Where to turn to if your small business is affected by bushfires or other natural disasters

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Where to turn to if your small business is affected by bushfires or other natural disasters

Even when they only damage property, natural disasters can do immense damage to a small business, whether a long-established company or one just trying to find its feet. 

While farmland or a shopfront isn’t as important as a human life, many SME owners rely on their small business as their sole source of income.

With this in mind, here are some places to turn to if your SME is affected by a natural disaster.

Tax relief

 

If your small business has been affected by a natural disaster, the Australian Taxation Office can grant you more time to sort out your tax affairs because it recognises that you have more urgent issues to deal with.

This means SMEs owners affected by a fire or flood will have more time to lodge their tax returns and respond to the ATO’s enquiries.

For example, the ATO has confirmed business owners affected by the recent bushfires in Western Australia will have their refunds fast-tracked and will have more time to lodge their income tax returns.

People within the community of Yarloop will not have to lodge their activity statements until 28 April.

“We understand that for many people, their tax affairs are the last thing on their minds right now,” Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan said in a statement.

“When people are ready, we will make sure they are supported in meeting their tax obligations.”

Federal government help

 

The federal government offers a range of support services for small businesses affected by fire, flood or extreme weather events.

SMEs in need of urgent financial assistance can turn to the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements program in order to be reimbursed for urgent items such as food, clothing and accommodation.

Canberra may, at times, also pledge additional money for serious natural disasters.

For example, the Australian government contributed more than $465 million towards reconstruction and recovery efforts for businesses, primary producers and individuals in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires across Victoria.

State and local government help

 

While the federal government does assist businesses in times of crisis, state governments and local councils are primarily responsible for helping out SMEs affected by natural disasters.

For example, the December storms in New South Wales have resulted in small businesses and producers being given concessional loans if they were within a certain local government area.

Other states have also been known to offer primary producers and small businesses interest rate and freight subsidies.

More information for your state can be found here.

Help from your bank

 

Your bank may also help you out if you’ve been affected by a natural disaster.

ANZ Bank announced a financial assistance package for its customers in the wake of the recent WA bushfires.

As part of the package, ANZ has offered to suspend repayments on loans, including credit cards, for up to three months.

The bank has also offered to waive fees associated with damaged business EFTPOS or credit card terminals and set up a free customer service hotline.

Help from ASIC

 

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission grants companies more flexibility if faced by a natural disaster while trying to meet their lodgement obligations.

“If you are facing hardship as a result of a natural disaster and you are finding it difficult to pay fees, we may be able to make some arrangements to take account of your situation,” ASIC states on its website.

“We can review late lodgement and late payment fees incurred as a result of matters outside your control and waive them in some circumstances.

“If you have lost your records, we may be able to help you obtain ASIC documents and information from our registers.”

Businesses can apply to waive their online fees here

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Broede Carmody is a former senior reporter at SmartCompany. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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