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Practice Update - November 2017

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P r a c t i c e  U p d a t e

November 2017

Reporting of transfer balance account information

Editor: The recent superannuation reforms introduced the concept of a 'transfer balance account', to basically record the value of member balances moving into or out of 'retirement phase'.

In order to monitor these amounts, the ATO is introducing new reporting requirements and forms.

The ATO has released the new Transfer Balance Account Report (‘TBAR’), which is now available on ato.gov.au, and the ATO plans to have an online TBAR form available from 1 January 2018.

The TBAR is the approved form to provide data relating to transactions associated with the payment of retirement phase income streams to the ATO.

Reporting on events that affect a member’s transfer balance account is vital to minimising the taxation consequences if the transfer balance cap is exceeded.

While SMSFs will not be required to report anything until 1 July 2018, SMSFs can use the TBAR to report events that affect an individual member’s transfer balance account from 1 October 2017.

SMSFs with relatively straightforward affairs are likely to have only a few events per member to report over the life of the fund, including the commencing values of any retirement phase income streams to which an SMSF member is entitled (e.g., account based pensions, including reversionary income streams), and the value of any commutation of a retirement phase income stream by an SMSF member.

ATO's occupation-specific guides

The ATO has developed occupation-specific guides to help taxpayers understand what they can and can’t claim as work-related expenses, including:

n          car expenses;

n          home office expenses;

n          clothing expenses; and

n          self-education or professional development expenses.

The guides are available for the following occupations:

q         construction worker;

q         retail worker;

q         office worker;

q         Australian Defence Force;

q         sales and marketing;

q         nurse, midwife or carer;

q         police officer;

q         public servant;

q         teacher; and

q         truck driver.

Binding Death Benefit Nomination ('BDBN') upheld

A recent decision by the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court has provided guidance about the operation of BDBNs.

Editor: Members of super funds may generally make a BDBN directing the trustee of the fund to pay out their superannuation benefits after their death in a particular way and/or to particular beneficiaries.

In this case, the member had executed a BDBN that nominated his legal personal representative (‘LPR’) as the beneficiary to receive his death benefits.

Because he frequently lived outside Australia, he had also executed an enduring power of attorney (‘EPOA’) allowing his brother to be the sole director of the corporate trustee of his SMSF in his place.

Following his death, the executor of his estate (Dr Booth) brought an action for declarations that the trustee was bound by the BDBN. 

Editor: Both the executor of a will and a person acting under an EPOA are 'LPRs' for superannuation purposes.

The Full Court held that the BDBN was effective and that Dr Booth, as executor of the will, was the LPR for these purposes.

Although the brother was the LPR of the deceased during his lifetime, the EPOA was terminated upon his death.

Reforms to stop companies avoiding employee entitlements

The Government will introduce new laws to stop corporate misuse of the Australian Government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) scheme.

The FEG scheme is an avenue of last resort that assists employees when their employer’s business fails and the employer has not made adequate provision for employee entitlements, but it is clear that some company directors are misusing the FEG scheme to meet liabilities that can and should be paid directly by the employer, rather than passed on to Australian taxpayers.

The proposed changes will:

u         Penalise company directors and other persons who engage in transactions which are directed at preventing, avoiding or reducing employer liability for employee entitlements;

u         Ensure recovery of FEG from other entities in a corporate group where it would be just and equitable and where those other entities have utilised the human resources of the insolvent entity on other than arm’s length terms; and

u         Strengthen the ability under the law to sanction directors and company officers with a track record of insolvencies where FEG is repeatedly relied upon.

These changes will be targeted to deter and punish only those who have inappropriately relied on FEG, and so should not affect the overwhelming majority of companies who are doing the right thing.

Editor: The Government has separately released a ‘Comprehensive Package of Reforms to Address Illegal Phoenixing’, which will assist regulators to better target action against those who repeatedly misuse corporate structures and enable them to take stronger action against those entities and individuals.

These reforms will include (for example) the introduction of a Director Identification Number (DIN) (to identify all directors with a unique number), and making directors personally liable for GST liabilities as part of extended director penalty provisions.

Can travel in an Uber be exempt from FBT?

Editor: The ATO has released a discussion paper to facilitate consultation regarding the definition of 'taxi' contained in the FBT Act, and the exemption from FBT for taxi travel undertaken to or from work or due to illness.

