“I wait with anticipation”: Sole traders begin receiving JobKeeper payments as enrolment experiences vary wildly

Aussie businesses

Sole traders have provided a mixed view of their experiences enrolling in the Morrison government’s $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy program, but many say payments have started to flow in recent days.

After initial issues with JobKeeper enrolment forms prevented some sole traders from processing their applications late last month, business owners have been anxious to find out when they’d be paid under the wage subsidy scheme after processing their papers and making their turnover declarations.

Most of those SmartCompany contacted on Wednesday said payments from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) had started to flow, delivering much needed support to their businesses, which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I found the process very simple and am relieved to say I have received my first payment for April,” Kathie Elliot, owner of Square Pegs consulting, tells SmartCompany.

“I initially registered my interest, and then a few weeks later enrolled in the scheme through MyGov in under two minutes on my phone.

“I then added my income for April and my prediction for May, again via MyGov … and then two-to-three days later, received my first payment.”

The ATO has fielded a flood of interest from sole traders in the JobKeeper program over the last month, with more about 40% of the 750,000 or so firms that had enrolled in the program as of last week having no employees.

That means more than 300,000 sole traders have formally enrolled for wage subsidy payments.

As of yesterday, 835,000 businesses employing more than 5.5 million workers had formally enrolled in JobKeeeper in total.

Easy to apply, but lacking confirmation

Under the JobKeeper rules sole traders are allowed to apply for the $1,500 fortnightly payments as long as they meet the headline eligibility criteria applicable to other firms, as well as some other specific conditions.

Ellie Williams, owner of Palermo PR, says she found the application process “surprisingly easy” but is nervous because there’s been no communication about the status of her application.

“When I login to the ATO section of MyGov it says I’ve done what I need to do but there’s been no communication around what happens next or when I might expect payment. It makes me think I might have done something wrong!” Williams told SmartCompany.

Confusing from start to finish

But not everyone has had a smooth experience enrolling for the subsidies. Jarrod Partridge, owner of Idea Guru, says he found the process confusing “from start to finish”.

“Each government website page I read had vague information, and just linked to another page, and another, and around I went. The simplest part (registering) was highly elusive,” Partridge told SmartCompany.

Sole traders often run their own books and operate without an accountant on retainer. It’s not surprising then that hundreds of business owners have flooded social media groups in recent weeks to ask questions about the payments.

“Eventually, I was able to find a Facebook group run by a Sydney-based accountant who had cracked the code, and was sharing quality information, which helped me more than any source,” Partridge said.

Partridge said the ATO informed him his first round of payments would arrive today, but the entire process has been difficult to navigate while also running his business.

“I wait with anticipation,” he said.

The experts really help

Ethan Hyde, a web designer and owner of More Leads More Revenue, recommends getting professional help, saying he found the JobKeeper process easy once he got in touch with this accountant.

“Received the first amount of money this week and my accountant manages everything,” Hyde told SmartCompany.

“As easy as it was, I recommend getting a professional to help. Messing this up can delay your payment and cause a headache when you don’t need one.”

What has your JobKeeper experience been like? Get in touch at [email protected] and let us know.

NOW READ: ATO tweet suggests SMEs could be looking at 14-day delay to JobKeeper payments

NOW READ: The ATO will respond “sympathetically” to good-faith JobKeeper participants but “forcefully” where businesses fail to pass on payments

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