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Drought support

Have you been impacted by drought?

Learn about support for your situation at Recovery Connect and Disaster Assist.

Drought is an enduring, recurring feature of the Australian landscape. Droughts impact our social, economic and environmental systems, and are projected to continue to increase in the future.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is supporting families and communities across Australia impacted by drought.

For those seeking support, please know that you are not alone and assistance is available.

You can visit Recovery Connect to learn about support in your local area relevant to your situation or find your closest Recovery Support Officer to talk to directly here

Additional information about support for families and individuals, small businesses and primary producers can be accessed below.

Support for families and individuals

Recovery Support Officers

The National Emergency Management Agency's Recovery Support Officers work closely on the ground with other government agencies, charities and other groups to help people impacted by natural disasters and other hardships.

Recovery Connect

If you are affected by drought, use Recovery Connect to find support near you from government, charities, and community organisations. Please continue to check back in as this website is regularly updated with new available services.

Disaster Recovery Payment

Activated when the impact of a major disaster on individuals and families requires Australian Government assistance, in addition to that provided under standard recovery assistance. 

The Recovery payment and the ex-gratia equivalent is a one off payment made to individuals who have been adversely affected by a declared major disaster.

Visit the Disaster Assist website for more information on the Disaster Recovery Payment.

Disaster Recovery Allowance

The Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA) and the ex-gratia equivalent is a short-term income support payment to assist individuals who can demonstrate a loss of income as a direct result of a major disaster.

Visit the Disaster Assist website for more information on the Disaster Recovery Allowance.

Emergency relief

Emergency Relief is delivered by community organisations to help with immediate basic needs during a crisis. To find a provider offering Emergency Relief support visit https://serviceproviders.dss.gov.au/ - search Financial Crisis and Material Aid – Emergency Relief

Isolated Children Scheme

A range of payments for parents and carers of children who can't go to a local government school because of geographical isolation, disability or special needs.

Visit the Services Australia website for more information and to apply.

Reducing super rates for pensioners

Helps retirees to manage the impact of volatility in financial markets on their retirement savings by temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements.

Visit the Treasury website for more information on assistance for retirees.

Temporary reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown rates

More flexibility for managing superannuation assets by temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products for retirees.

For more information, visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website.

Tax assistance for individuals

If drought is causing financial difficulties, the ATO can arrange:

more time to pay or payment plans with interest-free periods. to quickly pay any income tax refunds we owe you. to prevent any refunds from being used to pay other government debts.
Delivered by selected Primary Health Networks, this program aims to increase access to mental health support initiatives to help farmers and communities deal with the anxiety, stress and uncertainty of drought conditions.

Find out more through your local Primary Health Network.

Health and well-being

For immediate help call Lifeline’s crisis support number on 13 11 14 or their dedicated bushfire recovery line on 13 43 57.

You can also visit the Australian Government’s Head to Health portal for information and access to support services. The portal provides the most up to date advice for mental health resources across Australia.

Higher education support

Students may also be able to defer or amend their HELP compulsory repayment. Information on how to defer or amend compulsory HELP repayments is available on the ATO website.

Better Access Telehealth Services for people in rural and remote areas

The Australian Government is improving mental health support for people who live in rural and regional Australia by investing in Better Access services via video conferencing. 

Visit the Department of Health website for more information on the Better Access initiative.

Empowering Communities

In special circumstances, the ATO can release you from your tax debt if paying would cause serious hardship. Phone the ATO on 1800 806 218 to discuss your situation or visit ato.gov.au/drought.

How drought assistance payments affect tax

If you or your business receives drought assistance payments from private funds, charitable groups or crowdfunding platforms, the tax treatment of the payments is affected by why you received the funds and how you used them.

If you intend to use the payments for business expenditure they must be declared as assessable income. However, you can also claim the appropriate business deductions.

For example, if you spent the payment on livestock feed, which is a deductible expense, the increase in assessable income will be offset by the increase in deductions claimed. This means there will be no net effect on your taxable income.

If you intend to use the payments for food or clothing (or other such non-business purposes) they are not counted as assessable income. See also:

Crowdfunding and drought assistance
Support for small businesses

Recovery Support Officers 

The National Emergency Management Agency’s Recovery Support Officers give you a voice back to the Australian Government on how drought and other challenges are affecting your business, your family and your community.

Find out more about The National Emergency Management Agency's Recovery Support Officers and how they can help you.

Recovery Connect – Drought

If you are a small business affected by drought, use Recovery Connect to find support near you from government, charities, and community organisations. 

Regional Small Business Support Program

Provides free and confidential financial counselling through the Rural Financial Counselling Service for eligible small regional businesses affected by drought, bushfire or COVID-19.

