National

NT business gets 6-month tax breaks

By AAP Newswire

Northern Territory businesses hit hard by the coronavirus will get a six-month waiver on payroll tax plus relief on rent, bills and council rates but landlords have to come to the party.

There has long been tension in Darwin from before the coronavirus crisis over landlords refusing to budge on commercial rents as city vacancies rose well above 20 per cent and the economy slowed.

The Territory Labor Government's latest plan to save jobs and the economy during the COVID-19 global pandemic will involve a $180 million cut in its revenue.

Payroll tax would be abolished for six months for smaller and medium-sized businesses that have lost at least 30 per cent turnover.

For larger businesses with a payroll bill above $7.5 million and turnover below $50 million payroll tax would be deferred if turnover has dropped by at least 50 per cent.

Utilities bills will be cut by 50 per cent for those business and the government has asked local councils to waive rates for three months then defer them for three.

Commercial landlords would receive the same benefits but there were "strings attached" including reducing leases for their tenants, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.

If they did not negotiate in good faith in line with the recently inked code of conduct, landlords would not be eligible for any of the $300 million-plus in stimulus, he said.

Including federal money, the Territory will be getting an economic boost of more than $1.1 billion.

Mr Gunner said the NT Property Council had signalled that its members supported 50 per cent rent waivers.

"I think people out there would rather 50 per cent rent than zero rent," he told reporters.

"Look at the reality of where we are right now, there is no queue for someone going into that premise and replacing your tenant so if you turf your tenant there is no one coming in."

He said he believed many businesses did not have the money to pay the charges anyway and would shut down otherwise.

"A dollar that does not have to be spent on payroll tax or power prices is a dollar that can be spent on keeping Territorians in a job," he said.

Rent support for households might also be on its way, with legislation for longer periods of mandatory negotiation between tenants and landlords.

Country Liberal Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro backed the changes but said it should have been introduced weeks ago and payroll tax waivers backdated to July last year so businesses could be refunded and survive.

"My fear is that many small and medium businesses will not benefit from the payroll tax announcement because they no longer employ enough staff to meet the threshold to pay it," she said.