The Latest Global Measures for Companies Impacted by Coronavirus

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) continuing to spread globally, governments in various countries are introducing support and relief to companies in an attempt to limit its impact.

Below we have highlighted some of the announcements which we think are the most important to our cross-border clients; however, the list is by no means exhaustive and advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. This is an unprecedented changing landscape for companies and their employees and whilst we endeavour to keep this page up to date with information, it is best to contact us for specific details.

Click on a country update link below or scroll down to see all updates:

Australia (latest update: 28 July 2020)

Worksafe Penalties

Employers in Victoria are now required to notify Worksafe if an employee tests positive to COVID-19. The penalties for failure to comply are $39,652 for an individual and $198,264 for a company. The new Regulations came into force on 28 July 2020 and will remain in place for 12 months.

JobKeeper Subsidy

On 30 March 2020, the Australian Government announced a $130b JobKeeper payment subsidy to assist businesses in retaining staff if they have suffered as a result of COVID-19.

Workers who were employed on 1 March 2020, and are still employed, will receive a net payment of $1,500 AUD per fortnight through their employer.

The JobKeeper payment will be available for up to six months from 30 March. It will be payable to those that can demonstrate decreased turnover of at least one month relative to a comparable period a year ago. This applies to self-employed individuals as well as companies.

The subsidy will commence on 30 March 2020, with the first payments being received by employers in the first week of May. It will be up to the employer to decide whether to pay superannuation on any additional wage paid due to the JobKeeper Payment.

Registration with the Australian Tax Office will be open from 30 March 2020.

Cash Flow Assistance for Employers: Refund of PAYG Withholding

These measures are available for businesses with less than $50m AUD turnover and Not For Profit entities to boost cash flow for employers’ payments for 100% of the amount withheld up to a maximum of $50k AUD. Other measures include a minimum payment of $10k for eligible employers, even if they are not required to withhold tax.

Business Investment

The Australian Government has announced an increase in Instant Asset Write-off. It has also increased the threshold for Plant and Equipment from less than $30k to less than $150k from the 12 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 and increased the Business Turnover Threshold for eligible businesses from $50m to $500m.

Supporting Apprentices and Trainees

Employers who meet certain criteria and employ apprentices or trainees will be eligible for a subsidy of 50% of their wage paid during the 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Employers will be reimbursed up to a maximum of $21k per eligible apprentice or trainee ($7k per quarter). Employers can register for the subsidy from early April 2020.

Superannuation

Pension payments have been halved with the Government temporarily reducing the drawdown requirements from Account-Based Pensions and similar products by 50%. This reduction will apply for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Financial Years. The minimum pension requirements will range from 2% to 7% depending on the age of the member. Eligible individuals will be able to access up to $10k of Superannuation in 2019/20 and a further $10k between July 2020 and approximately September 2020. The exact timing is to be determined. Eligible individuals include those that are unemployed, receiving particular welfare payments, employees who have been made redundant or had their working hours reduced by 20% or a sole trader whose turnover has decreased by 20% or more. No tax will be imposed on the withdrawals and it will not impact on Centrelink or Veteran's Affairs payments.

Welfare Payments

Welfare recipients will receive two $750 payments to be made in March 2020 and July 2020. Social Security Deeming Rates have now been lowered. Income Support payments eligibility will be temporarily expanded for six months. A six month Coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight will be paid to existing and new recipients of eligible payment categories. Eligible Categories are: Jobseeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit Recipients.

Banking

The Australian Government has agreed to guarantee unsecured loans by 50% for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) with turnover up to $50m. The maximum loan amount will be $250,000 over a three year term with a six month repayment holiday. In addition, The Australian Banking Association have stated that all small business impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic will be able to access a six month deferral of all loan repayments.

Bankruptcy Relief

Changes are being made to Bankruptcy Rules to relieve pressure on Directors and Business Owners.

Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

If you or your business has been affected by COVID-19, the ATO can work with you to defer some payments and vary instalments due, by up to six months. These include your income tax, activity statement, pay as you go (PAYG) instalments, Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) and excise payments.

If your turnover is less than $20m, you report quarterly and you usually have a net GST credit, you can change your reporting cycle to monthly to expedite your refunds.

If you are a quarterly PAYG instalment payer, you can vary your March 2020 quarter instalment rate or amount and claim amounts already paid in September 2019 and December 2019 quarters.

If your business is affected by COVID-19, the ATO will consider remitting interest and penalties incurred after 23 January 2020.

Superannuation Guarantee

If you have Superannuation Guarantee obligations, they must be paid within 28 days of the end of the quarter or you will be liable for the Superannuation Guarantee Charge.

Victorian Government Stimulus Package

Concessions are available if your annual payroll is less than $3m. The Victorian Government will provide full payroll tax refunds for the 2019-20 financial year and permit a deferral of payroll tax for first three months of the 20/21 Financial Year until January 2021.

2020 Land Tax payments will be deferred for eligible small businesses and a waiver has been agreed for Liquor Licensing Fees for 2020 for affected venues and small businesses. A Business Support Fund has also been introduced to provide $500m to support businesses in the hardest hit sectors and commercial tenants of Government buildings can apply for Rent Relief.

Belgium (latest update: 25 March 2020)

Temporary Unemployment

Companies can apply for temporary unemployment benefits in cases where their company has been forced to partially shut down due to measures taken by the National Security Council, or due to the stop on cultural, sportive and other activities or in case of lower turnover/profit as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Employees will receive benefits amounting to 65-70% of their salary, up to a maximum salary of €2,755 EUR per month. These temporary unemployment benefits do not have to be applied for separately, but can be obtained by filing a declaration of social risk.

