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Accountants and BAS agents: Xero has created a new tool to help your clients apply for lockdown support

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Joseph Lyons

Jul 19, 2021

This article was published on Monday, 16 August 2021. As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, you can find the information you need on government support at Service NSW

If you’re an accountant or BAS agent with clients in New South Wales (NSW), chances are, you’ve heard about the new support package for businesses impacted by the Greater Sydney lockdown and those on the NSW border with Victoria. As of today, eligible business owners can apply for a COVID-19 business grant outlined here. However, in order to qualify for financial assistance, they’re going to need your help. 

At this stage, to apply for a COVID-19 business grant, your clients will need a letter from you (download the Service NSW template or look to the version provided by your professional body) demonstrating a decline in turnover of at least 30 percent across a minimum fortnightly period within the Greater Sydney lockdown periody (which began 26 June). This must be compared to one of three options: the same period in 2019, the same period in 2020, or the fortnight immediately before 26 June 2021. For businesses on the NSW border with Victoria impacted by stay-at-home restrictions that began on 27 May, a different time frame could apply. Any fortnight between 27 May to the end of the NSW lockdown may be used to show a decline in turnover compared to the same minimum period in 2019, 2020 or the fortnight immediately before 27 May 2021. 

To help make this assessment easier, Xero has released a ‘COVID-19 Business Support’ tool. Read on to find out where you can access it, and how it works. 

Aside from the NSW COVID-19 business grants, the JobSaver and COVID-19 micro business grant applications are now open with the same 30 percent decline in turnover eligibility criteria. Read more about these support measures here. 

How does the COVID-19 Business Support tool work? 

The COVID-19 Business Support tool is designed to help qualified accountants and registered tax or BAS agents (as well as business owners) quickly and easily determine grant eligibility. 

In your Xero account under Accounting > Reports, you’ll notice the ‘JobKeeper Support’ tab has been updated to a ‘COVID-19 Business Support’ button. Click on this to access the new tool. 

From there, you’ll be able to check if your client qualifies for a payment. You can do this by selecting a start date of any two-week timeframe within the Greater Sydney lockdown period (which began 26 June or 27 May for some businesses) – this will automatically draw on 2019 records to populate a revenue percentage change between 2021 and the same fortnightly period from two years ago. You’ll also have the option to select a comparison range for the same period in 2020, or the fortnight immediately before 26 June 2021.

A detailed summary, including statement lines from each comparable period, can be exported as an Excel spreadsheet or PDF. You can include this snapshot with your letter of validation. 

Remember, a business needs to demonstrate a decline in turnover of at least 30 percent between the specified intervals to be eligible for a grant. Service NSW outlines the payment amounts based on three turnover thresholds, detailed on their website here

What should I do next? 

Once you know how many businesses on your books intend to claim a COVID-19 business grant, you could start by triaging appointments early this week. At this stage, you must use the letter template provided by Service NSW or your professional body to verify a decline in turnover. As well as this, your clients will need to provide proof of identity documents, an Australian income tax return, and other information in order to apply. 

In the meantime, make sure they’ve created an account with MyServiceNSW, and ask that they check with the Australian Business Register to ensure their business and contact details are correct. From there, they’ll be able to submit an application via their MyServiceNSW account, using the step-by-step instructions

Are there any other ways that I can support my clients? 

Here is a full list of the grants, loans and support measures announced by the NSW government. 

As well as financial assistance, the NSW and Commonwealth governments are committing over $17 million to a state-wide mental health support package. This will provide a boost to services like Lifeline and Sonder – both of which offer free, round-the-clock counselling. 

For wellbeing support that’s tailored to small business owners and employers, there’s also Beyond Blue’s NewAccess service for free mental health coaching and the Ahead for Business wellbeing plan for managing stress. Both are available to any business owner – including advisors. 

There’s also the Beyond Blue course in Xero Central, specifically designed to show small business advisors how to help their clients and themselves with day-to-day wellbeing. Be sure to lean on this resource if and when you need it.

In the meantime, head to Xero’s Business continuity hub for more resources and guidance on how to support your clients during this challenging period, and keep an eye on the NSW government website for more information.

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