Single touch payroll - are you ready?

From 1 July 2018 businesses with 20 or more employees were required to report payments such as salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and super information to the ATO directly from their payroll solution when they pay their employees. From 1 July 2019, all employers -regardless of your number of employees- will be required to report through Single Touch Payroll (STP).

Through STP, your business is required to submit your employee’s payroll and super information to the ATO directly from your chosen payroll software upon completion of each pay run.

Some key information to note:

  • Pay cycles can remain as they are. You can still choose to pay your employees weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
  • Employees weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
  • The due date for payment of PAYG withholding and super contributions will remain unchanged; however, your business will now have the option to make payments earlier.
  • Payments which are reported through STP will be pre-filled into your monthly or QuarterlyBusinesses Activity Statements
  • There will be no need to provide your employees with a payment summary at the end of the financial year as current salary, and wage information will be made available to them via their myGov account, or their accountant can access this information via the Tax Agent Portal.

If you’d like to know more about Single Touch Payroll, please contact us, as we can help you prepare and ensure your accounting software is STP compliant.


Tax news, views and clues, May 2019

ATO to ramp up ABN investigations and cancellations

As part of the ATO’s work to ensure the integrity of the Australian Business Register, it investigates the business activities of Australian Business Number (ABN) holders when it seems their ABN is no longer being used – for example, if business income isn’t being reported, or where the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) deregisters a company. The ATO may then cancel the ABN where there’s sufficient evidence the business is inactive. An ABN will also be cancelled when the taxpayer themselves advises they’ve stopped their business activities, or when they lodge their final tax return.

The ATO is ramping up its focus on cancelling inactive ABNs over the coming months, saying it’s refined its models to help identify businesses that are no longer active or whose owners have forgotten to cancel their ABN when they ceased business.

If an ABN is cancelled and the holder is still running a business, or an ABN application is refused, the taxpayer can object to the decision within 60 days.

TIP:If your ABN seems to be inactive, the ATO may ask you for evidence that you’re setting up or still running a business. We can help you with putting together this information, or with applying to have your ABN reinstated if it’s incorrectly cancelled.

Fringe benefits tax: rates, thresholds and ATO focus for 2019–2020

The ATO has issued its annual rulings about rates and thresholds that apply for the new FBT year (1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020), including the benchmark interest rate, the cents-per-kilometre amounts for calculating the value of a fringe benefit from private use of a motor vehicle other than a car, the threshold for the FBT record-keeping exemption, state-by-state amounts for valuing housing benefits, and the the weekly amounts the ATO considers reasonable for food and drink expenses incurred by employees who receiving a living-away-from-home allowance.

TIP:We can help you reduce your business’s FBT liability with useful strategies like providing employee benefits that are tax-deductible or FBT-exempt, using employee contributions or providing cash bonuses.

The ATO will focus on monitoring a range of FBT issues this year, including looking for employers who fail to report motor vehicle fringe benefits or incorrectly apply exemptions for vehicles; identifying mismatches between amounts on FBT returns and the income amounts on the employer’s tax return; looking for incorrect classifications of entertainment expenses; monitoring issues around car parking fringe benefits; and following up with taxpayers who don’t lodge FBT returns on time.

Guidance on when a company carries on a business

With reduced company tax rates available for some businesses in recent years, and changes in eligibility for capital gains tax (CGT) small business concessions, it’s become increasingly important for us to understand how the law and the ATO deal with concepts like “small business entity” and “carrying on a business”.

New guidance is now available on the types of factors the ATO considers when deciding whether a company “carries on a business in a general sense”, and how the scope and nature of the business come into play when the ATO determines the tax consequences of a company’s activities and transactions.

The guidance emphasises that it’s not possible to definitively state whether a company is carrying on a business, but it’s a question of fact that the ATO must decide on a case-by-case basis by looking at a range of indicators across the company’s features and activities. One key indicator is whether the company’s activities have the purpose of making a profit. The ATO accepts that where a profit-making purpose exists, it’s likely the other indicators will support a conclusion that the company carries on a business.

Super guarantee amnesty not yet law, but $100 million recovered

The ATO has recovered around $100 million in unpaid superannuation from employers since the 12-month super guarantee amnesty was proposed on 24 May 2018, even though the law hasn’t yet changed to put the amnesty in place.

At a Senate Economics Legislation Committee hearing in April, ATO Deputy Commissioner, Superannuation Mr James O’Halloran estimated that there has been a 10–15% increase in the number of employers coming forward to self-report unpaid super guarantee amounts in response to the announcement of the amnesty, despite it not yet being law. Mr O’Halloran said 19,000 employers have come forward within the normal super guarantee charge process for reporting unpaid contributions.

The Bill to implement the amnesty lapsed on 11 April when the Federal Election was called, so the ATO must keep applying the existing law. This means employers who make a voluntary disclosure of historical non-compliance won’t be entitled to the proposed concessional treatment, unless and until the amnesty is legislated by a future Parliament. The ATO has said if this eventually happens, it will apply the new law retrospectively to voluntary disclosures made up until 23 May 2019.

TIP:Employers who’ve missed a super payment or haven’t paid employees’ super on time must lodge a superannuation guarantee charge statement and, while the current law applies, pay all of the relevant amounts, including interest and administration fees.

Instant asset write-off with Budget changes now law

Changes to the instant asset write-off rules have now become law, including measures recently announced in the government’s Federal Budget.

The write-off has been extended to medium sized businesses (with aggregated annual turnover of $10 million or more, but less than $50 million), where it previously only applied to small business entities (with aggregated annual turnover of less than $10 million).

The second important change is that the instant asset write-off threshold increases to $30,000, where it was previously $25,000.

The changes apply from 2 April 2019 to 30 June 2020, and the write-off works on a per-asset basis, so eligible businesses can instantly write off multiple assets.

Rental deductions: ATO audits to double

The ATO has warned that it will increase its scrutiny of rental-related deductions this year. It says some people are still claiming travel to residential rental properties, but from 1 July 2017 taxpayers (aside from excluded entities) have no longer been permitted to claim tax deductions for travel expenses related to inspecting, maintaining or collecting rent for a residential rental property.

The ATO expects to more than double the number of its in-depth audits this year to 4,500, with a specific focus on over-claimed interest, capital works claimed as repairs, incorrect apportionment of expenses for holiday homes let out to others and omitted income from accommodation sharing.

Shortfall penalties reduced under new ATO initiative

The ATO has heard from community and tax professionals that people should have a chance to correct their mistakes when they get their tax wrong, provided there isn’t dishonest intent behind their errors, and is taking a new approach that seems to be having positive effects.

Under this new approach, if the ATO finds an error on a tax return or an activity statement during an audit or review, the taxpayer may be eligible for automatic penalty relief. This means the ATO will show the taxpayer where they made the error, won’t apply a penalty and will educate the taxpayer on getting it right in future.

In the first six months of the initiative, the ATO has assisted thousands of people and small businesses and individuals with errors on their tax returns or activity statements, and shortfall penalties for “failure to take reasonable care” and “not having a reasonably arguable position” have been reduced by 89.2% for individuals and 83.8% for small businesses.

How the ATO identifies wealthy individuals and their businesses

The ATO uses sophisticated data matching and analytic models, drawing on tax returns and referrals from other government agencies or the community, to identify wealthy and high wealth individuals and link them to associated businesses.Given the importance of this group to community confidence in the tax and super systems, the ATO says it has an ongoing focus on engaging with such taxpayers, letting them know what information the ATO holds about them, and offering assistance and services to help “get things right up front”. This early engagement is part of the ATO’s commitment to improving the client experience, increasing transparency and reducing red tape.

Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also, changes in legislation may occur quickly. We, therefore, recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. This article is issued as a helpful guide to clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and not be made available to any person without our prior approval.


Federal budget April 2019

PERSONAL TAXATION

Personal tax cuts: low–mid tax offset increase now; more rate changes from 2022

In the 2019–2020 Federal Budget, the Coalition Government announced its intention to provide further reductions in tax through the non-refundable low and middle income tax offset (LMITO).

