In less than four weeks JobKeeper comes to an end and national, independent business turnaround and insolvency firm Jirsch Sutherland is urging struggling businesses to act now and seek help while there’s still time.
“JobKeeper has been a godsend for many businesses and while many no longer need the support, there are still countless others that have been relying on it,” says Bradd Morelli, Jirsch Sutherland’s national managing partner.
“Its conclusion may be a trigger for financial distress as many businesses have exhausted their cash resources and won’t be able to stand on their own two feet and pay staff wages.
“It’s crucial for business owners and directors to be proactive and to act early if they’re in financial distress. There can be options but it’s important to understand which process is right and know when to use it. There’s a huge difference between early intervention, a controlled process, a reactive process and a forced winding up.”
Morelli says there has been an uptick in enquiries for insolvency services, corresponding with end of the insolvent trading moratorium on31 December and the further scaling back of JobKeeper on 1 January.
“A number of ‘safety nets’ have already been removed and one of the key ones―JobKeeper―ends on 28 March. In addition, the temporary restructuring relief, which relates to statutory demands and provides a director of eligible companies with a temporary safe harbour from personal liability for insolvent trading, ends on 31 March. There’s now even greater need for directors to be fully aware of all the options and act appropriately.”
Business owners and directors need to do a simple self-assessment and determine whether, post-stimulus, they have the ability to pay staff wages, tax, rent and superannuation.
“Put simply, will your business be able to keep its head above water post-stimulus? If the answer is no, then it’s crucial to speak to a trusted adviser like an accountant or business turnaround/insolvency specialist,” Morelli says.
He expects that once businesses that are still on JobKeeper receive their last payments in April, the ATO will start to pursue outstanding debts.
“While the ATO has been very quiet for almost 12 months, that won’t last (their debt book is an estimated $53 billion and they want to recoup this) and that’s when we expect to see the insolvency wave building,” he says.
Of recent reforms including the Small Business Restructuring and Simplified Liquidation processes, touted by the federal government as some of Australia’s most significant reforms, Morelli says they aren’t as simple as they first appear.
“While they encourage earlier intervention, they come with their own level of complexities,” he adds.
“Despite the reforms, the best and most appropriate appointment may still be a traditional appointment. There are various options, so it’s important for business owners to ask for help if unsure. As always, it’s crucial to be proactive and to act early.”