Changes to McPhail & Partners operations during current Stage 3 lockdown

With Victoria again entering Stage 3 lockdown in the ongoing battle against COVID-19 we have implemented a number of changes to our operations to ensure the safety of our staff, clients and community whilst still remaining fully operational.

Office Closure and Remote Working

As per the Victorian Government guidelines, all staff that are able to work from home are now working remotely from home.  Whilst the team is physically separated we are in constant communication and all have full access to the McPhail’s system so we can continue to provide our full service offering to you, our clients.

We are hopeful the current Stage 3 lockdown will only last for the 6 weeks originally announced however, we will continue to follow the directions of the Victorian Government as more information becomes available.

In light of the current restrictions, no physical client meetings will be held at the McPhail & Partners offices until further notice.

The team will still be available during normal office hours (8:30am - 5:00pm Mon-Fri) and can be contacted by the following methods:

  • Phone – the main office number is 9898 9221 and your calls can be transferred to the relevant team member
  • Email – either directly with one or our team members of to office@mcphail.com.au
  • Zoom – phone or email us to book a Zoom call

Exchange of Documents

With the 2020 financial year now ended, we know many of you are keen to get your tax returns and financial statements prepared.  With the team working remotely, we ask that where possible you provide your source documents electronically to avoid any unnecessary delays.

We can accept documents via Email however if your records contain sensitive information such as TFNs or HIN/SRN references for shareholdings we have 2 secure online portals available that can be used.

Both the MYOB Client Portal (also used for electronic tax return approval) and Secure Returns can be accessed from our website at https://www.mcphailandpartners.com.au/client-login/.

If you aren’t already setup on one of these portals please contact us to arrange a new user setup.

We understand that not all clients will be able to utilise these online systems so our PO Box (PO Box 40, Mitcham, VIC 3132) will still be monitored if mailing your records is required.

We ask that records not be left unattended at the office.  If none of the options above are suitable to you please call us on 9898 9221 so we can make alternate arrangements.

Approval of Documents

As much as possible we would like to utilise our electronic portals and email to provide completed tax returns and financial statements for review and approval.  These systems provide a much more efficient turnaround time and don’t require any of our team to be physically in the office to print and mail out documents.

The team here at McPhails can discuss these alternatives with you as needed to ensure we can find the right option for each of you.

 

We thank you for your ongoing support, understanding and patience through these challenging times. If you wish to discuss any of these changes further please do not hesitate to contact the office on 9898 9221.


ATO scam calls may soon be a thing of the past

Last year, some 107,000 ATO impersonation scam calls were reported to the authorities. The real number is likely to be much higher, given that most of these type of calls go unreported. Scammers are increasingly using technological advances to appear more legitimate and nab unsuspecting victims.

One technique commonly used is “spoofing”, where scammers use software to mislead the caller ID technology on mobile phones and modern fixed line phones. Rather than transmitting the actual, typically overseas, phone number the call is coming from, the software “overstamps” it with another phone number. Commonly, the numbers used are widely publicised, such as the legitimate numbers used by the ATO.

Tip: The ATO has recently alerted the community to an SMS scam which claims that you’re due to receive a tax refund and asks you to click on a link. The ATO will never send an email or SMS asking people to access online services via a hyperlink.

Due to the prevalence of these scams and the large amount of money lost by individuals, Australian telcos, the ATO and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently collaborated on a three-month trial of technology to block scam calls appearing to originate from legitimate ATO phone numbers. Under the Scam Technology Project, participating telcos used software to identify calls which had been “overstamped” with specified ATO phone numbers and blocked them.

According to the government, the trial has been “highly successful” in blocking spoof calls from specified ATO numbers. While this blocking technology will not stop scammers randomly ringing Australians pretending to be from the ATO, it will stop specific ATO numbers appearing in the caller ID on the recipient’s phone, making the scam seem less convincing.

Tip: If you receive a call from someone who says they are from a government department, such as the ATO, but you’re not sure whether the call’s legitimate, the best course of action is to hang up and phone back on a widely publicised number from an official website or source.

 


Additional cash flow boost coming for businesses

If your business is one of many that received the initial cash flow boosts as a part of the government’s COVID-19 economic stimulus measures, prepare for more help coming your way. When you lodge your monthly or quarterly activity statements for June to September 2020, your business will receive additional cash flow boosts.

Generally, the additional amount will be equal to the total amount that you initially received and will be split evenly between the lodged activity statements. Quarterly payers will generally receive 50% of their total initial cash flow boost for each activity statement, while monthly payers will generally receive 25% of their total initial cash flow boost for each activity statement.

However, if you’ve made adjustments or revised your activity statements after lodgment, the amount of additional cash flow boost payments you receive may be different.