Under the changes, the maximum reduction in an eligible individual’s tax from the LMITO will increase from $530 to $1,080 per year. The base amount will increase from $200 to $255 per year for 2018–2019, 2019–2020, 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 income years. In summary:

  • The LMITO will now provide a tax reduction of up to $255 for taxpayers with a taxable income of $37,000 or less.
  • Between taxable incomes of $37,000 and $48,000, the value of the offset will increase by 7.5 cents per dollar to the maximum offset of $1,080.
  • Taxpayers with taxable incomes between $48,000 and $90,000 will be eligible for the maximum offset of $1,080.
  • From taxable incomes of $90,000 to $126,000 the offset will phase out at a rate of 3 cents per dollar.

Individuals will receive the LMITO on assessment after lodging their tax returns for 2018–2019, 2019–2020, 2020–2021 and 2021–2022. This is designed to ensure that taxpayers receive a benefit when lodging returns from 1 July 2019.

Rate and threshold changes from 2022 and beyond

From 1 July 2022, the Government proposes to increase the top threshold of the 19% personal income tax bracket from $41,000 to $45,000.

Also from 1 July 2022, the Government proposes to increase the low income tax offset (LITO) from $645 to $700. The increased LITO will be withdrawn at a rate of 5 cents per dollar between taxable incomes of $37,500 and $45,000 (instead of at 6.5 cents per dollar between taxable incomes of $37,000 and $41,000 as previously legislated). LITO will then be withdrawn at a rate of 1.5 cents per dollar between taxable incomes of $45,000 and $66,667.

Together, the increased top threshold of the 19% personal income tax bracket and the changes to LITO would lock in the tax reduction provided by LMITO, when LMITO is removed.

From 2024–2025, the Government intends to reduce the 32.5% marginal tax rate to 30%. This will more closely align the middle personal income tax bracket with corporate tax rates. In 2024–2025 an entire tax bracket – the 37% tax bracket – will be abolished under the Government’s already-legislated plan. With these changes, by 2024–2025 around 94% of Australian taxpayers are projected to face a marginal tax rate of 30% or less.

Therefore, under the changes announced in the Budget, from 2024–2025 there would only be three personal income tax rates: 19%, 30% and 45%. From 1 July 2024, taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000 will face a marginal tax rate of 30%.

The Government says these changes will maintain a progressive tax system. It is projected that in 2024–2025 around 60% of all personal income tax will be paid by the highest earning 20% of taxpayers – which is broadly similar to that cohort’s share if 2017–2018 rates and thresholds were left unchanged. The share of personal income tax paid also remains similar for the top 1%, 5% and 10% of taxpayers.

Under its Budget announcements, the Government says an individual with taxable income of $200,000 may be earning 4.4 times more income than an individual with taxable income of $45,000, but in 2024–2025 the higher-income person will pay around 10 times more tax.

Medicare levy low-income thresholds for 2018–2019

For the 2018–2019 income year, the Medicare levy low-income threshold for singles will be increased to $22,398 (up from $21,980 for 2017–2018). For couples with no children, the family income threshold will be increased to $37,794 (up from $37,089 for 2017–2018). The additional amount of threshold for each dependent child or student will be increased to $3,471 (up from $3,406).

For single seniors and pensioners eligible for the seniors and pensioners tax offset (SAPTO), the Medicare levy low-income threshold will be increased to $35,418 (up from $34,758 for 2017–2018). The family threshold for seniors and pensioners will be increased to $49,304 (up from $48,385), plus $3,471 for each dependent child or student.

The increased thresholds will apply to the 2018–2019 and later income years. Note that legislation is required to amend the thresholds, so a Bill will be introduced shortly.

Social security income automatic reporting via Single Touch Payroll

The Government intends to automate the reporting of individuals’ employment income for social security purposes through Single Touch Payroll (STP).

From 1 July 2020, income support recipients who are employed will report income they receive during the fortnight, rather than calculating and reporting their earnings. Each fortnight, income data received through an expansion of STP data-sharing arrangements will also be shared with the Department of Human Services, for recipients with employers utilising STP.

This measure will assist income support recipients by greatly reducing the likelihood of them receiving an overpayment of income support payments (and subsequently being required to repay it).

The measure is expected to save $2.1 billion over five years from 2018–2019. The Government says the efficiencies from this measure will be derived through more accurate reporting of incomes. This measure will not change income support eligibility criteria or maximum payment rates. The resulting efficiencies will be redirected by the Government to repair the Budget and fund policy priorities.

STP expansion

The Government will provide $82.4 million over four years from 2019–2020 to the ATO and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to support the expansion of the data collected through STP by the ATO and the use of this data by Commonwealth agencies.

STP data will be expanded to include more information about gross pay amounts and other details. These changes will reduce the compliance burden for employers and individuals reporting information to multiple Government agencies.

BUSINESS TAXATION

Instant asset write-off extended to more taxpayers; threshold increased

The Budget contains important changes to the instant asset write-off rules. These changes are in addition to the measures contained in a Bill currently before Parliament.

There are two key changes.

First, the write-off has been extended to medium sized businesses, where it previously only applied to small business entities.

The second important change is that the instant asset write-off threshold is to increase from $25,000 to $30,000. The threshold applies on a per-asset basis, so eligible businesses can instantly write off multiple assets.

The threshold increase will apply from 2 April 2019 to 30 June 2020.

Small businesses

Small business entities (ie those with aggregated annual turnover of less than $10 million) will be able to immediately deduct purchases of eligible assets costing less than $30,000 and first used, or installed ready for use, from 2 April 2019 to 30 June 2020.

Small businesses can continue to place assets which cannot be immediately deducted into the small business simplified depreciation pool and depreciate those assets at 15% in the first income year and 30% each income year thereafter. The pool balance can also be immediately deducted if it is less than the applicable instant asset write-off threshold at the end of the income year (including existing pools). The current “lock out” laws for the simplified depreciation rules (which prevent small businesses from re-entering the simplified depreciation regime for five years if they opt out) will continue to be suspended until 30 June 2020.

Medium sized businesses

Medium sized businesses (ie those with aggregated annual turnover of $10 million or more, but less than $50 million) will also be able to immediately deduct purchases of eligible assets costing less than $30,000 and first used, or installed ready for use, from 2 April 2019 to 30 June 2020.

The asset purchase date is critical. The concession will only apply to assets acquired after 2 April 2019 by medium sized businesses (as they have previously not had access to the instant asset write-off) up to 30 June 2020.

Arrangements before 2 April 2019

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Increasing the Instant Asset Write-Off for Small Business Entities) Bill 2019was introduced in Parliament on 13 February 2019. It proposes to amend the tax law to increase the threshold below which amounts can be immediately deducted under these rules from $20,000 to $25,000 from 29 January 2019 until 30 June 2020, and extend by 12 months to 30 June 2020 the period during which small business entities can access expanded accelerated depreciation rules (instant asset write-off). The Bill is still before the House of Representatives.

The changes in the Bill interact with the Budget changes. This means that, when legislated, small businesses will be able to immediately deduct purchases of eligible assets costing less than $25,000 and first used or installed ready for use over the period from 29 January 2019 until 2 April 2019. The changes outlined above will take affect from then (with access extended to medium sized businesses).

Date of effect

The changes announced in the Budget will apply from 2 April 2019 to 30 June 2020.

Accordingly, the threshold is due to revert to $1,000 on 1 July 2020. Although it is not spelt out in the Budget papers, a Treasury official confirmed to Thomson Reuters on Budget night that from that time the concession will only be available to small business entities (ie the instant asset write-off will not be available to medium sized businesses).

REGULATION, COMPLIANCE AND INTEGRITY

Tax integrity focus on larger businesses’ unpaid tax and super

The Government will provide ATO funding of $42.1 million over four years to to increase activities to recover unpaid tax and superannuation liabilities. These activities will focus on larger businesses and high wealth individuals to ensure on-time payment of their tax and superannuation liabilities. However, the measure will not extend to small businesses.

Tax Avoidance Taskforce on Large Corporates: more funding

The Government will also provide the ATO with $1 billion in funding over four years from 2019–2020 to extend the operation of the Tax Avoidance Taskforce and to expand the Taskforce’s programs and market coverage.