Although the provision of travel by an employer to an employee would generally be a benefit upon which FBT would be payable, employers are specifically exempted from having to pay FBT in respect of travel undertaken by their employees in a 'taxi' to or from work or due to illness of the employee.

The ATO has previously advised that this exemption "does not extend to ride-sourcing services provided in a vehicle that is not licensed to operate as a taxi."

However, in light of a recent Federal Court decision regarding Uber, and proposed changes to licensing regulations in a number of states and territories, the ATO is reviewing its interpretation of the definition of 'taxi' in the FBT Act and may adopt an interpretation that accepts that a taxi may include a ride-sourcing vehicle or other vehicle for hire.

Editor: Until this matter is resolved, private travel (including between home and work) undertaken using ride-sourcing vehicles and other vehicles for hire may possibly be exempt from FBT under the minor benefits exemption.

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.

A NEW ALLIANCE!

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We have recently created an alliance with a financial planning partner that allows us to bring you an even wider range of services. The alliance lets us concentrate on the things that we do best, while ensuring that you get the same high-quality service when you need any form of financial planning. 

Please click HERE for more information or contact us at info@middlewise.com.au.

Practice Update - October 2017

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P r a c t i c e  U p d a t e

October 2017

No small business tax rate for passive investment companies

The Government has released draft tax legislation to clarify that passive investment companies cannot access the lower company tax rate for small businesses of 27.5%, but will still pay tax at 30%.

The amendment to the tax law will ensure that a company will not qualify for the lower company tax rate if 80% or more of its income is of a passive nature (such as dividends and interest).

The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services said the policy decision made by the Government to cut the tax rate for small companies was meant to lower taxes on business, and was not meant to apply to passive investment companies.

ATO to be provided with more super guarantee information

The Government has announced a package of reforms to give the ATO near real-time visibility over superannuation guarantee (SG) compliance by employers. 

The Government will also provide the ATO with additional funding for a SG Taskforce to crackdown on employer non-compliance.

The package includes measures to:

u      require superannuation funds to report contributions received more frequently (at least monthly) to the ATO, enabling the ATO to identify non-compliance and take prompt action;

u      require employers with 19 or fewer employees to transition to single touch payroll (‘STP’) reporting from 1 July 2019;

u      improve the effectiveness of the ATO’s recovery powers, including strengthening director penalty notices and use of security bonds for high-risk employers, to ensure that unpaid superannuation is better collected by the ATO and paid to employees’ super accounts; and

u      give the ATO the ability to seek court-ordered penalties in the most egregious cases of non-payment, including employers who are repeatedly caught but fail to pay SG liabilities.

Editor: Following extensive consultation when STP was originally announced, it was decided that employers with 19 or fewer employees would not be required to comply. 

Given the backflip here, the business community will be hoping the Government does not introduce compulsory real-time payments of SG and PAYG withholding, as well as real-time reporting.


ATO: Combatting the cash economy

The ATO has reminded taxpayers that it uses a range of tools to identify and take action against people and businesses that may not be correctly meeting their obligations.  Through 'data matching', it can identify businesses that do not have electronic payment facilities. 

These businesses often advertise as 'cash only' or mainly deal in cash transactions.  When businesses do this, they are more likely to make mistakes or do not keep thorough records. 

The ATO’s ability to match and use data is very sophisticated.  It collects information from a number of sources (including banks, other government agencies and industry suppliers), and also obtains information about purchases of major items, such as cars and real property, and then compares this information against income and expenditure reported by businesses and individuals to the ATO.

Example: Unrealistic personal income leads to unreported millions

The income reported on their personal income tax returns indicated that a couple operating a property development company didn’t seem to have sufficient income to cover their living expenses.

The ATO found their company had failed to report millions of dollars from the sale of properties over a number of years.

They had to pay the correct amount of tax (of more than $4.5 million) based on their income and all their related companies, and also incurred a variety of penalties.

Example: Failing to report online sales

A Nowra court convicted the owner of a computer sales and repair business on eight charges of understating the business’s GST and income tax liabilities.

The ATO investigated discrepancies between income reported by the business and amounts deposited in the business owner’s bank accounts, and found that the business had failed to report income from online sales.

The business owner was ordered to pay over $36,000 in unreported tax and more than $18,400 in penalties, and also fined $4,000 (and now has a criminal conviction).

Get it in writing and get a receipt

The ATO also notes that requesting a written contract or tax invoice and getting a receipt for payment may protect a consumer's rights and obligations relating to insurance, warranties, consumer rights and government regulations.