Deferral of Social Security and Tax Payments

Employers with immediate financial problems caused by the pandemic can apply for deferral of payments on social security for the first two quarters of 2020. The new due date for payment of social security for both quarters will be 15 December 2020. In case of a forced shut down by the National Security Council, the deferral is granted automatically and need not be requested.

Due dates for payments on VAT returns, payroll withholding tax and corporate income tax have been deferred as follows:

Value Added Tax (VAT):

  • February 2020: new due date 20 May 2020
  • March 2020: new due date 20 June 2020
  • 1st Quarter 2020: new due date 20 June 2020

Payroll Withholding Tax:

  • February 2020: new due date 13 May 2020
  • March 2020: new due date 15 June 2020
  • 1st Quarter 2020: new due date 15 June 2020

All corporate income tax due dates later than 12 March 2020 have been postponed by two months. No interest or fines for late payment will be due regarding this period.

For VAT, payroll withholding tax and corporate income tax payable before the listed periods, companies can request a payment plan under which no interest or fines for late payment will be due. The company has to prove they can’t fulfil their payment obligations due to the Coronavirus.

Deferral of VAT Return Filing

The due dates for VAT returns to be filed during the period in which the Coronavirus is active have been pushed back as follows:

  • February 2020: new due date 6 April 2020 (old date: 20 March 2020)
  • March 2020: new due date 7 May 2020 (old date: 20 April, 2020)
  • 1st Quarter 2020: new due date 7 May 2020 (old date: 20 April 2020)

The deferral will be granted automatically and will also apply to intra-company filings.

Canada (latest update: 25 March 2020)

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

To support Canadian workers and businesses and help stabilise the economy, the Government has proposed legislation to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This taxable benefit would provide $2k CAD a month for up to four months for employees, contract workers and self-employed individuals who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB is designed to be a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit. Workers who are still employed but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19, would also qualify for the CERB. Given this situation, all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether eligible for Employment Insurance or not, will be able to receive the CERB. The portal for accessing the CERB should be available in early April 2020 and payments should be received within ten days of application. The CERB would be paid every four weeks and be available from 15 March 2020 until 3 October 2020.

Extending the Work-Sharing program

The Work-Sharing program is offered to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours because of developments beyond the control of their employers. It is being extended from 38 weeks to 76 weeks during this time.

Providing Small Business with Wage Subsidies

Eligible small employers can take advantage of a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. The subsidy will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25k per employer. Businesses will be able to benefit immediately from this support by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld on their employees’ remuneration.

Access to Credit

The Canadian Government has established a Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) to provide more than $10b of additional support, largely targeted to Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs), through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC). Companies in need of credit support should contact their financial institution.

Income Taxes

Companies can defer the payment of any income tax amounts that fall due between 18 March and September 2020 until after 31 August 2020. This relief applies to tax balances due as well as instalments under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.

China (latest update: 14 May 2020)

Individual Income Tax Annual Filing (“IIT annual filing”) may be postponed

Because of the outbreak of COVID-19, the first IIT annual filing under the new IIT policy that should have started on 1 March 2020 may now be postponed. The Tax Bureau has published a letter to Withholding Agents, suggesting they avoid going to the Tax Bureau if there is no special situation and if there is a special situation, to make a reservation online first. The Tax Bureau will lead taxpayers to conduct IIT annual filing in batches.

Although the IIT annual filing is delayed, the Tax Bureau doesn’t mention whether the filing deadline will be extended.

Although the IIT annual filing obligation is on individuals, employers may assist employees in completing the returns.

Social Security and Housing Fund Contribution

Local social benefit incentives have been announced by many cities which include:

  • During the period of February to June 2020, Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in provinces except Hubei will be exempt from paying premiums on pension, unemployment and work injury insurances.
  • For large companies, the payment of the above three social insurances will be halved during the period of February to April 2020.
  • Companies can also apply for deferred payment of related contributions when certain requirements are met.
  • Company size is determined by the social security system according to the information shared among the Tax, Finance and Statistical Bureaus; however, companies can apply to re-classify their size if they don’t agree with the pre-determined one.

SAFE to Optimise Forex Administration and Support International Companies

On 14 April 2020 the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) announced that it will optimise foreign exchange business administration, launch nationwide reform to facilitate payment of capital account items, simplify registration procedures for some capital account related business, and relax restrictions for export-background domestic companies to buy foreign currencies and repay foreign-currency loans. SAFE will also make it more convenient for companies to use electronic certificates and documents to process foreign exchanges, optimise settlement procedures for cross-border ecommerce operators and support banks to introduce innovative financial services.

Other Measures

The Government has cut VAT rates for companies in the Hubei Province and has exempted small businesses from paying into China’s social-security system for the time being and suspended local tolls and tariffs.

Czech Republic (latest update: 29 March 2020)

A special interest-free loan has been introduced which can be used to cover operating expenses such as wages, rent, energy, supplier and customer invoices, costs of materials or stock.

A compensation plan has been introduced for employers whose economic activity has been affected by COVID-19. They will be eligible provided they can demonstrate a clear link between COVID-19 and its impact on their business. The amount of compensation varies depending on the reason for the compensation.

The Czech Social Security Administration will allow late filings until 3 August 2020 and will not impose any penalties for late submission. Late filings for 2019 income tax returns and VAT control reports will not be penalised and the obligation on self-employed individuals to report on income and expenditure for 2019 has been extended to 3 August 2020.

