once the initial request for priority processing is received, you’ll be notified and contacted if more information is required. Processing will take more time for businesses that have lodged several years’ worth of income tax returns of amendments at the same time, and those that have unresolved tax debts. Before lodging any priority processing request, check the progress of your return through online services, over the phone or by contacting us as your tax professional. If the return is in the final stages of processing, you may not need to lodge a priority processing request – the return will be finalised before the ATO has an opportunity to consider the request.

 

For help and information about Covid-19 support at tax time, get in touch today.