Govt extends Antivirus B aid scheme, further tax reliefs

The government extended the Antivirus B scheme of wage compensations for companies that had to cut their production and services due to a drop in demand, staff and materials in relation with the coronavirus crisis, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jana Malacova has tweeted.

The state paid out Kc12.5bn in these compensations between the start of the state of emergency in mid-March and the end of September, according to data from the Labour Ministry. The Antivirus B scheme is intended for businesses not hit directly by the government's restrictions and offers compensation worth 60 percent of employees' wages. The contribution is capped at Kc29,000 per employee.

Employers have welcomed the government's decision. "We are glad that the government has heard our demands and has extended the Antivirus B programme in its current form," Confederation of Industry vice-president Jan Rafaj told CTK. According to Malacova, the Antivirus scheme has proven to be effective at the time of crisis, as the Czech jobless rate has not increased markedly. It is currently at 3.7 percent, with 273,500 people being registered with employment offices.

Two weeks ago, the government extended the Antivirus A scheme, which is designated for businesses that had to close due to the guaranteed-ordered restrictions and quarantine. The cabinet had also raise the amount of the Antivirus A compensations two weeks ago. Instead of 80 percent of wages up to Kc39,000 per employee, the state now covers full wages of employees, including their mandatory insurance fees, of up to Kc50,000 for firms that have to close over COVID-19.

Between mid-March and the end of September, the state paid out Kc18.7bn in Antivirus A and Antivirus B compensations, contributing to wages of 810,260 employees of 58,260 companies. Antivirus A compensations amounted to Kc6.2bn, Antivirus B compensations to Kc12.5bn. According to the Labour Ministry's calculations, Kc9.1bn-Kc11.9bn could be paid out from the Antivirus scheme in Q4 under the current rules. If the Antivirus B compensations remain unchanged, their total Q4 figure would reach Kc10.6bn.

Under the original plans, the current Antivirus scheme was to be followed by a long-term "kurzarbeit" scheme of reduced working hours as of November, but the ruling coalition has been unable to agree on its rules. The result of their discussions has been criticised by both trade unions and employers, who say they believe that it will be profoundly modified during the ongoing lower house debate.

The government today also approved further tax relief measures for entrepreneurs and companies affected by anti-coronavirus restrictions, Finance Minister Alena Schillerova has tweeted. The cabinet decided to waive advance payments on individual income tax as well as corporate income tax payable between October 15 and December 15, advance payments on the road tax payable on April 15, July 15, October 15 and December 15, and interest on late payment of VAT, Schillerova said.

The Finance Ministry said earlier it would defer VAT payments for entrepreneurs engaged in retail and services that have been hit by the latest government restrictions directly. VAT payments for Q3 and September, which are due today, have thus been deferred to the end of the year.

Source: ČTK

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