Find out more about the Regional Small Business Support Program.

FarmHub

A centralised point of information on support and programs from all levels of government, industry groups and not-for-profit organisations. This connects farmers to a range of helpful services and support. Visit FarmHub for more information.

Tax assistance for small businesses 

If drought is causing financial difficulties, the Australian Taxation Office can help with more time to pay or payment plans with interest-free periods waiving penalties or interest charges.

Entrepreneurship Facilitators

Provide practical assistance to support and encourage individuals to start a business as a way to create their own job. Entrepreneurship Facilitators deliver services across Australia, with a focus on encouraging entrepreneurship among mature age Australians. 

Research and Development Tax Incentive

You may be eligible for a tax benefit to offset some of the cost of your eligible R&D activities. This may be a refundable or non-refundable offset depending on your company.

More information on the Research and Development Tax Incentive is available.

Boosting cash flow for employers

Eligible businesses and not-for-profit organisations who employ staff will receive between $20,000 to $100,000 in cash flow boost amounts by lodging their activity statements up to the month or quarter of September 2020.

More information on Boosting cash flow for employers is available.

Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy

Provides support in the first three years of an Australian Apprenticeship. Find out more about the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy.

Instant Asset Write-Off

Eligible businesses can claim an immediate deduction for the business portion of the cost of an asset in the year the asset is first used, or installed ready for use.

More information on Instant Asset Write-Off is available on the ATO website.

Small Business Advisory Service – Digital Solutions

Delivers low cost, high quality digital advisory services to metropolitan and regional areas. These services can be provided through one on one consultations, group workshops, remotely online or via telephone. More information on Small Business Advisory Service Digital Solutions is available.

Business Energy Advice Program

The program provides two free services for eligible small businesses.

Business Energy Advice: delivers face-to-face, phone and digital advice to small businesses across Australia Small Business Energy Check: an energy spend bench marking tool that allows small businesses to compare their energy spend against similar businesses in their industry and region

How drought assistance payments affect tax

If you or your business receives drought assistance payments from private funds, charitable groups or crowdfunding platforms, the tax treatment of the payments is affected by why you received the funds and how you used them.

If you intend to use the payments for business expenditure they must be declared as assessable income. However, you can also claim the appropriate business deductions.

For example, if you spent the payment on livestock feed, which is a deductible expense, the increase in assessable income will be offset by the increase in deductions claimed. This means there will be no net effect on your taxable income.

If you intend to use the payments for food or clothing (or other such non-business purposes) they are not counted as assessable income. See also:

Crowdfunding and drought assistance

The ATO offers a number of tax concessions to eligible small businesses. These include:

Increased small business tax offset – The small business income tax offset can reduce the tax you pay by up to $1,000 each year.

Temporary full expensing – Eligible businesses may immediately deduct the business portion of the cost of eligible new depreciating assets.

Loss carry back tax offset – If you’re an eligible corporate entity, you may claim this refundable tax offset when you choose to carry back tax losses to certain income years in which you had an income tax liability.

PAYG instalment concession – You can pay your pay as you go (PAYG) instalments using an amount we calculate for you. It's quick and easy because you don’t have to work out your instalments.

Simplified trading stock rules – This concession allows you to report an estimate of the value of your trading stock at the end of the financial year.

Small business restructure rollover – Small businesses can change their legal structure, without incurring any income tax liability, by transferring active assets between entities.

Lower company tax rate – If you are a base-rate entity you could be eligible for the lower company tax rate of 27.5%.

Support for primary producers

Recovery Support Officers

The National Emergency Management Agency's Recovery Support Officers are a voice for people living outside of the larger cities and a crucial source of real time information about how Australian Government assistance measures are working for primary producers, regional businesses and communities.

Find out more about the Agency's Recovery Support Officers and how they can help you.

Recovery Connect

If you are a Primary Producer affected by drought, use Recovery Connect to find support near you from government, charities, and community organisations. Please continue to check back in as we regularly update available services.

Rural Financial Counselling Service

The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) provides free, confidential financial counselling to farmers, fishers, forest growers, harvesters and related small business owners who are suffering financial hardship.

Call 1300 771 741 to contact the nearest Rural Financial Counselling Service office.

FarmHub

FarmHub is a central point of information on support and programs from all levels of government, industry groups and not-for-profit organisations. It connects farmers to a range of helpful services and support. For more information visit FarmHub.

Farm Household Allowance

Farm Household Allowance (FHA) provides assistance to farming families experiencing financial hardship, no matter the cause of that hardship. It focuses on helping farmers make important decisions to improve their long-term financial situation, including leaving the industry.