The Taskforce undertakes compliance activities targeting multinationals, large public and private groups, trusts and high wealth individuals. This measure is intended to allow the Taskforce to expand these activities, including increasing its scrutiny of specialist tax advisors and intermediaries that promote tax avoidance schemes and strategies.

The Government has also provided $24.2 million to Treasury in 2018–2019 to conduct a communications campaign focused on improving the integrity of the Australian tax system.

Black Economy Taskforce: strengthening the ABN rules

The Government intends to strengthen the Australian Business Number (ABN) system by imposing new compliance obligations for ABN holders to retain their ABN.

Currently, ABN holders can retain their ABN regardless of whether they are meeting their income tax return lodgment obligation or the obligation to update their ABN details.

From 1 July 2021, ABN holders with an income tax return obligation will be required to lodge their income tax return and from 1 July 2022 confirm the accuracy of their details on the Australian Business Register annually.

These new requirements will make ABN holders more accountable for meeting their government obligations, while minimising the regulatory impact on businesses complying with the law.

This measure stems from the 2018–2019 Budget measure Black Economy Taskforce: consultation on new regulatory framework for ABNs.

Funding for Government response to Banking Royal Commission

The Government will provide $606.7 million over five years from 2018–2019 to facilitate its response to the Hayne Banking Royal Commission.

On 4 February 2019, the Government proposed measures to take action on all 76 of the Royal Commission’s final report recommendations, including:

  • designing and implementing an industry-funded compensation scheme of last resort for consumers and small business ($2.6 million over two years from 2019–2020);
  • providing the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) with additional funding to help establish a historical redress scheme to consider eligible financial complaints dating back to 1 January 2008 ($2.8 million in 2018–2019);
  • paying compensation owed to consumers and small businesses from legacy unpaid external dispute resolution determinations ($30.7 million in 2019–2020);
  • resourcing ASIC to implement its new enforcement strategy and expand its capabilities and roles in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission ($404.8 million over four years from 2019–2020);
  • resourcing APRA to strengthen its supervisory and enforcement activities, including with respect to governance, culture and remuneration ($145 million over four years from 2019–2020);
  • establishing an independent financial regulator oversight authority, to assess and report on the effectiveness of ASIC and APRA in discharging their functions and meeting their statutory objectives ($7.7 million over three years from 2020–2021);
  • undertaking a capability review of APRA which will examine its effectiveness and efficiency in delivering its statutory mandate, as well as its capability to respond to the Royal Commission ($1 million in 2018–2019);
  • establishing a Financial Services Reform Implementation Taskforce within the Treasury to implement the Government’s response to the Royal Commission, and coordinate reform efforts with APRA, ASIC and other agencies through an implementation steering committee ($11.2 million in 2019–2020); and
  • providing the Office of Parliamentary Counsel with additional funding for the volume of legislative drafting that will be required to implement the Government’s response ($0.9 million in 2019–2020).

The Government said these costs will be partially offset by revenue received through ASIC’s industry funding model and increases in the APRA Financial Institutions Supervisory Levies.

ATO analytics: increased funding

The Government will also provide funding designed to increase the ATO’s analytical capabilities.

First, the Government will provide $70 million over two years from 2018–2019 to undertake preparatory work required for the ATO to migrate from its existing data centre provider to an “alternative data centre facility”. The funding will also be used to prepare a second-pass business case that will identify the full cost of activities required to complete the data centre migration project.

The Government will also provide $6.9 million over four years from 2019–2020 to support additional analytical capabilities within the Treasury and other agencies.

SUPERANNUATION

Super contributions work test exemption extended; spouse contributions age limit increased

The Budget confirmed the Treasurer’s announcement on 1 April 2019 that individuals aged 65 and 66 will be able to make voluntary superannuation contributions from 1 July 2020 (both concessional and non-concessional) without needing to meet the contributions work test. The age limit for making spouse contributions will also be increased from 69 to 74.

Super contributions work test

Currently, individuals aged 65–74 must work at least 40 hours in any 30-day period in the financial year in which the contributions are made (the “work test”) in order to make voluntary personal contributions.

The proposed extension of the work test exemption means that individuals aged 65 or 66 who don’t meet the work test – because they may only work one day a week or volunteer – will be able to make voluntary contributions to superannuation, giving them greater flexibility as they near retirement. Around 55,000 people aged 65 and 66 are expected to benefit from this reform in 2020–2021.

The Treasurer said the proposed change will align the work test with the eligibility for the Age Pension, which is scheduled to reach age 67 from 1 July 2023.

The tax law will also be amended to extend access to the bring-forward arrangements for non-concessional contributions to those aged 65 and 66. The bring-forward rules currently allows individuals aged less than 65 years to make three years’ worth of non-concessional contributions (which are generally capped at $100,000 a year) in a single year. This will be extended to those aged 65 and 66. Otherwise, the existing annual caps for concessional contributions and non-concessional contributions ($25,000 and $100,000 respectively) will continue to apply.

Spouse contributions age limit increase

The age limit for making spouse contributions will be increased from 69 to 74. Currently, those aged 70 and over cannot receive contributions made by another person on their behalf.

The proposed increased age limit for spouse contributions may enable more taxpayers to obtain a tax offset for spouse contributions from 1 July 2020. A tax offset is currently available up to $540 for a resident taxpayer in respect of eligible contributions made on behalf of their spouse. The spouse’s assessable income, reportable fringe benefits and reportable employer superannuation contributions must be less than $37,000 in total to obtain the maximum tax offset of $540, and less than $40,000 to obtain a partial tax offset. Of course, if the spouse in respect of whom the contribution is made is aged 67–74 from 1 July 2020, the spouse may still need to satisfy the requisite work test in order for the super fund to accept the contribution.

Exempt current pension income calculation to be simplified for super funds

Superannuation fund trustees with interests in both the accumulation and retirement phases during an income year will be allowed to choose their preferred method of calculating exempt current pension income (ECPI).

The Government will also remove a redundant requirement for superannuation funds to obtain an actuarial certificate when calculating ECPI using the proportionate method, where all members of the fund are fully in the retirement phase for all of the income year.

Background

There are two methods to work out the ECPI for a complying superannuation fund:

  • segregated method – the segregation of specific assets (segregated current pension assets) which are set aside to meet current pension liabilities; or
  • proportionate method – a proportion of assessable income attributable to current pension liabilities is exempt.

Since 1 July 2017, SMSFs and small APRA funds (SAFs) are prevented from using the segregated method to determine their ECPI if there are any fund members in retirement phase with a total superannuation balance that exceeds $1.6 million on 30 June of the previous income year. Such SMSFs and SAFs with “disregarded small fund assets” are instead required to use the proportionate method. This is currently the case even if the fund’s only member interests are retirement phase superannuation income streams whereby an actuarial certificate will provide a 100% tax exemption for the income in any event.

Where a SMSF is 100% in pension phase for all or part of an income year, the ATO considers that all of the fund’s assets are “segregated current pension assets” and the fund cannot choose to use the alternative proportionate method. The ATO has previously acknowledged that this legal view is at odds with an industry practice whereby some SMSFs have used the proportionate method even if the fund was solely in pension phase. The ATO therefore granted an administrative concession whereby SMSF trustees did not face compliance action for 2016–2017 and prior years for ECPI calculations based on an industry practice. However, for 2017–2018 and later years, the ATO has expected funds that are 100% in pension phase to only use the segregated method.

Super insurance opt-in rule for low balances: delayed start date confirmed

The Government has confirmed that it will delay the start date to 1 October 2019 for ensuring insurance within superannuation is only offered on an opt-in basis for accounts with balances of less than $6,000 and new accounts belonging to members under age 25.

That delayed start day of 1 October 2019 was previously announced as part of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Putting Members’ Interests First) Bill 2019, which was introduced in the House of Reps on 20 February 2019. That Bill (currently before Parliament) proposes to amend the super law to
prevent insurance within superannuation from being provided on an opt-out basis for account balances less than $6,000 and members under 25 years old (who begin to hold a new product on or after 1 October 2019).

Members will still be able to obtain insurance cover within their superannuation by electing to do so (ie opting in). The changes seek to prevent the erosion of super savings through inappropriate insurance premiums and duplicate cover.

