Are COVID-19 Grants & Funding Tax Free?

The Field Group - Accountants & Business Advisors > Blog > Are COVID-19 Grants & Funding Tax Free?

Most people would think that money provided by the Government to support people and business during a crisis would be tax free? Otherwise, it’s like giving money with one hand and then taking it away with the other, isn’t it?

But, the tax laws don’t work like that. To make a payment tax-free, legislation is required to enable it to be classified as exempt income or non-assessable non-exempt income. In general, any income received will be assessable unless the Government has legislated for it to be tax-free. JobKeeper for example was not tax free and anyone who received it in 2020-21 will need to declare it in their income tax return. Businesses also will need to declare JobKeeper income in their tax return even if the full amount flowed directly to employees.

At the Federal Government level, the Prime Minister recently announced that the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will be tax free and legislation enabling this change has now been passed. Prior to this, disaster recovery grant payments to primary producers and small businesses for floods between 19 February and 31 March 2021 were also made tax-free. Other payments however, such as Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, are taxable.

The Treasurer has also been granted the power to make COVID-19 relief provided by the States and Territories tax-free but only from 13 September 2020, and only if they request the Commonwealth Government to make it tax free.  If you’re confused, it’s not surprising. The result is a mix of tax treatments depending on what support you received and from whom.

To date, only a series of Victorian business grants are tax-free. The recent business grants in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia have not as yet been declared tax free (but we expect that this will change).

The general rule is that grants are likely to be taxable unless they are specifically excluded from tax. If the grant relates to your continuing business activities, then it is likely to be included in assessable income for income tax purposes. The position can be different in cases where the payment is made so that the entity can commence a new business or cease carrying on a business but there will still often be some tax implications.

This document contains general advice only and is prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial circumstances and needs. The information provided is not a substitute for legal, tax and financial product advice. Before making any decision based on this information, you should speak to a licensed financial advisor who should assess its relevance to your individual circumstances.  While The Field Group believes the information is accurate, no warranty is given as to its accuracy and persons who rely on this information do so at their own risk. The information provided in this bulletin is not considered financial product advice for the purposes of the corporations Act 2001.

About the author

The Field Group is composed of experts in the fields of Xero accounting, personal tax, self-managed superannuation, audit services, business services, bookkeeping, bench marking, business structuring and ATO Compliance. Based in Melbourne, The Field Group are also able to work with clients all over Australia and are the market leader for accounting services in the Ringwood, Croydon, Chirnside Park, Lilydale and general Melbourne eastern suburb region.

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