In just 27 days, JobKeeper comes to an end and national independent insolvency firm, Jirsch Sutherland is urging struggling businesses to act now and seek help – while there’s still time.

JobKeeper has been a godsend for many businesses and while many no longer need the support, there are still countless others that have been relying on it, according to Jirsch Sutherland national managing partner, Bradd Morelli.

“Its conclusion may be a trigger for financial distress, as many businesses have exhausted their cash resources and won’t be able to stand on their own two feet and pay staff wages,” he said.

“It’s crucial for business owners and directors to be proactive and to act early if they’re in financial distress. There can be options but it’s important to understand which process is right and know when to use it. There’s a huge difference between early intervention, a controlled process, a reactive process and a forced winding up.”

Jirsch Sutherland has seen an uptick in enquiries for insolvency services, corresponding with end of the insolvent trading moratorium on December 31 and the further scaling back of JobKeeper on January 1.

“A number of ‘safety nets’ have already been removed and JobKeeper ends on March 28. In addition, the temporary restructuring relief, which relates to statutory demands and provides a director of eligible companies with a temporary safe harbour from personal liability for insolvent trading, ends on March 31. There’s now even greater need for directors to be fully aware of all the options and act appropriately.” 

Business owners and directors need to do a simple self-assessment and determine whether, post-stimulus, they are able to pay staff wages, tax, rent and superannuation. “Put simply, will your business be able to keep its head above water post-stimulus? If the answer is no, then it’s crucial to speak to a trusted adviser like an accountant or business turnaround/insolvency specialist,” Morelli said.

He expects that once businesses that are still on JobKeeper receive their last payments in April, the ATO will start to pursue outstanding debts. “While the ATO has been very quiet for almost 12 months, that won’t last with their debt book at an estimated $53 billion, and that’s when we expect to see the insolvency wave building.”

Of recent reforms including the Small Business Restructuring and Simplified Liquidation processes, touted by the federal government as some of Australia’s most significant reforms, Morelli warns they aren’t as simple as they first appear.

“While they encourage earlier intervention, they come with their own level of complexities. Despite the reforms, the best and most appropriate appointment may still be a traditional appointment. There are various options, so it’s important for business owners to ask for help if unsure. As always, it’s crucial to be proactive and to act early,” he said.