The Putting Members’ Interests First Bill essentially re-introduced the Government’s policy proposal that was previously contained in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) Bill 2018. That Bill received Royal Assent on 12 March 2019, after being passed with Greens’ amendments that removed aspects of the insurance opt-in rule for account balances less than $6,000 and members under 25. The Government agreed to those amendments in the Senate to ensure the prompt passage of the other measures in that Bill. As enacted, that Bill requires a trustee to stop providing insurance on an opt-out basis from 1 July 2019 to a member who has had a product that has been inactive for 16 months or more, unless the member has directed the trustee to continue providing insurance.

 


Tax news, views and clues March 2019

Single Touch Payroll reporting for small businesses: get ready!

Legislation has recently passed to bring in Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting for all small employers (with fewer than 20 employees) from 1 July 2019.

STP is a payday reporting arrangement where employers need to send tax and superannuation information to the ATO from their payroll or accounting software each time they pay their employees. For large employers (with 20 or more employees), STP reporting started gradually from 1 July 2018, and until now it has been optional for small employers.

ATO Commissioner Chris Gordon has said he wants to “reassure small business and give my personal guarantee that our approach to extending Single Touch Payroll will be flexible, reasonable and pragmatic”.

The basics of STP reporting

  • With STP reporting, employers no longer need to provide payment summaries to employees for payments reported through STP. Payments not reported through STP, like employee share scheme (ESS) amounts, still need to be reported on a payment summary.
  • Employers no longer need to provide payment summary annual report (PSARs) to the ATO at the end of the financial year for STP reported payments.
  • Employees can view their year-to-date payment information using the ATO’s online services, accessible through their myGov account, or can ask the ATO for a copy of this information.
  • Employers need to complete a finalisation declaration at the end of each financial year.
  • Employers need to report employees’ super liability information for the first time through STP. Super funds will then report to the ATO when the employer pays the super amounts to employees’ funds.
  • From 2020, the ATO will pre-fill some activity statement information for small to medium withholders with the information reported through STP. Employers that currently lodge an activity statement will continue to do so.

TIP: Contact us today for more information about STP for your business.

Super guarantee compliance: time to take action

The government’s latest initiatives targeting non-compliance with superannuation guarantee (SG) obligations give businesses plenty to think about. With Single Touch Payroll on the way for small businesses, all employers should take time to review their arrangements for paying employees’ super.

The government is proposing a 12-month “amnesty” for employers to voluntarily disclose and correct any historical underpayments of SG contributions for any period up to 31 March 2018 without incurring penalties or the usual administration fee. This is provided the ATO hasn’t already commenced a compliance audit of that employer. Additionally, employers will be entitled to claim deductions for the catch-up payments they make under the amnesty.

TIP: It’s an important time for businesses to get their SG affairs in order. If you’re an employer with outstanding underpayments of SG contributions, we can assist with the process of making a voluntary disclosure to the ATO.

Proposed increase for small business instant asset write-off

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced the government’s intention to increase the instant asset write-off already available for small businesses from $20,000 to $25,000. Mr Morrison also said that the instant write-off would be extended by another 12 months to 30 June 2020. These measures are expected to benefit more than three million eligible small businesses to access the expanded accelerated depreciation rules for assets costing less than $25,000.

Labor has previously proposed an “investment guarantee” giving all businesses an immediate 20% tax deduction from 1 July 2020 for any new eligible asset worth more than $20,000. This would be a permanent accelerated depreciation measure so that businesses could continue to take advantage of an immediate 20% tax deduction when investing in an eligible asset.

ATO warns about new scams in 2019

The ATO is warning taxpayers to be alert for scammers impersonating the ATO, using a range of new ways to get taxpayers’ money and personal information.

While the ATO regularly contacts people by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that you’re being contacted by someone who isn’t with the ATO. The ATO will never:

  • send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment;
  • use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation;
  • request payment of debt using iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account; or
  • ask you to pay a fee in order to release a refund owed to you.

ATO refers overdue lodgments to external collection agencies

The ATO has recently started referring taxpayers with overdue lodgment obligations to an external collection agency to obtain lodgments on the ATO’s behalf. External collection agencies will focus on income tax and activity statement lodgments, and referral to an external collection agency doesn’t affect a taxpayer’s credit rating.

If your case is referred to a collection agency, the ATO will notify you in writing before phoning you or your authorised contact to negotiate lodgment of the overdue documents and request payment of any debt.

TIP: If your tax return or other ATO paperwork is overdue, don’t panic! We can help work out what you need to do next, and even make arrangements with the ATO on your behalf.

Government consultation on sharing economy reporting

The government has released a consultation paper seeking views on a possible reporting regime to provide information on Australians who receive income from sharing economy websites like Uber, Airtasker, Menulog and Deliveroo.

The ATO and other government agencies currently have limited information about the income of “gig workers” in the sharing economy, and the government’s Black Economy Taskforce recently recommended designing and implementing a compulsory reporting regime. Although there are a lot of issues still to consider, including costs and data privacy, a new regime could mean gig platforms, payment processors or even banks may soon need to report to the ATO and other agencies on gig workers’ income.

Extra 44,000 taxpayers face Div 293 superannuation tax

An extra 44,000 taxpayers have been hit with the additional 15% Division 293 tax for the first time on their superannuation contributions for 2017–2018. This is because the Div 293 income threshold was reduced to $250,000 for 2017–2018 (it was previously $300,000).

Individual taxpayers with income and super contributions above $250,000 are subject to an additional 15% Div 293 tax on their concessional contributions.

Taxpayers have the option of paying the Div 293 tax liability using their own money or electing to release an amount from an existing super balance, which means completing a Div 293 election form.

Company losses “similar business test” Bill passes

Legislation originally introduced in March 2017 to supplement the “same business test” with a more relaxed “similar business test” has finally been passed. The test will be used to work out whether a former company's tax losses and net capital losses from previous income years can be used as a tax deduction for a new business in a current income year. It also is relevant to whether a company joining a consolidated group can transfer its losses to the head company of the consolidated group.

Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also, changes in legislation may occur quickly. We, therefore, recommend that our formal advice is sought before acting in any of the areas. This article is issued as a helpful guide to clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and not be made available to any person without our prior approval.


Tax news, views and clues February 2019

Tax clinic trial to reduce tax regulatory burden

To help reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, including the tax burden, the government has allocated $1 million to set up 10 tax clinics across Australia under a trial program based on the Curtin University Tax Clinic.

Each clinic will receive up to $100,000 for 12 months to support unrepresented individual or small business taxpayers by providing general taxation advice and helping them with their tax obligations and reporting requirements. The clinics, through identifying issues and building greater understanding of the tax system in operation, are also designed to improve the interactions that small businesses and individual taxpayers have with the ATO.

The clinics will cover advice, representation, education and advocacy, and will offer students training in the profession the opportunity to work with taxpayers, under the direct supervision of qualified tax professionals.

New “work test” exemption for recent retirees

The Federal Government has created a new opportunity for some recent retirees to make additional superannuation contributions. From 1 July 2019, a 12-month exemption from the “work test” for newly retired individuals aged between 65 and 74 years with a total superannuation balance below $300,000 means many older Australians will now have an extra year to boost their superannuation savings.

The work test requires that a person is “gainfully employed” for at least 40 hours in any 30-day consecutive period during the financial year in which the contributions are made.

The contributions rules are complex, but with the right planning and advice you can maximise your contributions into superannuation at the right time.

TIP:You should also consider other measures that may be available to you, such as “downsizer” contributions (certain contributions of proceeds from the sale of your home) and “catch-up” concessional contributions (accessing unused concessional cap space from prior years).

ATO issuing excess super contributions determinations

The ATO has begun issuing determinations to people who exceeded their concessional superannuation contributions cap for the 2017–2018 financial year. These determinations will also trigger amended income tax assessments and additional tax liabilities. Individuals can elect for the ATO to withdraw their excess contributions from their super fund to pay any additional personal tax liability.

TIP:Concessional contributions include all employer contributions, such as the 9.5% superannuation guarantee and salary sacrifice contributions, and personal contributions for which a deduction has been claimed.