The government has changed the childcare leave regime and extended the period for parents applying for state allowance for children under 13 years old.

Compulsory pension insurance payments and the contribution to employment policies for self-employed individuals for the duration of the epidemic have been waivered.

Denmark (latest update: 13 March 2020)

The Danish Government has declared that it is to decide on laws that will extend and postpone payments of taxes including Value Added Tax (VAT).

Finland (latest update: 29 March 2020)

The Finnish Government has implemented €12b EUR of new financing for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) as well as €150m specifically for the travel, tourism and creative sectors and for financing subcontractors. State support is being increased with Government providing €1b in subsidies.

Part of the funds employers pay in pension contributions will be transferred to reserves from which employers may borrow. Employer pension insurance contributions have also decreased by 2.6% for the period from 1 June 2020 until year end 2020, with extensions available from pension insurance companies in some cases.

Tax Measures

Taxes included in a payment arrangement request will not be recovered by enforcement authorities and a company’s tax debt will not be published in the Finnish tax debt register or the protest list. An extension has been granted for the first instalments of any payment arrangements from one to three months. The Tax Administration will automatically include this arrangement on any new tax debts after the payment arrangement has been put in place, up until 31 May 2020.

Employment Matters

Employers are encouraged to comply with collective agreements between national associations; however, some announcements have been made stating that employers are obligated to notify the Employment and Economic Development Office (“TE Office”) of dismissals of ten or more employees on financial or production related grounds.

Temporary changes have been brought into effect regarding driving times and resting periods of bus drivers and cargo transporters.

Those working in both public and private healthcare who have received training in the field and who have reached the age of 18 may be required to work.

Due dates have been postponed by three months for entrepreneur’s employment pension insurance (YEL) and earnings-related pension insurance (TYEL) payments.

A number of other employee related measures are being considered and are expected to come into force shortly.

Financial Statements Filing Deadline Extension

Limited liability companies with financial years ended prior to 25 March 2020 have been granted an additional two months to prepare their financial statements with no request required.

France (latest update: 19 May 2020)

Several measures have been decided by the banks, in conjunction with the exceptional public support measures for businesses, including the introduction of fast track credit appraisal procedures for tight cash flow situations and special attention to emergency situations. It may also be possible to defer loan repayments for businesses for up to six months. Penalties, additional costs of deferrals and credit extensions for businesses have been eliminated.

The French Government has acknowledged the COVID-19 epidemic as a case of “force majeure”, resulting in a waiver of late penalties and, for certain industries such as construction and chemical providers, they are offering an acceleration of authorisation procedures for new supply sources.

Companies can now receive financial aid to offset the loss of income caused by the reduction in working hours of relevant employees and in some cases, utility bills may be temporarily suspended to ease the burden.

Relaxing Lockdown Measures

The relaxation of lockdown measures started on 11 May with phase 1 which allowed children up to 11 years of age to slowly return to school. This also meant employees who couldn’t work from home could return to work. The second phase is expected to start on 2 June.

Retailers were allowed to open from 11 May with the exception of bars and restaurants which should remain closed until 31 May. Malls will not be allowed to open for the moment. Gatherings of ten people or more will be cancelled until at least September.

Payment Deadlines for Tax and Social Security Payments

Value Added Tax (VAT) returns for April and May:

It will be possible to declare the monthly VAT based on an estimate following the principle of "holiday advances" which are generally applied during the summer holidays. The declared VAT will in this case be equal to 50% of the VAT declared the previous month (if activity has slowed down due to COVID-19) or 80% of the VAT declared the previous month (if the company’s activity is only slightly impacted but the situation makes it difficult to recover the accounting documents needed to prepare the monthly VAT).

Filing of Corporate Income Tax (CIT) returns (for Financial Year ended 31 December) and Business tax (CVAE) filing for Financial Year 2019:

  • The declarations initially planned for 15 May had been postponed to 31 May; however the tax authorities have now confirmed a further extension to 30 June 2020.

Payments of the year-end CIT and Business tax (CVAE):

  • In connection with the above changes, payments of the CIT and the CVAE, initially due on 15 May and 30 April, have also been postponed to 30 June.

Payroll

Employers currently suffering as a result of COVID-19 can defer by up to three months all or part of the payment of payroll and employer contributions. Payments can also be staggered. On 7 May, the Minister of the Economic Affairs confirmed the cancellation of social security charges for March, April and May for companies whose activity was closed by administrative decision. More information on the application conditions are expected to be released soon.

Direct Tax Rebates

Companies in difficulty can request a rebate of all or part of their charges to deal with the crisis. Requests must be sent to the Corporate Tax Department with each request assessed according to the individual company’s situation. Additionally, the Government has agreed to accelerate VAT refunds and tax credits to companies.

Support from the State and the Banque de France

In the event of difficulty in negotiating a deferment or in obtaining financing, companies should be referred to the Credit Mediation Service which is a free confidential service available to all. The Government will additionally be able to guarantee up to 90% of the cash loans which certain companies could need and guarantee bank loans granted up to an aggregated amount of €300b EUR.

The Minister of Economy and Finance also announced the creation of a solidarity fund of at least €1b EUR for "micro-entrepreneurs, the smallest businesses and for independents with revenues of less than €1m which have lost at least 70% of their sales between March 2019 and March 2020”.

State Guaranteed Loans

Bruno Le Maire, Bpifrance and the French Banking Federation (FBF) have announced on Monday 30 March the launch of state-guaranteed loans. The new scheme has been introduced by the Government from 25 March 2020 and will be open until 31 December 2020.

