— Finance

Tax time: Covid-19 disaster payments may benefit Australian families

Some Australian families will enjoy a silver lining from the pain of being in lockdown, with many in line for a tax windfall. With millions of Aussies suffering through lockdowns, there is some good news for those receiving Covid-19 disaster payments.

Due to a change announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in July, those payments are not taxed.

This means people who have been receiving the disaster payments do not need to include them as part of their taxable income for Family Tax Benefit and Child Care Subsidy estimates.

When the Covid-19 disaster payments were first introduced in June, guidelines said they would be taxed; however, in late July, Mr. Morrison amended that.

“They won’t be taxable,” he said on Sunrise at the time. “JobKeeper, by the way, was. And we are treating this as a disaster in these areas where this has befallen people in the same way the payments that we make for bushfires, and the payments we made for floods and other natural disasters, we are making these payments under that disaster payment framework.”

He also said on ABC radio that “they’re also non-assessable on your income test for accessing your welfare payments for welfare recipients”.

What does this mean for family benefits?

While it’s clear that the payments aren’t taxed, many may have not realized that they do not count towards the income estimates that people must make for things like the Family Tax Benefit and the Child Care Subsidy. At the start of each tax year, families who wish to access those benefits must give an estimate of their annual income.

For those who have lost jobs or income due to the pandemic, this will affect their estimate.

Those who haven’t updated their income estimate, come tax time, it could mean Centrelink has underpaid them, therefore they may receive a payment to make up for that.

Also, if families do update their income estimate, they could now qualify for more Family Tax Benefit this year.

“It’s a double bonus. It’s excellent news for those recipients,” Tony Greco from the Institute of Public Accountants told 9 News.

“It’s understandable people may not have realized, the disaster payment is tax-free, and it’s retrospective to June 3. So you’ve got a double bonus, it’s not taxable for tax purposes nor is it counted towards family tax benefit,” Mr Greco said.

So far 1.8 million Australians have received the disaster payments which are now paid at rates of $450 a week if you lose between eight and 20 hours’ work a week, or $750 if you lose more than 20 hours a week.

To qualify for the payments, people must have had their income affected by lockdowns or movement restrictions due to Covid outbreaks. Initially, the price could only be made for lockdowns that lasted longer than seven days, and eligibility was restricted to those whose work or income was affected in the second or subsequent weeks of a lockdown. But that condition has now been

removed, so the payment is available for lockdowns shorter than seven days. However for all lockdowns, applications for the price can only be made seven days after the lockdown commenced. An extra $41 billion was committed to economic support due to the 2021-22 Federal Budge pandemict. That means in total, since the beginning of the pandemic, the Federal Government has spent $291 billion in economic assistance.

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