You have 60 days from receiving an ECC determination to elect to release up to 85% of your excess concessional contributions from your super fund to pay your amended tax bill. Otherwise, you will need to fund the payment using non-superannuation money.

Reviewing the tax treatment of granny flats

The Federal Government has asked the Board of Taxation to undertake a review of the tax treatment of “granny flat” arrangements, recommending potential changes that take into account the interactions between tax laws and the social security rules. This request for review is in response to the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission’s report Elder abuse: a national legal response.

Currently, homeowners may have to pay capital gains tax (CGT) where there is a formal agreement, for example, for an older parent to live with their child, either in the same dwelling or a separate granny flat. This may deter families from establishing a formal and legally enforceable agreement, leaving no protection of the rights of the older person if there is a breakdown in the informal agreement.

Resolving tax disputes: government to help small businesses

The Federal Government intends to make it easier, cheaper and quicker for small businesses to resolve tax disputes with the ATO. It will establish a Small Business Concierge Service within the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s office to provide support and advice about the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) process to small businesses before they make an application. The government will also create a dedicated Small Business Taxation Division within the AAT.

Small business tax offset: avoiding errors when claiming

The ATO has provided new tips for avoiding common errors when reporting net small business income and claiming the small business income tax offset for unincorporated small businesses. These include tips on reporting amounts in the right sections of your tax return, providing all of the relevant information, and using net income (not gross income) in your calculations.

The offset (up to $1,000) is worked out by the ATO on the proportion of income tax payable on an individual’s taxable income that is net small business income. For 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 the rate of offset is 8%.

TIP:Not sure if you’re making the most of the tax offset for your small business? We can help – contact us today to find out more.

Home office running expenses and electronic device expenses

The ATO has released an updated version of Practice Statement PS LA 2001/6, its guidance on calculating and substantiating home office running expenses and electronic device expenses that are claimed as tax deductions.

The basic principles have been amended to emphasise that you must actually incur the expenses you claim, and that there must be a real connection between your use of a home office or device and your income-producing work. On the other hand, the requirement that your income-producing use must be substantial – not merely incidental – has been removed.

There is new information on what type of evidence you need to be keep, and the cents per hour rate you can claim for eligible home office running expenses has increased from from 45 cents to 52 cents per hour, effective from 1 July 2018.

Genuine redundancy payments: alignment with Age Pension age

The Federal Government has announced that it will amend the law to extend the concessional tax treatment for genuine redundancy payments and early retirement scheme payments to align with the Age Pension qualifying age.

Currently, an individual must be aged below 65 at the time their employment is terminated to qualify for a tax-free component on a genuine redundancy payment or an early retirement scheme payment.

TIP:Genuine redundancy payments are made when a job is abolished, and early retirement scheme payments are made when a person retires early, or resigns, as part of a scheme put in place by an employer.

Where an individual is under age 65 and meets the requirements of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, they receive tax-free a base amount of $10,399 (for 2018–2019), plus $5,200 for each whole year of service.

The government says it will amend the law to align genuine redundancy and early retirement scheme payments with the Age Pension qualifying age from 1 July 2019.

GST on property developments involving government

The ATO says it is reviewing arrangements involving property developers acquiring land from government entities, specifically where the developer provides development works to the government entity as payment for the land.

The ATO is concerned that some developers and government entities are not reporting the value of their supplies under these arrangements in a consistent manner, resulting in GST being underpaid.

Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also, changes in legislation may occur quickly. We, therefore, recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. This article is issued as a helpful guide to clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and not be made available to any person without our prior approval.


News, views and clues, December 2018

Work-related tax deductions down for 2018

The ATO has reported a decline in the overall value of work-related deductions for tax time 2018. In his opening statement to Senate Estimates on 24 October 2018, Commissioner Chris Jordan said taxpayers appear to be taking extra care when claiming work-related expenses in their 2017–2018 income tax returns. This follows recent ATO awareness and education efforts to close the income tax gap for individuals.

ATO identifies 26,000 incorrect rental property travel expense claims

The ATO has identified 26,000 taxpayers who have claimed deductions during tax time 2018 for travel to their investment residential rental properties, despite recent changes to tax laws.

From 1 July 2017, investors cannot claim travel expenses relating to inspecting, maintaining or collecting rent for a residential rental property as deductions, subject to certain exceptions. An exclusion does apply for this restriction if the expenditure is necessary for the income-producing purposes of carrying on a business (for example, a rental property business), or if the costs are incurred by an “excluded entity”.

Small business corporate tax rates Bill is now law

The company tax rate for base rate entities will now reduce from 27.5% to 26% in 2020–2021, and then to 25% for 2021–2022 and later income years. This means eligible corporate taxpayers will pay 25% in 2021–2022, rather than from 2026–2027.

The new law also increases the small business income tax offset rate to 13% of the basic income tax liability that relates to small business income for 2020–2021. The offset rate will then increase to 16% for 2021–2022 and later income years.

The maximum available amount of the small business tax offset does not change – it will stay capped at $1,000 per person, per year.

GST reporting: common errors and how to correct them

Some businesses are making simple mistakes reporting their GST. The ATO reminds taxpayers that avoid the following common GST reporting errors:

  • transposition and calculation errors – these mistakes often happen when manually entering amounts, so it’s important to double-check all figures and calculations before submitting your BAS;
  • no tax invoice – you must keep tax invoices to be able to claim GST credits on business-related purchases;
  • transaction classifications – it’s important to check what GST applies for each transaction; for example, transactions involving food may be GST applicable; and
  • errors in accounting systems – a system with one coding error can classify several transactions incorrectly.

Government announces super refinements

The Government has announced it will amend the super tax laws to address some minor but important issues, as part of the ongoing super reforms. The changes include:

  • deferring the start date for the comprehensive income product for retirement (CIPR) framework;
  • adjusting the definition of "life expectancy period" to account for leap years in calculations, and amending the pension transfer balance cap rules to provide credits and debits when these products are paid off in instalments;
  • adjusting the transfer balance cap valuation rules for defined benefit pensions to deal with certain pensions that are permanently reduced after an initial higher payment;
  • correcting a valuation error under the transfer balance cap rules for market-linked pensions where a pension is commuted and rolled over, or involved in a successor fund transfer;
  • making changes to ensure that death benefit rollovers involving insurance proceeds remain tax-free for dependants.

CGT on grant of easement or licence

Taxation Determination TD 2018/15, issued on 31 October 2018, considers the capital gains tax (CGT) consequences of granting an easement, profit à prendre or licence over an asset.

In the ATO’s view, CGT event D1 (creating contractual or other rights) rather than CGT event A1 (disposing of an asset) happens when any of the following rights are granted over an asset:

  • an easement, other than one arising by operation of the law;
  • a right to enter and remove a product or part of the soil from a taxpayer's land (a profit à prendre); or
  • a licence (which does not confer the exclusive right to possess the land).

First Home Super Saver scheme and downsizer super contributions: ATO guidance

In November 2018, the ATO issued a Super Guidance Note to provide people with general information about how the First Home Super Saver (FHSS) scheme works. The guidance note explains who is eligible to use the scheme, the kind of contributions that can be made and then released from super for buying a first home, how to apply to the ATO for a FHSS determination, and the requirement to purchase a house.

The ATO also issued guidance on the recently enacted downsizer superannuation contribution measures, which allow people aged over 65 to contribute the proceeds from selling certain property into their super.

ATO scam alert: fake demands for tax payments

Although tax time 2018 is over, the ATO has warned taxpayers and their agents to remain on high alert for tax scams. Scammers are growing increasingly sophisticated and hope to exploit vulnerable people, often using aggressive tactics to swindle people out of their money or personal information.

Be wary if anyone contacts you demanding payment of a tax debt that you didn’t know about. The ATO will never ask you to make a payment into an ATM or using gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards, and will never you to deposit funds into a personal bank account.

TIP:Scammers have been known to impersonate tax agents as well as ATO staff. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a phone call or other communication, you can call the ATO directly (toll free) on 1800 888 540.