It is intended for companies of all sizes and in all sectors of activity, whatever their legal form (companies, traders, craftsmen, farmers, liberal professions, micro-entrepreneurs, associations and foundations with an economic activity etc.), with the exception of non-trading property companies, credit institutions and finance companies,

It can represent up to three months of turnover or two years of gross salaries for new or innovative companies at 0% plus the cost of the 0.25% guarantee in the first year. No repayment will be required in the first year and after one year, companies will have the option of amortizing it over an additional one to five years. The maximum loan amount is 25% of the company’s 2019 turnover or for innovative companies, the amount could be up to 2x the French 2019 payroll if higher. It is likely that in order to qualify, the company will need to be up to date with its tax and social security debts up to 28 March.

Employee Travel

Employee travel is prohibited as of 17 March 2020 except in certain cases. Employees previously had to carry two documents with them; however, this has now changed to one. French borders will remain closed until 15 June except for cross-border workers and specific cases. The additional exemptions allow people with compelling economic reasons and an employment contract (in particular seasonal agricultural workers) to travel.

Reduced Hours

It is important to give employees a schedule informing them of their days or half days where the company is operating on reduced hours, even if the information is shared at short notice. Under normal circumstances, notice must be issued by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt; however given the current situation, notice of a change of working hours should be provided by email and confirmation obtained that the employee has read and understood the correspondence.

Two major adjustments to the initial scheme have been announced:

  1. It is now possible to individualise the part time allocation and is no longer mandatory to apply the same scheme to every employee working in the same department.
  2. The indemnity was based on a work duration of 35 hours per week. Following a decree of 22 April, contractual overtime are now included in the calculation, meaning an increase of the net salaries for some employees and an increase of Government indemnities.

Germany (latest update: 5 June 2020)

VAT

The German Government has announced temporary reductions to the standard VAT rate from 19% to 16% and the reduced VAT rate from 7% to 5% for the period of 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2020. The reason for the reductions is to stimulate consumer demand and keep the economy running as country comes out of lockdown.

Reduced working hours and pay – Kurzarbeitergeld

Providing employment contracts have been reviewed and amended where necessary or where this is allowed for example by a collective labour agreement or other agreement, it is possible to apply for ‘Kurzarbeit’ (“short work”) which entitles an employer to reduce the working hours of an employee, together with their salary. Under this arrangement, an employee would receive 60% (or for those with children, 67%) of their net salary, with the government making up some of the employees' lost income.

Applications must be made to the Federal Employment Agency (FEA) and where Kurzarbeit is granted, the company can recoup the salary and social security costs from the FEA through the monthly payroll.

Tax Measures

Companies affected by COVID-19 can request a reduction in Corporation Tax and Trade Tax prepayments (down to zero where necessary).

An extension of three or more months may also be available for all Corporate Tax, Trade Tax and VAT payments due. The tax authorities have agreed not to raise interest for the payment extensions, which would normally stand at 0.5% per month. Whilst no collection of interest is anticipated, they are not legally bound by this.

Employers impacted by the virus are encouraged to request a payment extension from suppliers such as health insurance providers.

Funding

The German Government is making it easier to access loans and also providing subsidies of up to €15,000 EUR for qualifying companies.

Different States within Germany such as Bavaria are implementing their own measures details of which can be found on this website: https://www.stmwi.bayern.de/coronavirus/.

Some States have decided to grant subsidies on top of the Federal subsidy, while others have decided to only grant their own subsidies as an alternative.

Some States will also refund the “Umsatzsteuersondervorauszahlungen”, which are the prepayments that must be made in order to be granted a permanent VAT filing deadline extension.

Other changes

Landlords are unable to terminate a tenancy agreement due to unpaid rent. The tenant has the right to pay any outstanding amounts including interest before 30 June 2022.

The obligation to file for insolvency by 30 September 2020 was lifted for companies in distress.

Refunds During Quarantine

If companies or self-employed individuals have to cease trading as the result of an order by the health authorities to quarantine, then they can claim back wage costs and operating expenses.

Hong Kong (latest update: 14 May 2020)

The Hong Kong Government has introduced financing support, tax and other temporary relief measures intended to help Hong Kong businesses survive through the pandemic and help the economy to recover after the COVID-19 crisis passes.

Government Loan Guarantees for SMEs

The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Insurance Limited (HKMCI) introduced a new 100% loan guarantee under the Hong Kong SME Financing Guarantee Scheme (SFGS) to help business. This scheme is applicable to all sectors that have been operating for at least three months as at end-December 2019 and have suffered at least a 30% decline in sales turnover in any month since February 2020 compared with the monthly average of any quarter in 2019.

The scheme is not open to listed companies, lending institutions or affiliates of the banks who lend under the SFGS. Eligible SMEs can receive the maximum loan amount of $4m HKD and can benefit from the principal moratorium arrangement for the first 12 months.

Employment Support Scheme

The Government will provide wage subsidies to eligible employers on the condition that they do not make workers redundant during the subsidy period and they must use the full subsidy on paying employees. The wage subsidies for each employer is calculated on 50% of salary as at a “specified month” for six months and subject to a cap of $18k HKD. Employers will be eligible if they have been making Mandatory Provident Fund contributions or have set up Occupation Retirement Schemes for employees.

India (latest update: 14 May 2020)

GST Annual Returns and Indirect Tax

The Indian Government has moved the date for filing GST annual returns and indirect taxes to the last week in June with no interest, late fees or penalties.

