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Bushfire victims receive two month tax bill extension

Pictured: NSW and Queensland bushfires tackled by Fire & Rescue NSW, Australian Taxation Office logo. Images: Getty
Some regions affected by the bushfires will be given tax relief. Images: Getty

Bushfire victims in New South Wales and Queensland will receive a two month extension on their bills following the catastrophic fires in recent weeks.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) announced the plan on Monday, with Acting Deputy Commission Andrew Watson saying victims should focus on their immediate challenges before worrying about tax.

Individuals who have lodged their income tax returns and received a bill will have the 21 November 2019 deadline extended to 21 January 2020 to pay.

And while the quarterly Business Activity Statements would ordinarily have been due on 11 November or 28 November for businesses using a tax agent, the new business deadline is 28 January 2020.

“We have applied automatic lodgment and payment deferrals to postcodes impacted by the fires, meaning if you’ve been impacted by the fires you don’t need to contact the ATO or your tax professional – we’ve already done it for you,” Watson said.

“You can also discuss your options with your registered tax professional, if you have one”.

The ATO first suggested it would offer leniency to victims when a spokesperson told Yahoo Finance last week that it would give victims “time to deal with your more immediate problems first and we can help you to sort out your tax affairs later”.

Within the span of one day last week, NSW saw 600 schools close due to the fire threat, with nearly 100 fires burning at one time. Conditions remain grim in Queensland, with residents in Cowan Cowan told to evacuate as extreme weather conditions sustained the threat over the weekend.

These are the local government areas impacted by the extended deadlines:

New South Wales

  • Bellingen

  • Clarence Valley

  • Coffs Harbour

  • Glen Innes

  • Severn

  • Kempsey

  • Inverell

  • Mid Coast

  • Nambucca

  • Port Macquarie-Hastings

  • Richmond Valley

  • Tenterfield

  • Uralla

  • Walcha

Queensland

  • Noosa

  • Livingstone

COLO HEIGHTS, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 15: Fire crews wait at a property along Putty road as the fire front approaches on November 15, 2019 in Colo Heights, Australia. The warning has been issued for a 80,000-hectare blaze at Gospers Mountain, which is burning in the direction of Colo Heights. An estimated million hectares of land has been burned by bushfire across Australia following catastrophic fire conditions - the highest possible level of bushfire danger - in the past week. A state of emergency was declared by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday 11 November and is still in effect, giving emergency powers to Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and prohibiting fires across the state. Four people have died following the bushfires in NSW this week. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Employers, however, were reminded that they are required to continue making superannuation payments for their workers, and that automatic deferrals won’t apply to large businesses.

The ATO has previously offered support to communities struggling with drought.

The tax man said Australians who were struggling could apply for an expedited tax refund if they went to the tax office.

“The ATO understands the pressure this drought has put on communities and we are committed to providing support and assistance where possible. This is why we strongly encourage you to contact us to discuss your individual circumstances,” Watson said at the time.

“We understand it’s not just farmers, but everyone in rural and regional Australia that suffers during drought. So the best way to get help from the ATO is to engage with us as early as you can, particularly if you are struggling to meet your obligations.

“By engaging with the ATO early, we can remove some unnecessary stress. Once we understand your individual situation, we may give you more time to pay, set up a payment plan with an interest free period or waive penalties.”

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