If you’ve been affected by bushfires and are facing financial hardship, you may be able to make payment arrangements for your fees. Applications for relief can be made by those effected here.
National Financial counselling helpline
Financial counsellors can help those impacted by the fires and in financial difficulty by providing information, support and advocacy.
This service is free, independent and confidential.
Financial Rights Legal Centre Advice and advocacy for consumers in financial distress.
Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS)
Rural financial counsellors and support workers are already on the ground working with communities and assessing needs.
Rural financial counsellors can help people understand their financial position and help develop and implement plans to improve their financial situation. Rural financial counsellors can also:
- Identify financial and business options
- Negotiate with lenders
- Identify other assistance schemes
- Apply for Farm Household Allowance and other support payments.
Rural financial counsellors do not give family, emotional or social counselling or financial advice, but can make referrals to other professional services, including accountants, agricultural advisors, education, or mental health services.
Contacting the RFCS
When individuals are ready, those needing assistance can contact their nearest RFCS office by calling 1800 686 175.
Advice from the Australian Tax Office
*Update Monday 20th January
The ATO is continuing to do all that we can to support communities around our country that have been affected by the bushfires.
The ATO are extending the deferral period for those affected by recent bushfires to provide extra time to recover and get tax affairs in order. This means those living in an impacted postcode will now have until 28 May 2020 to finalise their income tax, activity statement, SMSF and FBT lodgments and associated payments. This deferral will be applied automatically.
We understand cash flow is really important at this time. For those impacted businesses that pay their Pay-As-You-Go installments quarterly, these installments can be varied to zero for the December 2019 quarter, and a refund can be claimed for any installments made in the September 2019 quarter. We are also fast tracking refunds due to taxpayers in the impacted regions.
We don’t want you to be concerned about your tax affairs now. We will help you sort out it out later.
You can read the full details here: media release.
Impacted postcodes are updated regularly here.
You can also find information there about a range of our support, including faster processing of refunds, reconstructing tax records and donations.
Small businesses that are affected by the fires, but do not appear in this list can call our ATO Emergency Support Infoline on 1800 806 218 for tailored help.
We understand there may be situations where additional support or extensions may be required beyond the automatic deferrals that we’ve announced. We will be ready to work with taxpayers to provide individual support.
- ATO webpage for information relating to the Bushfires – Read here
- Support for people impacted by bushfires:
- give you extra time to pay your debt or lodge tax forms such as activity statements (for identified impacted postcodes, deferrals for lodgements and payments due automatically granted; for postcodes not currently in the identified list, case by case assistance provided)
- help you find your lost tax file number (TFN) by using methods to verify your identity such as your date of birth, address and bank account details
- re-issue income tax returns, activity statements and notices of assessment
- help you re-construct tax records that are lost or damaged
- fast track any refunds owed – Read here
- set up a payment plan tailored to your individual circumstances including interest-free period
- remit penalties or interest charged during the time you have been affected.
- Taxpayers within the impacted postcodes can vary PAYG instalments in future periods, without penalties or interest. Quarterly PAYG instalments payers can vary PAYG instalments to nil on their activity statement for the December 2019 quarter, and claim a credit (at item 5B) on the December 2019 activity statement for the instalment amount paid for the September 2019 quarter to receive a refund of the amount paid – Read here
- Businesses that are making purchases in coming months to replace stock and other losses may elect to change the GST reporting cycle they use to report and pay GST monthly in order to get quicker access to net amount refunds – Read here
Australian Banking Association advice
If you’re dealing with the impact of the bushfires, there are practical ways your bank can help.
Australian banks have hardship teams ready to assist you with your financial arrangements, depending on your circumstances.
Assistance could include:
- deferred loan payments,
- waiving fees and charges,
- helping with debt consolidation,
- waiving penalties for early withdrawal of a term deposit or
- deferring upcoming credit card payments and increasing emergency limits
A list of credit/mortgage hardship lines:
- ANZ Bank: 1800 252 845
- Commonwealth Bank Hardship: 1300 720 814
- National Australia Bank Care: 1800 701 599
- St George Bank Assist: 1800 629 795
- Westpac Assist: 1800 067 497
- Regional Australia Bank Hardship: 132 067
- Bank of Queensland: 1800 079 866
For more information or to find your bank’s hardship team, go to www.ausbanking.org.au/doingittough
Bushfires legal help
Victoria: Call 1800 133 432 or visit Disaster Legal Help Victoria
NSW: Call 1800 801 529 or visit Legal Aid NSW
SA: Contact the Legal Services Commission of South Australia on 1300 366 424 or the Law Society SA on 08 8229 0200.
Professionals and support workers: Use the referrer tool here to refer people affected by bushfires to Justice Connect for pro bono help.