Relief Measures

Any documents, returns or statements required to be filed in the MCA-21 Registry, irrespective of their due date, will not incur fees for late filing up until 30 September 2020.

Usually, independent directors are required to hold at least one meeting without the attendance of non-independent directors and members of management. If they are not able to hold a meeting at present, it will not be viewed as a violation.

The requirement to create a reserve of 20% of deposits maturing during the financial year 2020-21 before 30 April 2020 will have the deadline extended to 30 June 2020.

Ireland (latest update: 29 March 2020)

Funding

The Irish Government will guarantee 80% of term loans, demand loans and performance bonds up to €1m EUR made by banks to Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs). A €200m working capital scheme has also been introduced and companies can apply for new loans of up to €1.5m with a maximum 4% interest rate.

Landlords and Utilities

Utility suppliers cannot disconnect domestic customers for non-payment and landlords cannot increase rents or terminate residential tenancies for any reason for at least three months (“the emergency period”, which may be extended).

Employment Related Measures

A 12 week income support scheme is available to employers who have suffered a 25% decline in turnover and are unable to pay normal wages to their employees. From April 2020, a subsidy of 70% of the weekly take home pay for employees up to €410 will be available to those earning less than €76k.

The filing deadline for all 2019 share scheme returns is being extended from 31 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 and an extension from 90 days to 150 days has been granted for the Special Assignee Relief Programme filing obligation.

Employees who have been laid off or are on ‘short time’ will not be able to claim redundancy pay where the layoff or short time is due to measures taken by the employer to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Immigration and Tax Residents

Any immigration or international protection permissions to reside in Ireland that are due to expire in the next three months will be renewed for a period of two months. Tax residency rules for those unable to travel have also been relaxed.

Interest on Late Payments

The Government has announced a suspension of interest on late payments of January and February VAT and February and March Pay As You Earn (PAYE). All debt enforcement activity by the Irish Revenue Commissioners (Revenue) is suspended until further notice and where a tax payment fails due to insufficient funds, the Revenue will not issue a further request for payment until further notice.

Annual Reporting

All annual returns due to be filed before 30 June 2020 will be considered to have been filed on time if all the elements of the annual return are completed and filed by then.

Italy (latest update: 12 June 2020)

The Italian Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks and Environment (ARERA) has suspended all utility payments with effect from 3 April 2020.

Special salary integration funds have been made available for employers. Employers who have had to cease or reduce productive activities due to COVID-19 can apply to the Ordinary Earnings Guarantee Fund (CIGO) as a supplement to salaries or to the Ordinary Earnings Integration Fund (FIS). INPS, the Italian Social Security Agency, has extended the number of individuals who may be eligible for certain social security relief. The new provision applies to employees who were employed as of 17 March 2020.

Parental Leave

Employees with children under 16 years old have the right to special leave as a result of the suspension of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new Legislative Decree 34/2020 has extended the number of days to 30 for the duration of leave for the period of 5 March 2020 to 31 July 2020. Parents are granted a period of either continuous or intermittent parental leave for children up to 12 years old. This is paid at 50% of the daily average salary by INPS (the social security office). Parents of children between 12 and 16 years old will not be paid. It should be noted that dismissal for economic reasons was not permitted before 5 May 2020.

Babysitting Bonus

If employees are unable to use parental leave, they can apply for the 'babysitting bonus’ which helps families pay for a babysitter or childminder to look after their child. Each family can claim €1200 EUR which does not change based on the number of children. Families can also use the bonus to pay for schools and summer camps. Private sector employees and some sectors of the Public Administration can apply. The bonus it is also recognised for self-employed workers who are registered with INPS as well as those registered with professional funds.

Healthcare Allowance

For individuals with confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 between 1 January and 30 June 2020, the QuAS Healthcare Fund has introduced a daily allowance of €78 for up to a maximum of 57 days in the case of hospitalization in public hospitals and €40 for up to 14 days in the case of isolation at home, with effect from the date on which the test was carried out.

Volunteer Leave

The Head of the Civil Protection Agency has provided directives relating to permits for civil protection volunteers. For the duration of the state of emergency, employers must provide permission to any employed volunteers to carry out such activities for up to 60 continuous days and up to 180 days in the year.

Tax Obligations

Tax obligations have been frozen between 8 March 2020 and 30 June 2020; however, the specific details regarding payment should be discussed with your advisor.

Companies operating in certain sectors and those with less than €2m turnover in the prior year can benefit from an extension for filing withholding tax returns on employment income and regional and municipal surcharges, social contribution and mandatory insurance premium and VAT is postponed to 31 May 2020 (or 30 June in case of sports and travel agencies).

Japan (latest update: 14 May 2020)

Employment Adjustment Subsidy

The subsidy is a relief fund to help businesses that have been forced to reduce operations due to economic causes and will pay statutory leave allowances and wages where employees are placed on temporary leave, occupational training or assignments with the objective of maintaining employment.

Government Subsidies

The Japanese Government has an announced there will be a benefit maximum of ¥2m JNY for SMEs if their sales have decreased by more than 50% compared to the same month last year. SMEs could receive a benefit amount based on their total sales of the previous year (sales for the month of -50% from the same month last year x 12 months).

Luxembourg (latest update: 23 March 2020)

Unemployment Assistance for Companies

Employers whose activities have been reduced or halted due to the pandemic may apply for partial unemployment assistance, covering 80% of the salaries of employees who are temporarily out of work (capped at 2.5x the minimum salary). The measure may cover management as well. Once requested and granted, partial unemployment coverage does not need to be used. Requests can be filed in view of a presumptive need without any penalty.