Consumers who support the cash economy, by paying cash and not getting a receipt, risk having no evidence to claim a refund if the goods or services purchased are faulty, or prove who was responsible in case of poor work quality


Higher risk trust arrangements targeted

The ATO’s 'Tax Avoidance Taskforce – Trusts' continues the work of the Trusts Taskforce, by targeting higher risk trust arrangements in privately owned and wealthy groups.

The Taskforce will focus on the lodgment of trust tax returns, accurate completion of return labels, present entitlement of exempt entities, distributions to superannuation funds, and inappropriate claiming of CGT concessions by trusts.

Arrangements that attract the attention of the Taskforce include those where:

q      trusts or their beneficiaries who have received substantial income are not registered, or have not lodged tax returns or activity statements;

q      there are offshore dealings involving secrecy or low tax jurisdictions;

q      there are agreements with no apparent commercial basis that direct income entitlements to a low-tax beneficiary while the benefits are enjoyed by others;

q      changes have been made to trust deeds or other constituent documents to achieve a tax planning benefit, with such changes not credibly explicable for other reasons;

q      there are artificial adjustments to trust income, so that tax outcomes do not reflect the economic substance (e.g., where someone receives substantial benefits from a trust but the tax liability on those benefits is attributed elsewhere, or where the full tax liability is passed to entities with no capacity/intention to pay);

q      transactions have excessively complex features or sham characteristics (e.g., round robin circulation of income among trusts);

q      revenue activities are mischaracterised to achieve concessional CGT treatment (e.g., by using special purpose trusts in an attempt to re-characterise mining or property development income as discountable capital gains); and

q      new trust arrangements have materialised that involve taxpayers or promoters linked to previous non-compliance (e.g., people connected to liquidated entities that had unpaid tax debts).

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.

It's Almost BAS time!

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BAS time is almost here.


Just a friendly reminder that the SEPTEMBER BAS is approaching and it’s time to start preparing those books.

Your next Activity Statement is due for lodgement by 25th November.

Please note lodgement is required, even if it’s a nil return.


What to do to ensure your BAS is prepared in a timely manner:

  1. Complete all bookkeeping for the quarter, including bank reconciliations and payroll.
  2. Upload ALL bank statements for the period into Xero.
  3. Upload csv files for the period for all bank and credit card accounts that do not have an active bank feed.

To enable us to prepare the BAS in a timely manner, please upload the required information to your Xero file by 31 October 2017.


HOW TO UPLOAD BANK STATEMENTS INTO XERO.

Save the bank and credit card statements to a folder on your computer/USB, then open up the Xero file and follow the steps:

  1. In Xero there is an icon in the shape of a folder located in the top right hand side next to the message icon.

If you click on this icon you will see a folder named ‘2018 Bank Statements’ (If it is not there, please create one or let us know so we can do it for you).

  1. Click on ‘2018 Bank Statements’ so it shows up in bold font, then select ‘+Upload Files’.

  2. Search for the statements saved on your computer/USB and upload them to Xero.

You can upload the bank statements every month when they come in.

 

Practice Update - September 2017

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P r a c t i c e  U p d a t e

September 2017

ALP announces massive (potential) changes to trust taxation

Editor: Although we don't normally report on Opposition tax policies, this policy change is so fundamental, and the existing state of the Federal Parliament is so chaotic, that we believe it's worth bringing this to your attention.

The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, has announced that a Labor Government (should they be elected) will introduce a standard minimum 30% tax rate for discretionary trust distributions to "mature beneficiaries" (i.e., people aged 18 and over).

Although the ALP acknowledges that individuals and businesses use trusts for a range of legitimate reasons, such as asset protection and business succession, "in some cases, trusts are used solely for tax minimisation."

Labor’s policy will only apply to discretionary trusts, so other trusts – such as special disability trusts, deceased estates and fixed trusts – will not be affected by this change.

Labor’s policy will also not apply to farm trusts and charitable trusts, and other exemptions will apply, such as for people with disability (the Commissioner of Taxation will be given discretionary powers to manage this). 

Their announcement also reiterated their other policies regarding tax reform, including further changes to superannuation, changes to negative gearing and CGT, and limiting deductions for managing tax affairs.

