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Business challenges and opportunities with COVID-19

We know your inboxes are already filled with “how to deal with COVID-19” emails. But we thought it would be important to share with you what BMO has done over the past few weeks to prepare and things to think about for your small business.

You get to set the tone

We recognise for many businesses this is going to be a very challenging time, logistically and financially. However, we do encourage you to think about the kind of tone you want to set with your clients/customers and your employees.  As business leaders and employers, it’s important to be alert and aware of the ever-evolving situation and manage new developments as proactively as possible, but at the same time it’s important to be calm and adaptable so that you can ensure the smoothest possible business resilience and continuity.  We recommend focussing on the things you can control and not get into a panic about things you can’t control.  Communicate as openly and honestly as you can with your employees, customers, bank and suppliers so that you can keep a positive and proactive approach during these uncertain times.

 

How ‘we’re with you’ through this unusual time

BMO has been working behind the scenes over the past few weeks to ensure all our employees are set up to work from home if necessary. We use a secure network with dual authentication log in and have a system that supports a high number of remote users.  We have for many years worked towards a “paperless” office, so our files are all electronic allowing a relatively seamless transition to remote work if required. At this stage we will continue to remain open and only self-isolating employees or those at risk will be working from home.  If we do need to close the office at any stage, we will have phones redirected appropriately to key team members. You may experience slowing of service depending on internet capability and sometime delays with return phone calls (just due to lack of proximity), but for the most part, it’s business as usual for us! We feel confident you will see very little change in the way we serve you.

To protect our employees and our clients we are limiting the number of face-to-face meetings as much as possible. We can offer teleconference and/or skype meetings. We will also be ceasing from handshaking as a greeting as recommended by public health authorities.

 

Government stimulus package for SME’s

The government has announced a range of measures to support the economy, business and employment in the face of the coronavirus health crisis. The key measures include the below.

  • Cash Flow Boost for employers – Eligible businesses will receive a payment equal to 50 per cent of taxes withheld from employees’ salary and wages up to $25,000. The payment will be delivered as a credit in the activity statement system from 28 April 2020 upon businesses lodging eligible upcoming activity statements. Where this places the business in a refund position, the ATO will deliver the refund within 14 days.

https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Assistance_for_businesses.pdf

  • Increasing the instant asset write off – from Thursday 12 March the threshold for the instant asset write off has increased from $30,000 to $150,000. The increase will only be available from 12 March to 30 June 2020 for new or second-hand assets first used or installed ready for use by 30 June 2020.
  • Accelerated depreciation – the government is proposing an accelerated depreciation deduction for eligible new plant and equipment assets acquired from 12 March and first used or installed by 30 June 2021. Eligible taxpayers will receive a deduction of 50 per cent of the cost of the eligible asset on installation, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance.
  • Apprentice and trainee wage subsidy – the government will offer employers a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of an apprentice’s or trainee’s wage from 1 January to 30 September 2020, capped at $7000 each quarter per each eligible apprentice or trainee. Businesses with less than 20 full-time staff will be eligible.
  • Direct payment to individuals – the government will make a one-off payment of $750 to around 6.5 million social security, veterans and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders residing in Australia.

Businesses impacted by the coronavirus are encouraged to get in touch with the ATO to discuss relief options. Options available to assist impacted businesses include deferring by up to four months the payment date of amounts due through the business activity statement (BAS, including PAYG instalments), income tax assessments, FBT assessments and excise. Along with allowing businesses to vary PAYG instalment amounts to zero for the March 2020 quarter.

https://business.gov.au/risk-management/emergency-management/coronavirus-information-and-support-for-business

 

Managing Employees

During this time there is a lot of uncertainty regarding how you should manage your employees during periods where they are unable to work. Given the circumstances the first thing that an employer will need to do is to be ready for change. By the time you read this information there will be new information that comes to light regarding this pandemic so you must be ready to move with it.

For now please use the following advice:

  • Ensure your employees are aware of their obligations regarding hygiene within the workplace.
  • Where you are able to, put in place contingencies for employees to begin working from home.
  • Where an employee is required to isolate due to returning from overseas travel, a family members has presented with symptoms or they are being tested themselves then please adhere to the Government advice and make sure they do not come to work.
  • While an employee is in isolation you may also offer them to work remotely. Please ensure that all measures are taken to not have anyone in physical contact with the employee i.e. have all communication via electronic means.
  • Where you are unsure of what you are required to pay an employee during isolation or if they are off work due to contracting the virus then please contact our office to discuss.

As we have said above these circumstances are continually changing. We will continue to update as more information regarding employees becomes available.

If you have any questions regarding the information above then please don’t hesitate to contact BMO.

 

Business continuity policies

By now most businesses will have put in place policies in relation to your own business continuity. Remember at BMO we’re not just your accountant, we are your sounding board, so if you do want to talk over what plans you have in place, please feel free to contact BMO to discuss.  If your business has a close face-to-face component, make sure you have very clear policies about employee and customer’s hygiene and expectations, use signage to explain your policies so that you can politely decline to serve someone who is presenting in your business with symptoms.

 

Be wary of hoax information

We’ve already heard some doozies! Drink water every 15 minutes and it will kill the virus, stand in temperatures less than 20 degrees.  We’re not health professionals, but if these simple measures really “killed” the virus we are pretty sure the top ranking medical experts around the world would have been using them before now!  Please only rely on information provided by Government authorities.

Australian Govt: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

Qld Govt: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19

There is good information on these sites in relation to hand hygiene and practical measures we can take to help avoid the spread.

 

Business opportunity and rebuilding

It’s important to also have a look at your business and think about ways that you can make the most of this opportunity.  We don’t necessarily mean go into business importing toilet paper and hand sanitiser, but if you are unable to see clients or customers, think about how you can make the most of the quiet time, but still generate revenue.  Is it the time to write that e-book you’ve always thought about, or set up the online retail store that you’ve been putting off?  What about taking the time to clean up your database or touching base with customers by phone?   You could use the time to work with your accountant on having a more detailed look at your product lines and financial indicators to see what tweaks you can make to increase profit margins.  Think about this as a unique opportunity to take some time to really work ON your business.  What about having a skype meeting with your business leaders to set your strategic plan in place, or a skype focus group with key customers to discuss how your business can improve.  When it’s time to go back to “normal”, you might be ready to relaunch with a fresh new outlook!

 

Links to resources for Businesses

Here’s a list of sites that could be handy for your business:

Federal Government subsidies to help cash flow – support for businesses to manage cash flow challenges and help retain their employees

Federal Government assistance to businesses – information and support for business

State Government support – Queensland small business support

Market diversification and resilience grants – for Queensland agriculture, food and fishing exporters and their critical supply chain partners

Equipment purchase grants – for new equipment purchases to support agriculture, food and fisheries directly impacted

Queensland COVID-19 Jobs Support Loans – QRIDA provide a new $500 million loan facility

 

General Advice

Queensland Health Information – current health status and advice for Queenslander’s

Advice for travellers – restrictions for overseas travel

Great video on how to protect from Coronavirus – renowned doctor shares essential facts

Coronavirus health resources – a collection of resources for the general public and industry

Coronavirus information for employers – information for employers

 

Sources: TSBE, Australian Government, Queensland Government

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Michelle McVeigh

About the author

Determination, high technical competence and empathy for clients are qualities that characterise Michelle McVeigh. After Michelle completed her Bachelor of Business (Accounting), she launched her career working in accounting and finance in the cotton industry. In 1994, Michelle joined BMO and went on to become a partner in 2008. She has extensive taxation and accounting experience, is a READ MORE


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