Family leave of absence may be requested by parents of children under 12 years of age who have to be cared for due to the virus. This leave does not count towards the maximum family leave allowance of each parent and can be split between parents and taken in the forms of hours or half days.

Direct Taxes

Filing deadlines for the 2019 direct tax returns of individuals and corporate taxpayers are automatically rescheduled to 30 June 2020. Deadlines for other tax filings (salary withhold taxes, dividend withholding taxes, etc.) are not rescheduled. Overdue filings, including tax filings for previous years (e.g. 2018 tax returns) are not granted any additional extension and may incur fines if not promptly filed.

Taxpayers facing liquidity issues due to the pandemic may request a waiver or reduction of the corporate income tax and municipal business tax instalments for Q1 and Q2 2020. Tax instalments for net worth tax for the same periods are not covered by this measure and should be settled as usual.

A four month payment deferral of any direct tax due on or after 1 March 2020 is also available. Taxes already due as at 1 March 2020 are not covered by this measure; however it may be possible to request and obtain a payment deferral (subject to the payment of an interest) for this as well under normal rules.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

The Indirect Tax Authorities have refunded VAT due to taxpayers up to €10k EUR and fines for late submission of VAT filings have been suspended until further notice. Payments of VAT are otherwise not affected by relief measures (so far) and must be settled as usual.

Mexico (latest update: 22 April 2020)

Mexico set to introduce Digital Services Tax

Mexico is the latest country to introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) on non-resident e-commerce and digital service providers whose customers are Mexican residents, regardless of whether they are making B2B or B2C supplies.

The introduction will mean all digital service suppliers (regardless of whether the supplier has a physical presence in Mexico) will have to register for VAT, which is set to be levied at 16% from 1 June 2020.

Services caught by this include:

  • Online news, traffic and weather service providers
  • Distance learning platforms
  • Multimedia content providers
  • Companies providing downloadable or access to images, videos, music, movies, text/information, ringtones, gambling and gaming
  • Online clubs and dating sites

A transaction will be deemed to be relevant if the consumer of the service is determined to have a Mexican address/phone number, the IP address used is in Mexico and a Mexico located payment facility is used.

Digital suppliers should ensure they distinguish between the non-taxable and taxable services on their invoices to avoid penalties. If you think your digital company may be caught by the new Digital Services Tax, please contact us and we will connect you with a local expert.

Netherlands (latest update: 19 May 2020)

Deferral of Payment

Companies experiencing problems with payments are eligible to request special permission to defer payments of income tax, corporate income tax, turnover tax and wage tax.

Compensation

Companies with reduced turnover of at least 20% in the three months following 1 March 2020 will be eligible for compensation provided employees continue to receive their usual salary and the company will not lay off employees due to economic circumstances. The compensation applies to all workers including temporary and flexible workers etc.

The loss of turnover will be calculated as a percentage of the turnover realised in 2019 divided by four, compared to the turnover realised in the months March, April and May 2020 (“compensation period”). Companies may also choose to allocate the loss of turnover to another three months’ compensation period, i.e. April, May and June or May, June and July. If the employer is part of a larger group, the percentage of loss of turnover has to be calculated on a consolidated group level (instead of on a company-only basis).

The compensation will be a maximum of 90% of total wages and will be paid on a pro-rated basis. This means that a 100% decrease of turnover will lead to a compensation of 90%, whereas a 50% decrease of turnover will lead to a compensation of 45%.

Reducing the Provisional Corporate Income Tax Assessment 2020

In respect of corporate tax, companies with estimated turnover and taxable profits in 2020 that have been revised downwards are eligible to request a reduction of the provisional assessment for 2020 by submitting their application electronically in the usual way.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

In most cases, VAT on expenses is tax deductible for entrepreneurs. In some cases, this applies to cancellations too. Entrepreneurs who have incurred expenses for activities that have subsequently been cancelled are advised to document those expenses and to find out whether the VAT is tax deductible.

Companies that have already paid VAT but have not been paid by their customers can reclaim the VAT under “irrecoverable debtors” once it is established that the company will no longer be paid. In practice, it can be difficult to determine when a debtor will pay or whether they will not pay at all. Whatever the situation, a right to reclaim VAT is deemed to exist one year after the time at which the payment falls due.

Companies can change their tax period for VAT purposes. It may be advisable for companies which anticipate a need to reclaim VAT to submit returns on a monthly basis. In addition to requesting a deferral of payment, companies that anticipate that they will need to pay VAT may find it sensible to switch to quarterly returns.

Government Guaranteed Loans

By the end of March 2020, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy aimed to have implemented a temporary expansion of the scheme for government guaranteed loans to SMEs (‘Borgstelling MKB-kredieten’ - BMKB). Under this scheme, companies will be able to increase their bank loans faster or obtain a connection loan from the bank.

Temporary Emergency Bridging Measure for Sustained Employment (NOW)

On 31 March 2020, the Dutch Government announced the full details of its NOW scheme.

With applications accepted from 6 April 2020, the NOW provides a subsidy of up to 90% of the employer’s wage bill for the three months from March to May 2020 in an attempt to avoid mass redundancies or significant pay cuts.

The scheme is designed to prevent as many employees as possible from being laid off and is open to companies which can demonstrate at least 20% revenue loss due to COVID-19. These employers can get a three month employment cost allowance with a maximum of 90% related to the revenue loss percentage. An additional allowance period of three months (six months in total) could be granted upon request too. A crucial criterion for the application of this scheme is for the employer to NOT apply for redundancy permits on economic grounds, during the application of this scheme. Employers must continue to pay wages in full to their employees during this period.