Remember, if you haven’t made payments to employees subject to withholding, you need to report zero for PAYG withholding when lodging your activity statements to ensure you receive the additional cash flow boost payments. It’s important that you don’t cancel PAYG withholding registration until you have received the additional cash flow boosts.


Expanded instant asset write-off for businesses

If you’ve purchased assets for your business, remember that you may be eligible to claim an immediate deduction under the instant asset write-off, which was recently expanded.

From 12 March to 30 June 2020 inclusive, the instant asset write-off threshold for each asset increased to $150,000 (up from $30,000) for business entities with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million).

To get it right, remember:

  • check if your business is eligible;
  • both new and secondhand assets can be claimed, as long as each asset costs less than $150,000;
  • assets must be first used or installed ready for use between 12 March and 30 June 2020;
  • a car limit applies for passenger vehicles;
  • if the asset is for business and private use, only the business portion can be claimed;
  • you can claim a deduction for the balance of a small business pool if its value is less than $150,000 at 30 June 2020 (before applying depreciation deductions); and
  • different eligibility criteria and thresholds apply to assets first used or installed ready for use before 12 March 2020.

Tax time 2020 is here

Don’t jump the gun and lodge too early

Tax time 2020 is here, but it’s likely to be anything but routine. Many individuals on reduced income or have increased deductions may be eager to lodge their income tax returns early to get their hands on a refund. However, the ATO has issued a warning against lodging too early, before all your income information becomes available. It’s important to remember that employers have until the end of July to electronically finalise your income statement, and the same timeframe applies for other information from banks, health funds and government agencies.

For most people, income statements have replaced payment summaries. So, instead of receiving a payment summary from each employer, your income statements will be finalised electronically and the information provided directly to the ATO. Your income statements can be accessed through myGov and the information is automatically included in your tax return if you use myTax.

Tip: Tax agents can also access this information, and we’re here to help you get your return right this year.

Although you may be eager to lodge as soon as possible, the ATO has warned against lodging too early, as much of the information on your income may not be confirmed until later. It’s generally important to wait until income statements are finalised before lodging a tax return to avoid either delays in processing or a tax bill later on. Your income statement will be marked “tax ready” on myGov when it’s finalised, and other information from banks, health funds and government agencies will be automatically inserted into your tax return when it’s ready towards the end of July.

If you still choose to lodge early, the ATO advises carefully reviewing any information that’s pre-filled so you can confirm it’s correct. When lodging early you’ll
also have to formally acknowledge that your employer(s) may later finalise income statements with different amounts, meaning you may need to amend your tax return and additional tax may apply.

Tax return tips

With the great disruptors of the Australian bushfires and the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the associated government economic stimulus measures, there are some key tax-related matters for everyone to be aware of this year.

The ATO has a range of approaches to support taxpayers through tax time 2020, especially where new circumstances mean you might be receiving a different type of income or be able to claim new deductions. The ATO’s Tax Time Essentials page (www.ato.gov.au/taxessentials) provides a one-stop-shop for the things that are a little different this year and how they impact tax returns.

People accessing super early as a part of the COVID-19 early release scheme can rest assured that this money will not form a part of their assessable income. To date, 1.98 million people have withdrawn an average of $7,475 from their super under the scheme.

Another key difference this year is the introduction of the optional simplified method for claiming work from home expense deductions. This method allows you to claim 80 cents for each hour you worked from home from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, to cover all deductible expenses. However, if you were working from home before 1 March 2020 or have documented actual expenses that work out to be more than 80 cents per hour you can still use the usual method to claim expenses related to working from home.

If you were unable to work from home and had to take leave or were temporarily stood down, if your employer made any kind of payment, either regular or one-off, those amounts will need to be declared as wages and salary on your return and tax will apply at your usual marginal rates. This applies regardless of whether the payments are funded by the government JobKeeper scheme.

If you’ve been made redundant or had your employment terminated, any payment you receive may consist of a tax-free portion and a concessionally taxed portion, which means that you could potentially pay less tax.


ATO opens applications for early release of super

The ATO has released its application form for the early release of superannuation by individuals impacted by COVID-19. From 20 April, an individual can make one application to access up to $10,000 of their super (tax-free) in the 2019–2020 financial year, and a second application for up to $10,000 in the 2020–2021 year until 24 September 2020.

TIP: The ATO has run a social media campaign asking people to observe the intention of the legislation and only apply to release their super to deal with the adverse economic effects of COVID-19. You should not withdraw your super early and recontribute it to gain a personal tax deduction.

If you are eligible, you should carefully check your super account balances to ensure there are sufficient funds available to claim. If you make an application and the fund has insufficient money to fulfil the application, you will not be able to make a second application for the balance from another fund/account in that financial year or ask for an amount above the $10,000 cap in the 2020–2021 financial year.