The support available includes a fortnightly payment for up to 4 years in each specific 10-year period and individual case support with a Farm Household Case Officer

More information on Farm Household Allowance is available on the Department of Agriculture website or call the Farmer Assistance Hotline on call 132 316.

You can apply for the Farm Household Allowance on the Services Australia website.

Regional Investment Corporation loans

The Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) is a Federal Government-backed specialist finance provider for farmers and farm-related small businesses.

They offer low-interest rate loans to eligible farm businesses, for purposes such as drought recovery and preparedness.  Visit the Regional Investment Corporation website for more details.

Drought Community Support Initiative

Immediate financial support of up to $3,000 is available through the St Vincent de Paul Society in eligible Local Government Areas for farmers, farm workers and suppliers/contractors facing hardship due to drought as part of the Drought Community Support Initiative.

Visit Vinnies Drought Assistance for Round 2 guidelines for the Drought Community Support Initiative.

On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme

Provides rebates for emergency on-farm water infrastructure expenses. You can apply for a 25% rebate on the cost of new infrastructure that supplies water for animal welfare, up to a maximum of $25,000.

The roll-out of the expanded Scheme is currently being negotiated with all states and territories, including co-funding arrangements. Further information will be available once those arrangements have been finalised.

Visit the Department of Agriculture's website for more information on the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate.

Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme

Participants will be able to extend their stay for up to a year. This will ensure farmers have enough labour to plant and pick crops. Seasonal workers will also be exempt from a rule that normally prevents them from staying with the same employer for more than six months.

Visit the Home Affairs website for more information about the Seasonal Worker Program.

Emissions Reduction Fund 

A voluntary scheme that aims to provide incentives for a range of organisations and individuals to adopt new practices and technologies to reduce their emissions. Visit the Clean Energy Regulator to find out how the Emissions Reduction Fund works.

National Drought Map

The National Drought Map brings together information from a range of climatic, economic, and policy sources to assist users with analysis, decision making, planning and reporting. The map visualises data including seasonal climate forecasts, soil moisture levels, regional profiles and available government grants.

Visit the National Drought Map.

Regional weather and climate guides 

The Bureau’s regional weather and climate guides aim to improve the resilience of farming businesses by providing localised facts about the likelihood, severity and duration of key weather variables. Visit the Bureau of Meteorology's website for climate guides.

Tax assistance

If drought is causing financial difficulties, the ATO can help with more time to pay or payment plans with interest-free periods waiving penalties or interest charges.

Farm Management Deposits Scheme

Allows eligible primary producers to set aside pre-tax income from their primary production activities to draw upon in future years when needed. Visit the ATO website for more information on the Farm Management Deposits Scheme.

Accelerated depreciation for fodder and water infrastructure

Accelerated depreciation arrangements, which allow an immediate deduction for the cost of certain new water facilities, fodder storage assets and fencing.

Visit the ATO website for more information on depreciating assets.

Income tax averaging

Allows farmers to even out their high and low income years and the tax payable over a maximum of five years. Visit the ATO website for more information on tax averaging for primary producers.

How drought assistance payments affect tax

If you or your business receives drought assistance payments from private funds, charitable groups or crowdfunding platforms, the tax treatment of the payments is affected by why you received the funds and how you used them.

If you intend to use the payments for business expenditure they must be declared as assessable income. However, you can also claim the appropriate business deductions.

For example, if you spent the payment on livestock feed, which is a deductible expense, the increase in assessable income will be offset by the increase in deductions claimed. This means there will be no net effect on your taxable income.

If you intend to use the payments for food or clothing (or other such non-business purposes) they are not counted as assessable income. See also:

Crowdfunding and drought assistance

The ATO offers measures to help primary producers manage their finances and prepare for drought:

Immediate tax deductions for capital expenditure – You can get immediate tax deductions for water facilities, fencing and fodder storage assets, and landcare operations that will help you prepare for, and manage during, drought.
Farm management deposit scheme – If you have put money into your farm management deposit account within the last 12 months you can withdraw those funds without affecting the deductions you have claimed.
  • Your financial institution may need advance notice of your request for early withdrawal.
Primary producer concessions – Special tax concessions may affect which amounts you include in your assessable income each year and how you pay your PAYG instalments.
  • If you operate as an individual or in partnership, you can also benefit from exceptions to the non-commercial losses rules.
Tax averaging – Allows eligible primary producers to even out their high and low income years and the tax payable over a maximum of five years.
The ATO offers measures to help primary producers manage their finances and prepare for drought more time to pay or payment plans with interest-free periods waiving penalties or interest charges.