Tasmania Economic Risk Mitigation Act Receives Assent

Monday 6 April 2020 @ 3.02 p.m. | Legal Research | Taxation | Trade & Commerce

On 24 March 2020, the Taxation and Related Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2020 (Tas) (the “Bill”) was introduced to Tasmania’s House of Assembly by Michael Ferguson MP, the Minister for Finance, with the Bill also passing the House of Assembly on the same day. Due to the urgency of the Bill, it was introduced into and then passed through the Legislative Council on 25 March 2020.

On 6 April 2020, the Bill received assent as the Taxation and Related Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2020 (Act No 9 of 2020) with commencement on 1 April 2020.

The legislation amends:

  • Payroll Tax Rebate (Apprentices, Trainees and Youth Employees) Act 2017;
  • Payroll Tax Act 2008; and
  • First Home Owner Grant Act 2000.

Object of the Legislation

As outlined in the Minister’s speech, the object of the amendments is “to mitigate the economic risk of the COVID-19 outbreak in Tasmania. The Government is committed to managing and mitigating the very real and significant economic impact of the virus on businesses, jobs, families and the Tasmanian community”.

The amendments include:

  • Payroll Tax Rebate (Apprentices, Trainees and Youth Employees) Act 2017 amended to provide that that businesses that newly employ persons aged 24 years and under between 1 April 2020 and 31 December 2020 will be eligible for a one-year rebate of payroll tax paid for those eligible employees;
  • Payroll Tax Act 2008 amended to provide important payroll tax relief measures that will support Tasmanian jobs; and
  • First Home Owner Grant Act 2000 amended to extend the $20,000 First Home Owner Grant for newly constructed homes by two years from 1 July 2020. Extending the grant will provide important support to eligible first homeowners and assist in ensuring that the housing market remains accessible to those buyers as well as supporting the building and construction sector.

Outlined in the Bill's Explanatory Memorandum ("EM"), a further feature of the legislation provides that the relevant Minister may make a Ministerial Order to waive the payment of payroll tax under the Payroll Tax Act 2008 for a specified period on the “taxable wages paid to an employee or class of employees by an employer”. The Minister may also make an order to waive the requirement to lodge a specified document or return or other administrative processes required under the Payroll Tax Act 2008.

Overview of the Amendments

The amendments in Part 2 of the Act affect the First Home Owner Grant Act 2000 by:

  • amending section 18-"Amount of grant'; and
  • inserting new section 18H-"Conditions on increase in grant".

The amendments in Part 3 of the Act affect the Payroll Tax Act 2008 by:

  • amending Schedule 2 to insert a new Part 4A-"Special Pandemic Provisions", after Clause 10.

The amendments in Part 4 of the Act affect the Payroll Tax Rebate (Apprentices, Trainees and Youth Employees) Act 2017 by:

  • amending section 3-"Interpretation";
  • amending section 5-"Eligible employee for rebate";
  • amending section 6-"Duration of rebate"; and
  • inserting new section 26A-"Extension of certain periods".

Comment and Reaction on the Legislation

Commenting on the Bill in a Media Release, the Minister said:

“The Government will do everything it can to manage and mitigate the economic and social impacts of coronavirus … Our $420 million social and economic support package is designed to support the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians, providing a range of financial assistance, including loans, grants and fee relief.”

The Minister also said in his Speech:

“On 17 March 2020, the Government announced a number of measures to mitigate the economic risk of the COVID-19 outbreak in Tasmania. The Government is committed to managing and mitigating the very real and significant economic impact of the virus on businesses, jobs, families and the Tasmanian community the Government announced three important payroll tax relief initiatives which will provide tangible support to affected businesses and employers in Tasmania, including businesses with youth employees, businesses in the hospitality, tourism and seafood industries and small to medium-sized businesses impacted by the virus.”

Further Stimulus Package Announced

The Advocate reported that on 26 March 2020, Tasmanian Premier, Peter Gutwein (the “Premier”) outlined a second stimulus package to support businesses in Tasmania.

Announcing the package to Parliament, the Premier said the package had four elements: health, business, households and individuals and the community. Some of the initiatives in the latest stimulus package include:

  • a $40 million small business grants program will be established which will comprise of $20 million in emergency grants, which will provide businesses suffering financial hardship an immediate cash support payment of $2500, and a $20 million larger grants program;
  • funding to public health services and GPs will be increased by $3 million to assist GPs, pharmacists and dentists to obtain necessary supplies to protect themselves and the community;
  • an interest free loan scheme will be extended from $50 million to $150 million;
  • households, businesses and community sector organisations on regulated tariffs will see their electricity prices capped for 12 months;
  • water prices for household customers and the community sector will also be frozen for 12 months;
  • a $5 million fund has been established by Aurora Energy to assist customers with bill relief, waiving fees or charges, freezing debt or payment plans; and
  • for workers who have been stood down, up to $3000 will be available for individuals to gain new skills or licences to help them into a new role.

The Premier also said “the State would continue to work with local governments to enable councils to freeze 2020-21 rates at 2019-20 prices”.

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