JobKeeper – Alternative decline in turnover test rules announced

Most farmers currently have no substantial turnover but still highly likely to have had an increase in turnover from last due to coming out of a drought,  which up until now has taken them out of the COVID19 JobKeeper program. However, we now have the opportunity to look at pre drought incomes, e.g. 2018 or 2017 and many farmers may now be eligible for the JobKeeper regime. The JobKeeper alternative tests which were released yesterday include businesses affected by drought or other natural disasters. Employers or businesses that cannot satisfy the basic decline in turnover test to access JobKeeper Payments because there is no appropriate comparison period in 2019 can still qualify if they meet an alternative test. The alternative test may be relevant for a business that only recently commenced, or that had suffered an extraordinary circumstance in 2019 that affected its usual turnover. 
The details of the alternative tests have been released in Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Alternative Decline in Turnover Test Rules 2020 (F2020L00461). 
Before an alternative test can be applied, the ATO must be satisfied that there is no appropriate comparison period for the entity in 2019. The rules set out the following circumstances in which an alternative test can be relevant: 
• entities that newly commenced business such that there is no relevant comparison period in 2019
• entities that acquired or sold part of their business, which affected their turnover
• where there was a restructure of the business which affected turnover
• where a business experienced rapid growth in turnover such that its projected turnover is not comparable to the 2019 period
the business was affected by drought or other natural disaster
• a business has an irregular turnover that is not cyclical, eg the building and construction sector, and
• a sole trader or partner in a small partnership (less than five partners) did not work due to illness, injury or leave in the comparable period, which affected the turnover. 
Each of these circumstances provides its own relevant alternative tests to qualify for the JobKeeper Payments, eg comparing projected GST turnover with either an average turnover, or in the case of drought, with the turnover of a year preceding the year in which the drought was declared. The appropriate test that is to be applied depends on which of the above circumstances an employer falls within. The rules however clarify that only one of the alternative tests needs to be satisfied to access the scheme, even if more than one of the circumstances applies to an entity. The rules contain six examples to illustrate the operation of the tests.