One of the previous conditions for payment was that the company needed to include a Dutch bank account. This has changed and it is possible (provided the company meets the conditions to apply for the NOW regulation) to use a foreign bank account number. The deadline for the application is 31 May 2020.

New Zealand (latest update: 17 March 2020)

The Government has announced a $12.1b NZD spending package to help the economy, including $8.7b in support for businesses and jobs. Additionally, a wage subsidy for employers for up to 12 weeks and up to $150k (per business) if they have suffered a 30% decline in revenue compared to last year has been introduced. This comprises $585 a week for full time workers and $350 a week for part time workers, available to all including the self-employed. 

Leave and self-isolation support for eight weeks for people with COVID-19 either for those caring for people with it or for those in self-isolation has been granted, which will be for up to eight weeks at the same rates as the wage subsidy but it is not available for those who can work from home.

The provisional tax threshold will lift from 1 April 2020 from $2.5k to $5k allowing an estimated 95,000 businesses to defer tax payments and possible waiving of interest on late payments. The package also allows the Commissioner of the Inland Revenue to cancel the use of interest on underpayments of tax for taxpayers unable to pay tax on time due to the outbreak.

The allowance to expense low value asset purchases has been increased from $500 to $5k from 1 April 2020 for a one year period, with a $1k allowance after that.

There has also been a reinstatement of depreciation deductions for commercial and industrial buildings at a rate of 2% diminishing value. This will apply from 1 April 2020 and will cost an estimated $2.1b up to 2024.

Poland (latest update: 29 March 2020)

State Guaranteed Loans

State guaranteed loans of up to 80% of the loan amount have been made available. Restructuring aid may also be available in other forms, such as taking up shares or stocks in the increased share capital of the enterprise, taking up bonds, converting a loan into shares of the enterprise by a government agency or the non-execution of administrative fines. Other measures include support of up to zł120m PLN being made available to businesses that are threatened with insolvency, subsidies for sole traders and loans being granted for microenterprises for one year.

Reduced Wages

An employee unable to work due to an order by the authorities or as a result of a company’s decision will receive reduced wages by up to 50%. The amount cannot be lower than the statutory minimum monthly wage of zł2,600 gross for full time employees. The Polish Government has agreed to subsidise up to 50% of the statutory minimum as well as social security contributions due from the employer in relation to the part of the remuneration subsidised by the state. Employers may not terminate employment contracts for employees receiving state support for the duration that the state support is provided and for three months thereafter.

Changes to employment terms and conditions are subject to agreement with trade unions or employee representatives.

Tax and Social Security Payments

The deadline for payment of tax and social security has been postponed and the Government has made other options available such as instalment payments and the annulment of arrears and has abolished penalties.

Immigration

Non-Polish residents are temporarily exempt from the obligation to apply for an extension to visas, temporary residence permits and work permits.

Company Registers

The deadline for recording companies and directors in the relevant registers in order to conduct their business activities and carry out their obligations has been suspended during the epidemic. This also applies to entities/persons whose deadlines were applicable before the epidemic. Companies have also been given an additional three months to register their beneficial owners.

Portugal (latest update: 13 March 2020)

The Portuguese Government announced the postponement of the Corporate Income Tax return to 31 July 2020, as well as the first instalment of special payment on account, to 30 June 2020 and the first instalment for payment on account and additional payment on account to 31 August 2020.

Singapore (latest update: 27 March 2020)

Companies and self-employed individuals will get an automatic deferment of income tax payments for three months as part of a number of measures under a $48b SGD Resilience Budget to provide additional support to those affected by COVID-19.

Job Support Scheme

The Job Support Scheme aims to help firms retain workers, with employers receiving an 8% cash grant on the gross monthly wage of each employee on their Central Provident Fund payroll. This is subject to a monthly wage cap of $3.6k per worker. Payment is expected to be made by the end of July 2020.

The existing Wage Credit Scheme which co-funds wage increases for Singaporean employees earning a gross monthly wage of up to $4k will be increased from $4k to $5k for qualifying wage increases given in 2019 and 2020. The Government co-funding levels will also be increased by 5% to 20% for 2019 and 15% for 2020.

Corporate Tax Rebate

Alongside other tax related measures announced, a corporate income tax rebate will be available for the assessment year 2020 at a rate of 25% of tax payable, capped at $15k per company. Companies will be granted quicker access to investment in plant and machinery, renovation and refurbishment incurred in the tax year 2021. 

Funding

A wide variety of industry specific measures have been announced to ease cash flow and the Government has agreed to provide 80% risk-share of certain loans up to $1m, with interest rates capped at 5%. Subsidies to businesses for loan insurance premiums under the Loan Insurance Scheme are increasing from 50% to 80%.

Within the tourism sector, a temporary bridging loan programme will be available and a property tax rebate of 30% for the year 2020 will be granted to exhibition venues and the accommodation and function room components of licensed hotels and serviced apartments. International cruise and regional ferry terminals will receive a 15% property tax rebate, while resorts will receive a 10% rebate.

To support trade financing needs, the Singaporean Government have doubled the maximum loan for the Enterprise Financing Scheme Trade Loan and expanded the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme (previously only for companies in the tourism sector) to all sectors.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is working with banks and insurers to see how best to help businesses and individuals facing cash flow challenges with their loan obligations and insurance premium payments. 