Government to establish $2 billion fund for small business lending

The Government has announced that it will establish a $2 billion Australian Business Securitisation Fund and an Australian Business Growth Fund to provide longer-term equity funding for small businesses.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said some small businesses currently find it difficult to obtain finance on competitive terms unless it is secured against real estate. To overcome this, the proposed Australian Business Securitisation Fund will invest up to $2 billion in the securitisation market, providing additional funding to smaller banks and non-bank lenders to on-lend to small businesses on more competitive terms.

ATO information-sharing: super assets in family law proceedings

Superannuation is often the most significant asset in a separated couple’s property pool, particularly for low-income households with few assets. Parties to family law proceedings are already legally required to disclose all of their assets to the court, including superannuation, but in practice parties may forget, or deliberately withhold, information about their super assets.

The Government has announced an electronic information-sharing mechanism to be established between the ATO and the Family Law Courts to allow superannuation assets held by relevant parties during family law proceedings to be identified swiftly and more accurately from 2020. This measure was included as part of a broader financial support package for women announced on in November.

Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also, changes in legislation may occur quickly. We, therefore, recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. This article is issued as a helpful guide to clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and not be made available to any person without our prior approval.


Tax news, views and clues, November 2018

Transfer balance cap: ATO highlights admin issues

On 30 August 2018, ATO Assistant Commissioner Superannuation Tara McLachlan gave a speech on “Administration issues under the transfer balance cap” at the Tax Institute Sixth National Superannuation Conference.

TIP:The superannuation transfer balance cap is a limit on the total amount of super that you can transfer into retirement phase. The current cap is $1.6 million.

Ms McLachlan highlighted several issues regarding common superannuation events that will need to be reported to the ATO (such as the start of new pensions that began to be in retirement phase on or after 1 July 2017), multiple transfer balance events, excess transfer balance determinations and more.

Australian Small Business White Paper: tax reform a key

After more than 18 months of extensive research and consultation, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) and the IPA Deakin SME Research Centre have released the second edition of the Australian Small Business White Paper.

“Numerous policy recommendations have been adopted from the first edition which was launched in 2015. However, we recognise that the state of our economy is reliant on the productivity, growth and prosperity of the small business sector, so this work must be ongoing”, said IPA CEO Professor Andrew Conway.

The Paper covers a range of topics, including productivity, regulation and workplace relations, and makes several tax reform recommendations relevant to small businesses and personal income tax.

ATO expects 200,000 to miss out on refunds by failing to lodge

The ATO expects that 200,000 people could miss out on a tax refund this year because they haven’t lodged a tax return.

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson has said that many salary and wage earners end up with a tax refund, but some are missing out because they fail to lodge on time.

Taxpayers had until 31 October to either lodge their own return, or ensure they are on an agent’s books, Ms Anderson said. Failing to lodge by the deadline can attract a penalty of $210 for every 28 days that the return is overdue, up to a maximum of $1,050.

TIP:Have you run out of time to sort out your tax return this year? We’re here to help – get in touch to talk about your options.

Black economy: electronic sales suppression tools now banned

Activities involving electronic sales suppression tools (ESSTs) and that relate to people or businesses with Australian tax obligations are now legally banned under recent changes to the law.

ESSTs come in many forms, such as:

  • an external device connected to a point of sale (POS) system;
  • additional software installed into otherwise-compliant software; or
  • a feature or modification, like a script or code, that’s part of a POS system or software.

These tools generally misrepresent or hide income by deleting or changing electronic transaction information, and falsifying sales or POS records.

TIP:The ATO recognises some businesses may have bought POS software without knowing it contains suppression functions. There is a grace period to self-report without penalty. If you think you may be affected, contact us to find out more.

People and businesses may face penalties of up to $1 million if they produce, supply, possess or use an ESST or knowingly assist others to do so.

Super work test exemption for recent retirees

The Government has released draft legislation and regulations to provide a one-year exemption from the work test for superannuation contributions by recent retirees aged 65–74 who have a total superannuation balance of less than $300,000. This proposal was announced in the 2018–2019 Budget.

Currently, people aged 65–74 must pass the “work test” – working at least 40 hours in any 30-day period during the financial year – in order to make voluntary super contributions.

Bringing forward small business tax cuts by five years

The Prime Minister has announced that the Government will bring forward its planned tax cuts for small business by five years. The Labor Party has also indicated it supports bringing forward the tax cuts.

This means businesses with a turnover below $50 million will pay a tax rate of 25% in 2021–2022, rather than from 2026–2027 as currently legislated.

Corporate tax rates and small business tax offset changes

The Bill to accelerate the reduced tax rates for base rate entities has passed through Parliament and will soon become law. Under the new law, the corporate tax rate will reduce from 27.5% to 26% in 2020–2021, before being cut to 25% for 2021–2022 and later income years.

The new law also increases the small business income tax offset rate to 13% for 2020–2021. The offset will then increase to 16% for 2021–2022 and later income years.

TIP: A“base rate entity” is a company that receives less than 80% of its taxable income from “passive” sources such as dividends, franking credits, interest, royalties and rent.

Residential rental property travel expenses: ATO guidance

Since 1 July 2017, people, self managed super funds (SMSFs), “private” trusts and partnerships have not been permitted to claim non-business travel costs connected to residential rental properties as tax deductible. These costs also cannot form part of the cost base or reduced cost base of a capital gains tax (CGT) asset.

The ATO has released new guidance about this, including details about the legal meanings of “residential premises” and “carrying on a business”.

TIP:Not sure if you can deduct the costs of maintaining your investment rental property?
Talk to us today to work it out.

Tax on compensation received for inappropriate advice

On the heels of the banking and financial services Royal Commission, the ATO has published information about how tax applies for people who receive compensation from a financial institution that provided inappropriate advice and/or did not provide advice it should have. This can include compensation for the loss of an investment, or a refund of fees or interest.

Capital gains tax comes into play, and the compensation amount may count as part of your assessable income if it’s a refund of adviser fees that you’ve already claimed as a tax deduction.

TIP:Contact us if you’ve received compensation from your bank or adviser and need to know more.

ATO set to issue excess super contribution determinations

The ATO has started issuing excess concessional contributions (ECC) determinations for the 2017–2018 financial year. Superannuation fund members will receive these ECC determinations if they have made super contributions above the concessional cap amount for 2017–2018.

TIP:Concessional” contributions are taxed at the reduced rate of 15% in your super fund, but there’s a limit to how much you can contribute at this rate ($25,000 for 2017–2018).

Fund members may also receive an amended income tax return assessment together with the ECC determination and may need to pay additional amounts to the ATO. This is because any super contributions you make over the concessional cap need to be included in your assessable income for the financial year, and an interest charge applies.

Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also, changes in legislation may occur quickly. We, therefore, recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. This article is issued as a helpful guide to clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and not be made available to any person without our prior approval.


Tax news, views and clues October 2018

Claiming work-related expenses: ATO guides and toolkits

This year, the ATO has launched its biggest ever education campaign to help taxpayers get their tax returns right. The ATO says the campaign, which is running throughout tax time, includes direct contact with over three million selected taxpayers, as well as specialised guides and toolkits for taxpayers, agents, employers and industry bodies. A key component of the campaign is simple, plain English guidance for people with the most common occupations, like teachers, nurses, police officers and hospitality workers.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson says that last year work-related expenses totalled a record $21.3 billion, “and we have already flagged that over-claiming of deductions is a big issue”. The most popular topics this year include car, clothing, travel, working from home, and self-education expenses, and the guides for tradies, doctors, teachers, office workers and IT professionals have been popular.

Illegal phoenix activity: public examinations in Federal Court matter

The ATO has announced that public examinations started in a Federal Court matter on 27 August 2018 in relation to a group of entities connected to a pre-insolvency advisor. The examinations will focus on the suspected promotion and facilitation of phoenix activities and tax schemes.

More than 45 service providers, clients and employees of pre-insolvency advisors, as well as alleged “dummy directors” of phoenix companies, will be examined.

Banking Royal Commission: possible super contraventions

On 24 August 2018, the Royal Commission into banking, superannuation and financial services misconduct released the closing submissions, totalling over 200 pages, that set out possible contraventions by certain superannuation entities. The evidence surrounding these alleged breaches was revealed during the fifth round of public hearings, when high-level executives of some of the largest superannuation funds were grilled about practices that may involve misconduct or fall below community expectations.