It take one to two business days for super funds to receive notifications directly from the ATO about their members. The government then expects funds to process the payments and release the amounts to individuals “as soon as possible”.

If your application is rejected by the ATO, you will be notified via your MyGov account in two to three days.

Separate arrangements apply for applications by members of self managed super funds (SMSFs). The ATO will issue a determination to you as the fund member (instead of to the super fund) advising of your eligibility to release an amount. When the SMSF receives the determination from you, the SMSF trustee is then authorised to make the payment.


Federal Budget night shifts to 6 October 2020

The Australian Government recently announced that this year’s Federal Budget will not be handed down until 6 October 2020. In making the announcement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that this postponement is intended to “provide more time for the economic and fiscal impacts of the coronavirus, both in Australia and around the world, to be better understood”.

Since 1994, with a few exceptions, Australia’s Federal Budget has been handed down by the Treasurer on the second Tuesday in May. Exceptions were made in 1996, when an election and a change of government occurred in March and the Budget was handed down in August; in 2016, when the Budget was handed down on the first Tuesday in May because the government was considering calling call a double dissolution election; and most recently in 2019, when a Federal election was called for 18 May and the Budget was presented on 2 April.

Between 1901 and 1993 the Budget was presented in August, on the first Tuesday night of Parliament’s spring session.


Super guarantee amnesty for employers

An amnesty is now on for employers in relation to unpaid employee superannuation entitlements from 1 July 1992 to 1 January 2018. There are certain conditions which have to be met for employers to qualify. The amnesty will allow employers to self-correct super guarantee (SG) underpayments without incurring additional penalties that would normally apply.

During the amnesty period, employers can also claim a tax deduction for payments of SG charge or contributions. The amnesty will end on 7 September 2020, at which time the ATO is set to take a tougher stance on SG underpayments.

To qualify, employers must first disclose the super guarantee shortfall to the ATO in the approved form between 24 May 2018 and 7 September 2020. The shortfall must not have been previously disclosed to the Commissioner, however, additional amounts of SG shortfalls disclosed during the amnesty period may be subject to beneficial treatment.


Independent review of ATO audit position: small business pilot extended and expanded

The ATO has advised that it has extended and expanded its pilot program which offers an independent review service to eligible small businesses disputing income tax related audits. The pilot will continue until 31 December 2020.

The independent review is conducted by an officer from the ATO's Review and Dispute Resolution business line. This officer will not have been involved in the audit and will bring an independent “fresh set of eyes” to the review. The independent reviewer will consider the documents setting out the taxpayer's position and the ATO audit position. They will schedule a case conference with the taxpayer and the ATO audit officer generally within one month of receiving the taxpayer's review request. The case conference is an opportunity for all parties to assist the independent reviewer with understanding the facts and contentions.

The audit case officer will contact a taxpayer if it is eligible for an independent review. A written offer of independent review will also be included in the audit finalisation letter.

TIP: The ATO emphasises that taxpayers will retain their full dispute and objection rights even if they seek an independent review. Taxpayers will also retain these rights if they are not eligible for an independent review or if they choose not to seek an independent review.


Scams targeting natural disaster victims

Victims of the recent natural disasters beware: there is an SMS scam circulating that purports to give you “a bonus” on your 2020 tax return. The scam urges victims to start the process by filling out a form and provides a link to a what looks like the genuine myGov website. According to the ATO, this is a classic case of scammers impersonating the ATO in an effort to collect personal information including names, birth dates, addresses, emails, phone numbers and online banking login details.

Once this information is obtained, scammers can use it to commit identify theft, including porting your phone, accessing your bank account, obtaining a loan in your name, lodging tax returns, stealing your superannuation and committing other types of fraud, or they could on-sell the information to others who may commit these offences.

If you receive a call from someone saying they are from the ATO but you aren’t sure, the best course of action is to hang up and call the ATO back on the appropriate number listed on its website, or to call your tax agent directly on their listed number to seek advice. While the ATO does send SMS messages and emails and calls taxpayers, it’s important to remember that the ATO will never:

  • send an SMS message or email asking you to click on a hyperlink to log into myGov or other government websites;
  • ask for personally identifying information in order for you to receive a refund;
  • use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation;
  • project its number onto caller ID; or
  • request that you make payments of debt via cardless cash, iTunes or Google Play cards, prepaid Visa cards, cryptocurrency, or direct credit to a personal bank account.

If you’ve fallen victim to this or other tax-related scams, don’t be ashamed, but contact the ATO as quickly as possible. The sooner you notify the ATO, the better the outcome is likely to be.