Single Touch Payroll update

A limited release of 'Single Touch Payroll' began for a small number of digital service providers and their clients on 1 July 2017, with Single Touch Payroll operating with limited functionality for a select number of employers.

Editor: Single Touch Payroll will effectively require some employers to report information regarding payments to employees (or to their super funds)in 'real time', via their payroll software.

The following timeline sets out what is happening in the lead-up to the mandatory commencement of Single Tough Payroll next year.

September 2017 – the ATO will write to all employers with 20 or more employees to inform them of their reporting obligations under Single Touch Payroll.

1 April 2018 – employers will need to do a headcount of the number of employees they have, to determine if they need to report through Single Touch Payroll.

From 1 July 2018 – Single Touch Payroll reporting will be mandatory for employers with 20 or more employees.

 

Keeping ABN details up to date

The ATO finds that businesses tend to forget to update their Australian business number (ABN) details in the Australian Business Register (ABR) when their circumstances or details change, so they have asked that we contact our clients to help keep your ABN details up to date and reduce unnecessary contact from the ATO.

In particular, the ATO says that many partnership and trust ABNs are not in operation, or their business structures have changed, so please let us know if:

n    your business is no longer in operation (so we can cancel the ABN); or

n   if your business structure has changed (so we can cancel the ABN for the old
 structure before applying for a new one).

The ATO also recommends that we add alternative contacts to clients' ABN records (so please provide us with alternative contact information, if possible), and to update the ABN records where any contact details have changed.

Register trading names with ASIC

By 31 October 2018, businesses will need to register any existing or old trading names as a business name with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) in order to continue operating with it.

The ABN Lookup website will reflect these changes and will only display business names registered with ASIC from this date.

 

Limited opportunity to avoid 'transfer balance cap' problems

If the total value of a superannuation fund member's pensions exceeded $1.6 million on 1 July 2017, they may face adverse tax consequences.

However, there is a transitional provision that permits a minor excess over $1.6 million to be ignored, subject to certain conditions being met.

Basically, this will be satisfied if the value of their pension interests on 1 July 2017 exceeded $1.6 million by no more than $100,000 (i.e., their total value did not exceed $1.7 million), but the member is able to commute the pension(s) by an amount that is at least equal to that excess no later than 31 December 2017. 

This will mean that no 'transfer balance cap' consequences arise (e.g., no 'excess transfer balance earnings' will accrue on the excess and no 'excess transfer balance tax' will become payable).

Therefore, it is important that this issue is identified and, if applicable, dealt with promptly.

Editor: Please contact us if you believe this may affect you and you need more information.

New Approved Occupational Clothing Guidelines 2017

The government has issued new guidelines to set out criteria for tax deductible non-compulsory uniforms.

Editor: The taxation law only allows a deduction to employees for expenditure on uniforms or wardrobes where either:

u    the clothing is in the nature of occupation specific, or protective clothing; or

u    the wearing of the clothing is a compulsory condition of employment for employees
       and the clothing is not conventional in nature; or

u   where the wearing of the clothing is not compulsory, the design of the clothing is
       entered on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing.

The new guidelines outline (among other things):

q    the steps that need to be undertaken by employers to have designs of occupational       
  clothing registered; and

q    the factors that will be considered in determining whether designs of occupational
  clothing may be registered.

The guidelines commence on 1 October 2017, and the previous Guidelines are revoked with effect from the same day.

 

Ability to lodge nil activity statements in advance

The ATO generally issues activity statements by the end of the relevant month under their normal processes, allowing the statement to be lodged by 21 days after the end of the month, or 28 days after the end of the relevant quarter (as appropriate).

However, the ATO recognises that there may be a specific reason for a taxpayer to access their activity statements early, so activity statements can be generated early in some cases, such as where the taxpayer is going to be absent from their place of business before the end of the reporting period (and the business will not be trading during that period), or if the taxpayer's entity is under some form of administration, or the business has ceased.

Editor: There are certain eligibility requirements to take advantage of this service, so please contact us if this is of interest to you.

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.

Australian Property Market Update - Winter 2017

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Our commitment to our clients continues to evolve as we further develop our Direct Property Service in our suite of services available to you.

Please find attached our latest seasonal newsletter. If suitable to you, we look forward to explaining this service at our next meeting.

In the meantime, if you are considering investing in an investment property we encourage you to contact us on 1300 574 108.

