What government support can artists access?

Accountant Michael Fox looks at the current government financial support packages to see what is available for artists.
What government support can artists access? Recent government stimulus packages offers several options for artists. Image Shutterstock.

Michael Fox

Thursday 26 March, 2020

People working in the arts are, by nature, a generous lot. The start of the year saw performers, musicians and artists all donating their time putting on events to benefit the victims of the devastating bushfire season.

Three months later, many of those participants, for no fault of their own, are suddenly out of work, due to the unforeseen coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in their lives, creative professionals may need to ask for assistance instead of lending their talents to support worthy causes.

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Having your taxation affairs up to date has never been more important in these strange times. You may not be able to access government support if you are not registered with mygovID or if you have outstanding tax returns. Now is a good time to put your house in order.

The tax system may also provide financial relief with refunds from your outstanding tax returns and possibly from amendments. You are allowed to amend tax returns within two years of lodgement to generate extra refunds. These tax refunds may be processed in as little as one to two weeks.

With so many people in the arts with little or no work, the Federal Government finally legislated its Economic Stimulus Package on Monday. It is important to note that most of these payments will not arrive until late April, one month from now.

The main areas of support are as follows:

Income support for individuals 
Eligibility to income support payments is being expanded and a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement will be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. These payments apply to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

Payments to support households
Two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 and the second payment will be made from 13 July 2020. The second payment will not be made to those eligible for the Coronavirus supplement.

Temporary early release of superannuation
If you are affected by the Coronavirus, you can access up to $10,000 of your superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

Boosting cash flow for employers  
Eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and not for-profits (NFPs) that employ people, are entitled to tax-free payments of $20,000 to $100,000. The payments (which could in reality be reductions of existing tax debt) will be made between 28 April and 28 October.

Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses
The threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive has been increases. The package also includes temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent.

Support schemes have also been announced by the various State governments, local councils and arts organisations. The list grows by the day and typically involve rent reductions and fee reductions.

If you are in financial distress, talk to your bank and your landlord. They may be able to freeze or reduce payments or interest charges. Similarly with the ATO, provisions exist to waive debts or put accounts on hold.

Undoubtedly another stimulus package will be forthcoming. Keep positive. As Chauncey Gardener said in Being There, 'We have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.'

About the author

Michael Fox is the Principal of Michael Fox Arts Accountant and Valuer, and the Director of Fox Galleries.