South Africa (latest update: 25 March 2020)

The Industrial Development Corporation has put a package together with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition of more than R3b ZAR for industrial funding to support vulnerable companies and fast track financing for those meeting certain qualifying criteria.

The Department of Tourism has made a further R200m available to assist Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism and hospitality sector impacted by travel restrictions.

Competition Act Exemptions

Commercial banks have been exempted from provisions of the Competition Act to enable them to develop common approaches to debt relief and other measures.

Tax Measures

Under the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI), a tax subsidy of up to R500 per month will be provided to the lowest earning private sector employees up to July 2020. The South African Revenue Service also aims to accelerate the payment of ETI reimbursements.

Tax compliant businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million will also be allowed to delay 20% of their pay as you earn (PAYE) liabilities over the next four months, as well as a portion of their provisional Corporate Income Tax payments without penalties or interest over the next six months.

Temporary Employee Relief Scheme

Through a proposal currently being considered, companies in distress would be able to pay employees directly through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme and avoid retrenchment.

Grants

The Department of Small Business Development has made over R500m available immediately to assist SMEs in distress through a simplified application process.

Spain (latest update: 17 April 2020)

All companies have been requested to set up teleworking for employees in all cases where this is feasible. Broader conditions have been introduced for employees to request revisions to work time or reduced hours even up to 100% in order to prevent dismissal for absenteeism due to family care derived from COVID‐19 isolation at home.

Employees have the right to payment of unemployment subsidies and the usual time limit to apply for unemployment benefit for employees has been deferred.

Employers can avoid paying social security contributions by 100% for companies with fewer than 50 employees or 75% otherwise, provided the employee remains with the company for at least a period of six months once activity starts again.

Special Paid Leave

Between 30 March and 9 April 2020 certain workers in Spain are instructed to take mandatory paid leave. Such workers will retain the right to the remuneration that would have corresponded to them on an ordinary basis including base salary and salary supplements.

This recoverable paid leave will not be applicable to those already on temporary employment or reduced working hours as a consequence of COVID-19. There is a detailed list of which workers are permitted to take advantage of this announcement.

Tax Payment Deferral

The Government is allowing certain forms submitted by companies with turnover in 2019 of under €600k EUR to delay payment of certain charges from 20 April to 20 May 2020.

Sweden (latest update: 17 March 2020)

The Swedish Government proposes that companies apply for a 12 month deferral of three months of certain tax payments. During the deferral period, the company does not have to pay VAT, employer contributions and tax withholding related to salaries. A monthly fee of 0.3 percent and a yearly interest rate of 1.25% will apply to deferred payments. The rules enter into force on 7 April and apply to taxes as from 1 January 2020. The proposal applies to almost all companies that do not have tax debts.

Switzerland (latest update: 13 March 2020)

A temporary reduction in operational working hours called "zero working hours" (including the complete cessation of work for a certain period of time) has been introduced. This can apply to the entire company or to selected departments. Reductions in remuneration for employees will be made up by the government to some extent and under certain conditions, employees subject to “short time work” may be eligible for "short time work allowance" as part compensation for lost wages.

Short term working arrangements must be implemented following strict guidelines, so advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstances.

United States (latest update: 28 March 2020)

The US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) have extended the 15 April tax payment deadline to 15 July 2020.

This extension applies only to federal income tax payments due for a taxpayer’s 2019 tax year, including tax on self-employment income. Estimated federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020 regarding a taxpayer’s 2020 taxable year, also qualify for the 90 day extension. The dollar amount thresholds ($1m USD for individuals and $10m for corporations) apply in the aggregate to all types of federal tax payments.

Several states are also announcing extensions to state tax filing and payment deadlines. California is granting a 60 day delay (until 15 June) for individuals and businesses unable to file on time due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Maryland has extended the due date for business returns to 1 June and indicated the state will follow any federal extensions granted by the IRS. Colorado, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio also have indicated they would follow IRS guidelines and federal extensions. The American Institute of CPAs is keeping an updated list of state tax developments and extensions.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Employee retention credit

Similar to the paid leave credits previously granted to employers under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, The CARES Act grants eligible employers a credit against employment taxes equal to 50% of qualified wages paid to employees who are not working or where there is a significant loss of revenue due to COVID-19. The credit applies to wages paid between 12 March 2020 and 1 January 2021.

Payroll tax deferral

Payroll taxes due from 27 March and ending on 31 December 2020 are deferred. The entirety of payroll taxes incurred by employers, and 50% of payroll taxes incurred by self-employed individuals qualify for the deferral. Half of the deferred payroll taxes will be due on 31 December 2021 and the other half due on 31 December 2022.

Net operating losses

Businesses will be able to amend or modify tax returns for tax years dating back to 2013 in order to take advantage of a five year carry-back of net operating losses.

Individual tax relief

The CARES Act provides refunds in advance of credits against 2020 taxes (equal to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for joint filers, with a $500 credit for each dependent). The amount of each rebate is phased out by $5 for every $100 in excess of a threshold amount. This threshold amount is typically based upon 2018 adjusted gross income and the phaseout begins at $75k for single filers.

Retirement plans

The CARES Act waives the 10% penalty on early pension withdrawals up to $100k from qualified retirement plans for coronavirus-related distributions.

Student loans paid by employers

An income exclusion of up to $5,250 for employee student loan payments has been introduced.

Additional provisions

The CARES Act is a hugely detailed bill and more information can be obtained on request.

For more information on global efforts to minimise the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) please contact us.