As the bushfires that devastated large swathes of the country continue on their destructive path leaving shatter communities in their wake, there are glimmers of hope with efforts to support and rebuild these communities starting to gather pace. In conjunction with these efforts, the ATO has announced automatic deferrals for lodgements and payments for taxpayers in impacted postcodes in the states of NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

Taxpayers in areas impacted by bushfires in November 2019 will have until 28 January 2020 to lodge their November quarterly BAS. Monthly BASs for November and December have been automatically deferred to 21 January 2020. In addition, 2018-19 income tax bills that were due on 21 November 2019 has been deferred to 21 January 2020. Those in bushfire impacted zones in December/January 2020 will have until 21 March 2020 to lodge their December, January and February monthly BASs.

The ATO has set up an emergency support information line for people that have been affected by the bushfires but their postcode is not currently in the identified impacted postcodes list. Those individuals with homes or businesses in the impacted postcodes can also use the emergency support line if they require more assistance. The ATO notes that it can fast-track any refunds owed and help reconstruct lost or damaged records.

In addition, the government is working to ensure that disaster recovery allowance payments made to individuals, and grants made to small businesses and primary producers under disaster recovery funding arrangements will be tax exempt. An extra $400 will be allocated to families for each child that has qualified for these payments and additional financial counselling services will also be available.

Financial support for RFS volunteers is expected to be available in late January for those individuals that have been called out for more than 10 days this fire season and who are self-employed or work for small and medium businesses. Payments provide for lost income of up to $300 per day up to a total of $6,000 per person. It will not be means tested and the amount received will be tax-free.

If you or your family has been affected by the bushfires, the last thing you want to be thinking about is tax. We can help you figure out whether you get an automatic deferral and contact the ATO to make further arrangements while you concentrate on the task of rebuilding.