Speaking to Accountants Daily, The Tax Institute’s senior advocate Robyn Jacobson said that the joint professional bodies had pushed for a full deferral of retesting until the end of lockdowns in a bid to lighten the workload on already struggling practitioners, but were told it was a non-negotiable policy change.
“Ultimately, it is the government’s right to change policy any time they like, and it is the government’s position to require retesting from now on,” said Ms Jacobson.
“However, government doesn’t always understand the practical implications of the policies they design.”
The policy change will require accountants, tax or BAS agents who applied for JobSaver or the Micro-Business Grant on behalf of their clients to retest their eligibility every fortnight.
The retest must confirm that the business has continued to experience a decline in turnover of at least 30 per cent and has maintained its employee headcount as stated in its initial application.
Despite the NSW government’s uncompromising stance towards retesting, the joint bodies, including Chartered Accountants ANZ, CPA Australia, the Institute of Public Accountants, the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and The Tax Institute, did manage to secure a number of concessions for practitioners and their clients.
The first allows businesses that are still closed or severely impacted by restrictions to simply indicate that they remain eligible without a calculation of decline in turnover.
The other concession provides businesses with an option to choose a comparison period that matches the period used in their initial application, or a corresponding fortnight that matches the new fortnight they are retesting for.
An example provided by Service NSW notes that businesses that used the 26 July to 8 August 2019 fortnight in their initial application can use this same period to reconfirm their eligibility for the period of 13-26 September 2021.
Alternatively, they can compare the period of 13-26 September 2021 to the corresponding period of 13-26 September 2019.
Service NSW has also confirmed that September payments will continue to flow without the need for businesses to reconfirm their eligibility, with payments only ceasing if reconfirmation is not provided from October.
“The new JobSaver retesting requirement is a good example of there being compromises on both sides, to ensure the intended policy is practical and workable,” said Ms Jacobson.
“Following a collegial consultation, the NSW Government’s position pleasingly and sensibly shifted to allow more flexible retesting options.
“Not all accountants will be happy with the policy decision but we’ve actually come a long way from where we were on Friday 10 September.”
NSW accountant Gavin Swan said that while the Berejiklian government had underestimated the time it would take accountants to complete decline in turnover calculations every fortnight, he understood the rationale behind the policy change.
“The intent of the government is obviously to unwind some of these measures to people who may not meet the criteria because they don’t want to be tarred with the JobKeeper brush,” said Mr Swan.
“The professional bodies have made the absolute best of a pretty bad situation.
“We’ve been beaten up pretty bad in the past 18 months and this is just another punch but I’m very confident we will get through it.”
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.