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Support Services for SMEs: Your Essential Guide


| By Bridget de Maine | April 28, 2020

Here’s our guide to the Federal and State governments’ support services for Australian small businesses during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) downturn.

Coronavirus support services for Australian SMEs

There’s little predictability when you’re a small business owner and even less when a global pandemic threatens your very livelihood and, by extension, your mental health. If you’re a small business owner experiencing hardship due to the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus), help is available in support services from the Federal and State governments during this stressful time.

What Assistance Is Directly Available to Small Business Owners?

Firstly, stay up-to-date with the latest support for Australian businesses by making regular visits to the Federal Government’s COVID-19 (coronavirus) support page.

Important news for small business is that the Federal Government is now offering, as a support service, tax-free cash flow boosts equal to the amount of PAYG tax withheld from wages and salaries from March to June 2020, delivered in instalments, with an additional boost when statements are lodged for June to September 2020.

These payments fall between $20,000 and $100,000, depending on eligibility, and will be delivered through credits in the activity statement system when business activity statements are lodged, meaning there’s no application process necessary. An increase to the instant asset write-off threshold to $150,000 is also now available.

What Support Services Can Help Me Keep My Staff?

The Jobkeeper payment helps eligible business owners keep staff

The JobKeeper payment now exists to assist small business owners (including sole traders, partnerships, trusts, not-for-profits and charities) to keep their current staff employed, offering access to $1500 per employee per fortnight for a six-month period.

If you have an apprentice or trainee on your books, you could also be eligible for a subsidy of 50% of his or her wage up to a maximum of $21,000 per employee, paid during the nine months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.

Is There Assistance Specifically for My Business’s Running Costs?

There are additional support services for businesses struggling to pay energy bills. Also, if your business is part of the agriculture and seafood export industry, there’s help for the transport of your produce.

Can I Get Help with My Rent?

Small businesses and SMEs affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus) should check out the Federal Government’s relief for commercial tenants initiative. The Federal Government has introduced a mandatory code of conduct for commercial tenancies including retail, office and industrial. It applies to tenants that have an annual turnover of up to $50 million and are eligible for the JobKeeper payment.

This initiative could see a rent reduction or rent relief depending on the tenant’s decline in turnover and is designed to share the financial burden between tenants and landlords.

SEE ALSO: Creative Ways to Keep Your Small Business Open During a Crisis.

Are There State Variations in Small Businesses Support?

There are state variations across Australia in small business support

Here are a few additional support services introduced by state governments.

New South Wales

  • Deferral of payroll tax until the end of the financial year, with an additional three-month deferral for businesses who have payrolls of $10 million or less
  • Ability to apply for a Small Business Support Grant of $10,000
  • An increase in the payroll tax-free threshold from $900,000 to $1 million
  • Rent deferral for six months for businesses with less than 20 employees renting space in NSW government-owned properties
  • A 12-month waiver of various fees including liquor licences, trade and construction licences, tattooist licences and more

See NSW eligibility requirements and more information.


  • A refund of two months’ payroll tax, a three-month payroll tax holiday and a deferral of payroll tax for the 2020 calendar year
  • Access to loans of up to $250,000 with no interest for the first 12 months to assist with costs such as employee wages and rent
  • A $500 rebate on electricity bills, provided less than 100,000 kilowatt hours is consumed
  • A waiver of several fees and lease payments that apply to such charges as liquor licenses, tourism-based operations, marina charges and commercial activity permits

See QLD eligibility requirements and more information.

Australian Capital Territory

  • A one-off payroll tax waiver for small businesses on the “prohibited activities list” such as beauty therapists and gyms from April to September 2020
  • Interest-free deferral of 2020-2021 payroll tax until July 1, 2022 for businesses with less than $10 million in wages
  • A 12-month waiver of food business registration and liquor licensing fees for licensed venues as well as off-licensed venues with a gross liquor purchase of less than $3 million
  • An energy rebate of $750 for businesses with electricity usage below 100 megawatts annually

See ACT eligibility requirements and more information.

Small business support during coronavirus can vary by state


  • A full refund and waiver of payroll tax for the 2019-2020 financial year for businesses with wages up to $3 million and a deferral of payroll tax for the first three months of the 2020-2021 financial year
  • Rent relief for commercial tenants in government buildings

See VIC eligibility requirements and more information.

Western Australia

  • $17,500 grants for business with a payroll between $1 million and $4 million
  • An exemption from payroll tax for four months for small businesses affected by the pandemic with less than $7.5 million of payroll
  • A one-off power-bill credit of $2,500 for small businesses connected to Synergy or Horizon Power, if they consume less than 50 megawatt hours per year

See WA eligibility requirements and more information.

South Australia

  • Starting from April, a six-month waiver of payroll tax for businesses with an annual payroll of less than $4 million and a six-month deferral for larger companies who’ve been impacted
  • Waivers and reductions of liquor licence fees for the 2020-2021 financial year for affected businesses

See SA eligibility requirements and more information.


  • A payroll tax waiver for the entire 2019-2020 financial year for small businesses in the hospitality, tourism and seafood industries
  • Access to three-year interest-free loans, if eligible
  • Next quarterly energy bill waived for small businesses
  • A 50% discount on liquor licensing fees and a waiver on application fees

See TAS eligibility requirements and more information.

Northern Territory

  • Relevant businesses will be eligible for grants of $10,000 for improving business premises, updating equipment or making physical changes in order to benefit operations and customers
  • Depending on the size of the wages bill, payroll tax can be waived or deferred for affected businesses

See NT eligibility requirements and more information.

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