2020/21 Federal Budget
5. Other budget announcements
5.5 Insolvency reforms to support small business
The Government will implement certain insolvency reforms, effective from 1 January 2021 (subject to the passing of legislation) to support small business, including the following:
- The introduction of a new streamlined process to enable eligible incorporated small businesses (broadly, those with liabilities of less than $1 million) in financial distress to restructure their debt. Simplifying the liquidation process for eligible incorporated small businesses (to allow faster and lower-cost liquidations, increasing returns for creditors and employees).
- Support for the insolvency sector (to ensure it can respond effectively to increased demand and to the needs of small business).
Currently, the insolvency system faces a number of challenges. These include an increase in the number of businesses in financial distress due to COVID-19, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ system, and high costs and lengthy processes that can prevent distressed small businesses from engaging with the insolvency system early thereby reducing their opportunity to restructure and survive.
Temporary insolvency and bankruptcy protections that were introduced in March 2020 to provide relief for businesses impacted by COVID-19 are due to expire on 31 December 2020 (e.g., under these measures, directors are temporarily relieved from personal liability for trading while insolvent). However, the number of companies being put into external administration is expected to increase significantly, putting additional stress on the system. Therefore, the above proposed reforms will help more businesses to successfully get to the other side of the crisis.