2017 Winter Update - Australian Property Market


Practice Update - August 2017

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P r a c t i c e  U p d a t e

August 2017

ATO warning regarding work-related expense claims for 2017

The ATO is increasing attention, scrutiny and education on work-related expenses (WREs) this tax time.

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said: “We have seen claims for clothing and laundry expenses increase around 20% over the last five years.  While this increase isn’t a sign that all of these taxpayers are doing the wrong thing, it is giving us a reason to pay extra attention.”

Ms Anderson said common mistakes the ATO has seen include people claiming ineligible clothing, claiming for something without having spent the money, and not being able to explain the basis for how the claim was calculated.

“I heard a story recently about a taxpayer purchasing everyday clothes who was told by the sales assistant that they could claim a deduction for the clothing if they also wore them to work,” Ms Anderson said.

“This is not the case.  You can’t claim a deduction for everyday clothing you bought to wear to work, even if your employer tells you to wear a certain colour or you have a dress code.”

Ms Anderson said it is a myth that taxpayers can claim a standard deduction of $150 without spending money on appropriate clothing or laundry.  While record keeping requirements for laundry expenses are "relaxed" for claims up to this threshold, taxpayers do need to be able to show how they calculated their deduction.

The main message from the ATO was for taxpayers to remember to:

n          Declare all income;

n          Do not claim a deduction unless the money has actually been spent;

n          Do not claim a deduction for private expenses; and

n          Make sure that the appropriate records are kept to prove any claims.

GST applies to services or digital products bought from overseas

From 1 July 2017, GST applies to imported services and digital products from overseas, including:

u         digital products such as streaming or downloading of movies, music, apps, games and e-books; and

u         services such as architectural, educational and legal.

Australian GST registered businesses will not be charged GST on their purchases from a non-resident supplier if they:

q         provide their ABN to the non-resident supplier; and

q         state they are registered for GST.

However, if Australians purchase imported services and digital products only for personal use, they should not provide their ABN.

Imposition of GST on 'low-value' foreign supplies

Parliament has passed legislation which applies GST to goods costing $1,000 or less supplied from offshore to Australian consumers from 1 July 2018.

Using a 'vendor collection model', the law will require overseas suppliers and online marketplaces (such as Amazon and eBay) with an Australian GST turnover of $75,000 or more to account for GST on sales of low value goods to consumers in Australia.

The deferred start date gives industry participants additional time to make system changes to implement the measure.

Editor: It should be noted that this is a separate measure to that which applies GST to digital goods and services purchased from offshore websites, as outlined above.

New threshold for capital gains withholding

From 1 July 2017, where a foreign resident disposes of Australian real property with a market value of $750,000 or above, the purchaser will be required to withhold 12.5% of the purchase price and pay it to the ATO unless the seller provides a variation (this is referred to as 'foreign resident capital gains withholding').

However, Australian resident vendors who dispose of Australian real property with a market value of $750,000 or above will need to apply for a clearance certificate from the ATO to ensure amounts are not withheld from their sale proceeds.

Therefore, all transactions involving real property with a market value of $750,000 or above will need the vendor and purchaser to consider if a clearance certificate is required.

Action to address super guarantee non-compliance

The Government will seek to legislate to close a loophole that could be used by unscrupulous employers to shortchange employees who choose to make salary sacrificed contributions into their superannuation accounts.

The Government will introduce a Bill into Parliament this year that will ensure an individual’s salary sacrificed contributions do not reduce their employer’s superannuation guarantee obligation.

Change to travel expenses for truck drivers

Editor: The ATO has released its latest taxation determination on reasonable travel expenses, and it includes a big change for employee truck drivers.

For the 2017/18 income year, the reasonable amount for travel expenses (excluding accommodation expenses, which must be substantiated with written evidence) of employee truck drivers who have received a travel allowance and who are required to sleep away from home is $55.30 per day (formerly a total of $97.40 per day for the 2016/17 year).

If an employee truck driver wants to claim more than the reasonable amount, the whole claim must be substantiated with written evidence, not just the amount in excess of the reasonable amount.

Editor: The determination includes an example of a truck driver who receives a travel allowance of $40 per day in 2017/18 ($8,000 over the full year for 100 2-day trips), but who spent $14,000 on meals on these trips.

