The ACT government will extend payroll tax exemptions and waivers for territory businesses as part of its coronavirus pandemic recovery plans, but has stopped short of offering direct cash grants to affected businesses.
Commercial rates relief for landlords who drop rents for tenants affected by COVID-19 will be extended until the end of January, while food registration and liquor licensing fees will be cut for an extra year.
The ACT government will also deliver a second round of the Choose CBR voucher program, which was introduced last year to encourage to people in the ACT to buy from local businesses.
Payroll tax exemptions will be extended to businesses who are unable to trade or can only operate on a limited basis due to public health restrictions.
Those businesses will be offered month-to-month assistance for payroll tax payable between January and June.
"The cost of this measure is highly dependent on the status of public health restrictions. At the current level of restrictions costs are expected to be negligible, but if restrictions are required to be reimposed, demand and hence cost would be higher," budget papers released on Tuesday said.
Businesses with payroll under $10 million who are in hardship will have interest-free deferrals of payroll tax extended until June 30. Interest on deferred amounts will begin on July 1.
Payroll tax exemptions for wages paid to new apprentices or trainees, who were employed after August 1 last year, will be extended until June 30.
Businesses will need to self-assess their eligibility for the scheme when lodging their payroll tax returns.
The extension to the government's commercial rate relief program is expected to cost $1.4 million in lost revenue this financial year, but will share "some of the burden with businesses that continue to provide rent reductions in good faith".
"Commercial property owners who operate businesses from premises they own will also be eligible for assistance if they have been negatively affected by COVID-19, until 31 January 2021," budget papers said.
Eligible businesses can apply for the scheme until March 31.
Revenue from commercial general rates is forecast to increase to $219 million in 2020-21, but general rates did not rise for properties with an average unimproved value of $2 million or less. Properties with a higher average unimproved value increased by 5.8 per cent.
Food business registration fees will be waived until March 31, 2022, while outdoor dining permit fees will be waived until June 30, 2022.
Liquor licencing fees will be halved for one year from April 1, 2021 for on liquor and general liquor licensed venues.
The ACT government has committed $2 million in 2020-21 to the Choose CBR voucher program, and will deliver a second round this year.
A first round, introduced in the lead up to Christmas, offered vouchers redeemable across retail, tourism, accommodation, arts and recreation, personal services and hospitality businesses.
Business groups have previously called for direct cash support, with one industry representative saying it was the missing piece of the stimulus puzzle in the ACT.
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt in July said businesses had already been struggling to deal with the effects of bushfires and poor air quality in the months before the pandemic hit.
"In NSW and Queensland and some other jurisdictions, there are one-off cash grants available for small businesses," Mr Catt said.
"The feedback we get from members, particularly as people start to think about the end of JobKeeper, is that it's that direct cash flow support that is missing."
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