The Commission heard evidence about fees-for-no-service conduct and conflicts of interests which affect the ability of some super fund trustees to ensure that they always act in the best interests of members. Questioning during the hearings focused particularly on how trustees supervise the activities of a fund and respond to queries from the regulators. Executives were also quizzed about expenditure on advertisements and sporting sponsorships, and finally, the Commission turned its attention to the effectiveness of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as regulators.

What’s next?

The Royal Commission’s interim report is now due, and the sixth round of public hearings (10–21 September 2018) is investigating conduct in the insurance industry. The Royal Commission has released four background papers covering life insurance, group life insurance, reforms to general and life insurance (Treasury) and features of the general and life insurance industries.

SMSF issues update: ATO speech

ATO Assistant Commissioners, Superannuation, Tara McLachlan and Dana Fleming recently spoke at the SMSF Association Technical Days in various capital cities. The speech was mainly about practical considerations to be taken into account when setting up a new self managed superannuation fund (SMSF) and during the first year of its operation. Other issues raised included SMSF registrations, annual return lodgements, SuperStream SMSFs and exempt current pension income and actuarial certificates.

ATO data analytics and prefilling help tax return processing

The ATO reports that a record number of tax returns have been finalised in the first two months of this year’s “tax time” period, thanks to prefilling of tax return data and the ATO’s correction of mistakes using analytics and data-matching. Over $11.9 billion has been refunded to taxpayers, and errors worth more than $53 million were detected and corrected before refunds were issued.

The ATO has prefilled over 80 million pieces of data from banks, employers, health funds and government agencies to make tax returns easier for taxpayers and agents. The ATO’s advanced analytics allow it to scrutinise more returns than ever before, and make immediate adjustments where taxpayers have made a mistake.

TIP: Having a tax agent prepare and lodge your return is a tax-deductible cost. Why not let us handle your tax this year?

Parliamentary committee recommends standard tax deduction, “push return” system

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue has tabled its 242-page report on taxpayer engagement with the tax system. This significant report covers issues that have also been canvassed in previous tax reform reviews such as the Australia’s Future Tax System Review and the Henry Review.

In its inquiry, the Committee examined the ATO’s points of engagement with taxpayers and other stakeholders and reviewed the ATO’s performance against advances made by revenue agencies in comparable nations. The inquiry asked what taxpayers should now expect from a modern tax service that is largely or partly automated.

Australia’s complex system for claiming work-related tax deductions, for example, was highlighted during the inquiry as being out of step with approaches in most other advanced nations, which have almost universally standardised their approach. The Committee concluded that under Australia’s self-assessment model, more should be done to make tax obligations easier for taxpayers to understand and simpler to comply with. The report includes 13 recommendations to help achieve this goal.

12-month extension of $20,000 instant asset write-off

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Accelerated Depreciation for Small Business Entities) Bill 2018has now passed through Parliament without amendment.

The Bill makes changes to the tax law to extend by 12 months the period during which small businesses can access expanded accelerated depreciation rules for assets that cost less than $20,000. The threshold amount was due to revert to $1,000 on 1 July 2018, but will now remain at $20,000 until 30 June 2019.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has welcomed the extension but reminded small businesses and family enterprises that the instant asset write-off is a tax deduction, not a rebate – your small business needs to make a profit to be eligible to claim the benefit.

Cyptocurrency and tax: updated guidelines

The ATO says that for taxpayers carrying on businesses that involve transacting with cryptocurrency, the trading stock rules apply, rather than the capital gains tax (CGT) rules.

The ATO’s guidelines on the tax treatment of cryptocurrencies have recently been updated, following feedback from community consultation earlier this year. The ATO received about 800 pieces of individual feedback and submissions, and has now provided additional guidance on the practical issues of exchanging one cryptocurrency for another, and the related recordkeeping requirements.

The ATO as SMSF regulator: observations

In the opening address to the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand National SMSF Conference in Melbourne on 18 September 2018, James O’Halloran, ATO Deputy Commissioner, Superannuation, shared some observations and advice from the ATO’s perspective as regulator for the SMSF sector. He spoke about matters including the crucial role of fund trustees, the ATO’s activities to address behaviour that seeks to take advantage of SMSFs, what sort of SMSF events attract close ATO scrutiny, and issues relating to the use of multiple SMSFs to manipulate tax outcomes.

Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also, changes in legislation may occur quickly. We, therefore, recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. This article is issued as a helpful guide to clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and not be made available to any person without our prior approval.


Tax news, views and clues September 2018

Super sector must address trust deficit

In a speech to the Financial Services Council Summit on 26 July 2018, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Chair James Shipton said the superannuation sector must restore the “trust deficit” and be more mindful of the responsibilities that come with being the custodians of other people’s money. Mr Shipton said the super industry has been exploiting opportunities to make money from members, citing examples of conduct that could lead to poor member outcomes, including poor advice, treatment of customers and defensiveness when it came to transparency about fund operations.

Mr Shipton said there is an urgent need for super funds to invest in systems, procedures and policies that can quickly identify emerging conduct and systemic issues. A recent ASIC review of 12 banking groups found that it took an average of four years between an issue occurring and being identified internally for investigation, before a significant breach report was finally lodged with ASIC.

Call to boost instant asset write-off to $100,000

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, has called for the $20,000 instant asset write-off for small businesses to be embedded in legislation and extended up to $100,000 every three years. Ms Carnell said increasing the instant asset write-off to $100,000 every three years would enable small businesses with higher costs for key equipment to participate.

These recommendations stem from the Ombudsman’s November 2017 paper,Barriers to investment: a study into factors impacting small to medium enterprise investment.

Tax return required for excess super non-concessional contributions

The ATO has reminded taxpayers that they need to lodge a tax return for any financial year in which they exceed their non-concessional contributions cap, and that making excess contributions may lead to having to pay extra tax.

The annual non-concessional cap for individuals is $100,000 (or $300,000 over three years for people aged under 65), provided you have a total superannuation balance of less than $1.6 million at 30 June of the prior year. The ATO determines if you have exceeded the non-concessional cap by looking at your date of birth and the information reported by your super funds and in your tax return.

Taxpayers who go over the non-concessional cap can withdraw the excess non-concessional contributions (plus 85% of the associated earnings). The full amount of the earnings (100%) are then included in the taxpayer’s assessable income (and subject to a 15% tax offset). If an individual does not withdraw the excess contributions they are taxed at the top marginal tax rate (plus the Medicare levy).

APRA’s response to Productivity Commission draft report

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has released its submission in response to the Productivity Commission’s draft report on superannuation efficiency and competitiveness. APRA agreed with a number of the Commission’s findings and the direction of many, but not all, of the recommendations in the draft report.

However, APRA has rejected the Commission’s claim that APRA’s powers and role, and their significant overlap with the powers and role of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), have resulted in “confusing and opaque” regulatory arrangements, poor accountability and a lack of strategic regulation. APRA Deputy Chair Helen Rowell said APRA’s role is to administer the prudential and retirement income provisions of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993. In that context, APRA is primarily responsible for ensuring that registrable superannuation entity (RSE) licensees manage their business operations to deliver quality member outcomes. By comparison, ASIC’s role is to oversee specific conduct obligations that apply to RSE licensees dealing with individuals in relation to disclosure, financial product advice and complaints.

Protecting Super Bill: Senate Committee report

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee has released its report on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) Bill 2018, and has recommended that the Bill be passed.

The Bill, which is still before the Senate, contains the following measures to prevent the erosion of super balances:

  • super fees capped at 3% per year for balances less than $6,000;
  • exit fees banned for all super accounts, regardless of the balance;
  • an insurance opt-in rule for:
  • account balances less than $6,000;
  • new members under age 25;
  • accounts that have not received a contribution for 13 months; and
  • inactive low-balance accounts (ie balance less than $6,000) will be transferred to the ATO.

First Home Super Saver scheme: ATO guidance

Law Companion Ruling LCR 2018/5, issued by the ATO on 15 August 2018, provides guidance on the First Home Super Saver (FHSS) scheme.

TIP:The FHSS scheme is designed to help eligible first-home buyers by allowing them to make voluntary superannuation contributions and then withdraw those amounts and associated earnings to use when purchasing a first home.