In terms of claiming deductions for these expenses, he can either claim $14,000 as a travel expense (if he kept all of his receipts for the food and drink he purchased and consumed when travelling), or just rely on the reasonable amount and claim $11,060 ($55.30 x 200 days) as a travel expense (in which case he will need to be able to show (amongst other things) that he typically spent $55 or more a day on food and drink when making a trip (for example, by reference to diary entries, bank records and receipts that he kept for some of the trips)).

Car depreciation limit for 2017/18

The car limit for the 2017/18 income year is $57,581 (the same as the previous year).  This amount limits depreciation deductions and GST input tax credits.

Example

In July 2017, Laura buys a car to which the car limit applies for $60,000 to use in carrying on her business.    As Laura started to hold the car in the 2017/18 financial year, in working out the car’s depreciation for the 2017/18 income year, the cost of the car is reduced to $57,581.

 

Div.7A benchmark interest rate

The benchmark interest rate for 2017/18, for the purposes of the deemed dividend provisions of Div.7A, is 5.30% (down from 5.40% for 2016/17).

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.

Practice Update - July 2017

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P r a c t i c e  U p d a t e

July 2017

Removal of the Temporary Budget Repair Levy from the 2017/18 income year

The 2% Temporary Budget Repair Levy (or ‘TBRL’), which has applied to individuals with a taxable income exceeding $180,000 since 1 July 2014, is repealed with effect from 1 July 2017. 

Up until 30 June 2017, including the TBRL and the Medicare Levy, individuals earning more than $180,000 faced a marginal tax rate of 49%.

With the benefit of the removal of the 2% TBRL, from 1 July 2017, individuals with a taxable income exceeding $180,000 face a marginal tax rate of 47% (including the Medicare Levy). 

Editor: Don’t forget to add another 1.5% for the Medicare Levy Surcharge for certain individuals that don’t have Private Health Insurance.

 

Extension of the $20,000 SBE Immediate Deduction Threshold

In the 2017/18 Federal Budget handed down on 9 May 2017, the Federal Government announced that it intended to extend the ability of Small Business Entity (or ‘SBE’) taxpayers to claim an outright deduction for depreciating assets costing less than $20,000 until 30 June 2018.  This Budget Night announcement has now been passed into law.

Prior to the relevant legislation being passed into law, the outright deduction threshold for SBEs in relation to depreciating assets was scheduled to revert back to $1,000 as of 1 July 2017.  Now that this change has become law, the threshold is scheduled to revert back to $1,000 as of 1 July 2018.

To qualify for an immediate deduction for depreciating assets purchased by an SBE taxpayer costing less than $20,000, the asset needs to be first used or installed ready for use on or before 30 June 2018.

Editor:  The ‘aggregated turnover’ threshold to satisfy the requirements to be an SBE taxpayer has increased from $2 million to $10 million, as of 1 July 2016.  As a result, more business taxpayers than ever before will be eligible for the $20,000 immediate deduction for depreciating assets. 

Please contact our office if you need any assistance in determining if your business is an SBE, whether an asset purchase you are considering will qualify as a “depreciating asset” and/or what constitutes being “used or installed ready for use”.

  

Simpler BAS is coming soon

The ATO is reducing the amount of information needed to be included in the business activity statement (or ‘BAS’) to simplify GST reporting.

From 1 July 2017, Simpler BAS will be the default GST reporting method for small businesses with a GST turnover of less than $10 million.

In relation to GST, small businesses will only need to report:

G1 - Total sales

1A - GST on sales

1B - GST on purchases.

This will not change a business’ reporting cycle, record keeping requirements, or the way a business reports other taxes on its BAS.

Simpler BAS is intended to make it easier for businesses to lodge their BAS.  It should also reduce the time spent on form-filling and making changes that don't impact the final GST amount.

The ATO will automatically transition eligible small business' GST reporting methods to Simpler BAS from 1 July 2017.

Small businesses can choose whether to change their GST accounting software settings to reduce the number of GST tax classification codes.

Editor:  Call our office if you need help with the transition to Simpler BAS or to decide whether your business will use reduced or detailed GST tax code settings in its GST accounting software.

 

Changes to the foreign resident withholding regime for sales of Australian real estate

Since 1 July 2016, where a foreign resident has disposed of real estate located in Australia, the purchaser has had to withhold 10% of the purchase price upon settlement and remit this amount to the ATO, where the market value of the property was $2,000,000 or greater. 

As a result of another 2017/18 Budget Night announcement becoming law, in relation to acquisitions of real estate that occur on or after 1 July 2017, the withholding rate has increased to 12.5% and the market value of the real estate, below which there is no need to withhold, has been reduced to $750,000. 

