There has been a flurry of law changes and other measures put in place to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. This report summarises those law changes and measures as at 30 March 2020. It also includes relevant links for more information.

Officials have wide-ranging powers to deal with the pandemic

A State of National Emergency has been declared and two Epidemic Preparedness Notices have been made.

These give civil defence officials, police, and medical officers of health wide-ranging powers including the ability to requisition vehicles, land, and buildings.

Assistance for businesses

Assistance available to businesses is explained on the Work and Income website and the Reserve Bank website. These include:

  • A wage subsidy scheme for businesses with a 30% revenue drop due to COVID-19. The subsidy is $585.80 a week for full-time employees and $350 a week for part-time employees. Businesses must use their best endeavours to pay employees 80% of their normal salaries. The subsidy doesn’t attract GST.
  • A COVID-19 leave payment for employees was originally included but was removed on 27 March. Applications submitted before then will continue to be processed.

  • A business finance support scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Urgent tax changes have been put in place and more information on these is on the Inland Revenue website. The changes include:

  • Depreciation deductions for non-residential buildings have been reintroduced.

  • The refundability of research and development tax credits is broadened up to a maximum refundability cap calculated by a formula (previously up to $255,000) and these changes can now apply from 1 April 2019 (previously from 1 April 2020).

  • The threshold for having to pay provisional tax is increased from $2,500 to $5,000.

  • The low-value asset write-off threshold is temporarily increased from $500 to $5,000 for items bought from 17 March 2020 to 16 March 2021. It is then permanently increased to $1,000 for items brought from 17 March 2021.

  • Inland Revenue can remit interest on a late tax payment (due from 14 February 2020) if the taxpayer's ability to make the payment on time was significantly adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Regulators have put in place regulatory relief measures:

  • The Financial Markets Authority and NZX have extended the time for market participants to provide their audited financial statements.
  • The Commerce Commission has announced it won’t take enforcement action against businesses cooperating to supply essential goods and services in ways that ordinarily could be considered anti-competitive under the Commerce Act.

  • The Civil Aviation Authority has announced a relief package that deals with organisational and medical certificates that are due to expire soon, upcoming currency requirements, and exemptions for upcoming Safety Management System implementation dates.

Some changed or new compliance obligations

  • Rents for residential tenancies are frozen for 6 months starting on 26 March 2020. Residential tenancies can only be terminated with the agreement of the tenant or for very limited reasons for 3 months starting on 26 March 2020. More information on these changes is at Tenancy Services.

  • Polytechs, universities, private training establishments, and early childhood centres must comply with directions from the Secretary for Education about COVID-19 measures (for example, to provide education through online learning). COVID-19 information for the education sector is on the Ministry of Education website.

  • Local authority council and committee members can attend meetings by audio or audio-visual link.

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