People who meet the eligibility criteria can access the scheme by applying to the ATO for a determination and a release authority. They must make superannuation contributions that are eligible for release under the scheme, namely voluntary concessional or non-concessional contributions that come within the relevant contributions cap.

There are limits on the amounts withdrawn ($15,000 per financial year and $30,000 in total, subject to the contribution caps).

ATO targeting car sharing platforms

The ATO has announced it will turn its attention to anyone earning income through car sharing platforms. ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said there is evidence that some people who are undertaking sharing activities using third-party services such as Car Next Door, Carhood and DriveMyCar Rentals might not understand the taxation implications involved.

TIP:You must declare in your tax return any income you receive, and you cannot avoid tax by calling the car sharing a hobby.

While any car sharing expenses you claim as tax deductions must relate directly to the renting, hiring or sharing of your car, the Assistant Commissioner has said that most car sharers can legitimately claim deductions for costs like platform membership fees, availability fees, cleaning fees and car running expenses.

Delay in extending reportable payments to courier and cleaning services

The legislative logjam in Federal Parliament is affecting the implementation of a wide range of tax measures, and the ATO is having to implement some practical work-arounds.

In the 2017–18 Federal Budget the Government announced that from 1 July 2018, businesses that supply courier or cleaning services will need to report payments they make to contractors for courier or cleaning services. The payments must be reported to the ATO each year using the taxable payments annual report (TPAR). However, legislation to implement this is still before the Senate.

The ATO will not require TPARs to be lodged up until the law change is passed by Parliament. Taxpayers will be expected to keep sufficient business records to enable a TPAR to be prepared and lodged “as soon as is reasonably practicable after the law is enacted”.

GST: supplies of real property connected with Australia

GST Ruling GSTR 2018/1, issued on 22 August 2018, sets out the ATO’s view on when supplies of real property are connected with the indirect tax zone (Australia).

It states that a supply of real property is connected with Australia if the real property, or the land to which it relates, is in Australia. The ATO stresses that the test is the physical land’s location, not the location of the interest or right over the land. The supply of a right to accommodation in Australia also constitutes the supply of real property connected with Australia.

Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also, changes in legislation may occur quickly. We, therefore, recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. This article is issued as a helpful guide to clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and not be made available to any person without our prior approval.


Tax news, views and clues August 2018

Government launches new service to simplify business registrations

The government has officially launched a new stand-alone Business Registration Service, providing a simpler and clearer way to register a business. The service is available at www.business.gov.au.

The service can be used for things such as applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN) or goods and services tax (GST) registration. It is for people starting a new business as a sole trader, company, partnership, trust or superannuation fund. Existing businesses with an ABN can also use the service to apply for tax registrations such as GST.

The Business Registration Service has reduced the average time taken to obtain a business and associated licences to under 15 minutes.

Illegal early access to super: ATO warning about scammers

The ATO has issued a warning to be aware of scammers who promise to organise access to people’s retirement savings for a fee. Unscrupulous promoters encourage people to illegally access their super early to help with expenses such as the purchase of a car, paying off debts, sending money to overseas relatives and taking a holiday. The ATO has seen promoters, mostly in western Sydney, targeting people with small to medium super balances, those involved in local community groups, and those who may not have engaged with their super before being approached.

ATO gives small businesses the chance to seek independent review of ATO audit position

From 1 July 2018, the ATO is running a 12-month pilot to extend its independent review service to certain small business taxpayers. This means those taxpayers can have the ATO’s audit position on their tax affairs independently reviewed.

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 case. 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 ATO audit team will finalise the audit in accordance with the independent reviewer’s recommendations. The pilot is currently limited to small business disputes involving income tax audits in Victoria and South Australia.

Transacting with cryptocurrency: updated ATO info

The ATO says a capital gains tax (CGT) event occurs when a person disposes of their cryptocurrency (eg Bitcoin). A disposal can occur when someone:

  • sells or gifts cryptocurrency;
  • trades or exchanges cryptocurrency (including the disposal of one cryptocurrency for another cryptocurrency) – if the cryptocurrency received cannot be valued, the capital proceeds from the disposal are worked out by using the market value of the cryptocurrency disposed of at the time of the transaction;
  • converts cryptocurrency to fiat currency like Australian dollars; or
  • uses cryptocurrency to obtain goods or services.

If you need assistance with the tax treatment of cryptocurrency, or the ATO’s record-keeping requirements for taxpayers who are involved in acquiring or disposing of cryptocurrency, please contact our office.

Tax gap for individuals is $8.8 billion, says ATO

The ATO has estimated that the net “tax gap” for individuals not in business in 2014–2015 is approximately 6.4%, or $8.8 billion. The gap is an estimate of the difference between the tax the ATO collects and the amount that would have been collected if every one of these taxpayers was fully compliant with the law.

In other words, the ATO estimates that individuals not in business paid over 93% of the total theoretical tax payable in 2014–2015.

ATO warns about scammers at tax time

The ATO has warned taxpayers to be on “high alert” for tax-related scams. ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said the most common scam is still the “fake tax debt” phone scam, but the ATO is also seeing an increase in “fake refund” or “refund for a fee” scams, and email and SMS scams enticing people to click a hyperlink, download a file or open an attachment.

Scammers frequently claim to be from the ATO and taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letter about a tax refund or debt, especially if they were not expecting it.

Income tax residency rules for individuals: Board of Taxation recommends reform measures

The Board of Taxation has publicly released its initial report on its review of Australia’s income tax residency rules for individuals. The Revenue Minister said the Board found that the current individual tax residency rules require modernisation and simplification. The Board also identified opportunities for tax arbitrage, for example where individuals become “residents of nowhere” when they leave Australia and do not become tax residents of another jurisdiction.

The report considered whether the current rules (largely unchanged since 1930) are sufficiently robust to meet the requirements of the modern workforce, address the policy criteria of simplicity, efficiency, equity and integrity, and take into account a significant number of cases heard since 2009 relating to individual residency. The Revenue Minister has asked the Board to consult further on some key recommendations.

Retirement income covenant needs more flexibility: KPMG

KPMG has released a submission in response to the Treasury position paper on the proposed retirement income covenant announced as part of the 2018–2019 Budget. The proposed covenant will require trustees of superannuation funds (including self managed superannuation funds) to formulate a retirement income strategy for fund members. This requirement is aimed at supporting the government’s development of a comprehensive income products for retirement (CIPR) framework.

Illegal phoenix activity costs billions; new Phoenix Hotline

The ATO has released a new report on the economic impacts of potential illegal phoenix activity. It estimates that the annual direct impact of illegal phoenix activity on businesses, employees and the government was between $2.85 billion and $5.13 billion for the 2015–2016 financial year.

The government has also established a new Phoenix Hotline to combat phoenixing activity and to protect compliant Australian workers and businesses. Employees, creditors, competing businesses and the general public can confidentially provide information about possible phoenix behaviour via the hotline on 1800 807 875 or the ATO website. Disclosures will be protected.

Super funds deliver healthy returns for 2017–2018

The median “growth” superannuation fund delivered a healthy investment return of 9.2% for 2017–2018, with the top spot going to Hostplus with a return of 12.5%, according to superannuation ratings firm Chant West. Growth super funds are those with a 61–80% allocation to growth assets.

Every fund in the growth category had positive returns, with even the lowest performer delivering a 6.5% return. Growth funds have delivered nine consecutive years of positive returns, averaging about 9% a year, said Chant West senior investment manager Mano Mohankumar.

GST exemption for offshore sellers of hotel bookings to be removed: draft legislation released

The Treasurer has released draft legislation to ensure offshore sellers of hotel accommodation in Australia calculate their GST turnover in the same way as local sellers from 1 July 2019.

Under the proposed changes, offshore suppliers of rights to use commercial accommodation (eg hotels) in the indirect tax zone (broadly, Australia) will be required to include these supplies in working out their GST turnover. If the supplier’s GST turnover equals or exceeds the registration turnover threshold, GST must be remitted for supplies that are taxable supplies.

Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also, changes in legislation may occur quickly. We, therefore, recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. This article is issued as a helpful guide to clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and not be made available to any person without our prior approval.