Editor:  Unfortunately, even if a sale of real estate with a market value of $750,000 was to take place between two siblings on or after 1 July 2017 (both of whom have been Australian residents for 50 plus years), withholding must occur unless the vendor obtains a ‘clearance certificate’ from the ATO – despite the two siblings clearly knowing the residency status of each other!

These changes highlight the need to obtain clearance certificates where the vendor is an Australian resident and the real estate is worth $750,000 or more - not a high exemption threshold given the sky-rocketing values of Australian real estate!  If you are buying or selling real estate worth $750,000 or more (including a residential property, i.e., home) please call our office to see if a clearance certificate is needed.

Change to deductions for personal super contributions

Up until 30 June 2017, an individual (mainly those who are self-employed) could claim a deduction for personal super contributions where they meet certain conditions. One of these conditions is that less than 10% of their income is from salary and wages.  This was known as the “10% test”.

From 1 July 2017, the 10% test has been removed.  This means most people under 75 years old will be able to claim a tax deduction for personal super contributions (including those aged 65 to 74 who meet the work test).

Editor: Call our office if you need assistance in relation to the application of the work test for a client that is aged 65 to 74.

Eligibility rules

An individual can claim a deduction for personal super contributions made on or after 1 July 2017 if:

r         A contribution is made to a complying super fund or a retirement savings account that is not a Commonwealth public sector superannuation scheme in which an individual has a defined benefit interest or a Constitutionally Protected Fund;

r         The age restrictions are met;

r         The fund member notifies their fund in writing of the amount they intend to claim as a deduction; and

r         The fund acknowledges the notice of intent to claim a deduction in writing.

Concessional contributions cap

Broadly speaking, contributions to super that are deductible to an employer or an individual, count towards an individual’s 'concessional contributions cap'. 

The contributions claimed by an individual as a deduction will count towards their concessional contributions cap, which for the year commencing 1 July 2017 is $25,000, regardless of age.  If an individual’s cap is exceeded, they will have to pay extra tax.

Editor:  Call our office to discuss the eligibility criteria and tax consequences of claiming a tax deduction for a personal contribution to super for the year commencing 1 July 2017.

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.

Practice Update - June 2017

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P r a c t i c e  U p d a t e

June 2017

Budget Update

The Government handed down the 2017/18 Federal Budget on Tuesday 9th May 2017.

The Budget proposes (amongst several other changes) to increase the Medicare Levy by 0.5% to 2.5% from 1 July 2019 (and tax and withholding rates that are linked to the highest marginal income tax (e.g., FBT) will also increase from 1 July 2019).

One of the other more significant Budget announcements is that, from 9 May 2017, the Government proposes to limit plant and equipment depreciation deductions (e.g., for dishwashers and ceiling fans) to outlays actually incurred by investors in residential properties

More specifically:

q      Plant and equipment forming part of residential investment properties as of 9 May 2017 (including contracts already entered into by 9 May 2017) will continue to give rise to deductions for depreciation until either the investor no longer owns the asset, or the asset reaches the end of its effective life.

q      Investors who purchase plant and equipment for their residential investment property after 9 May 2017 will be able to claim a deduction over the effective life of the asset.  However, subsequent owners of a property will be unable to claim deductions for plant and equipment purchased by a previous owner of that property (acquisitions of existing plant and equipment items will instead be reflected in the cost base for CGT purposes).

More taxpayers can access the benefits of being an 'SBE'

Editor: Recent changes to the law have expanded the eligibility criteria for a taxpayer to be considered a ‘Small Business Entity’ (or ‘SBE’), meaning more businesses will be able to utilise the tax concessions that are only available to SBEs.

Broadly speaking, for the year ending 30 June 2017, a business taxpayer will be an SBE if its ‘aggregated turnover’ is less than $10,000,000

That is, where the business' ‘aggregated turnover’ (taking into account the turnover of the entity carrying on the business and the turnover of its related parties) is less than $10,000,000, it will be able to access most of the concessions available to SBE taxpayers, including:

n       Access to:

       –     the lower corporate tax rate of 27.5%;

       –     the SBE simplified depreciation rules, including the ability to claim an immediate deduction for assets costing less than $20,000;  

       –     the simplified trading stock rules;

       –     the small business restructure rollover relief;

       –     deductions for certain prepaid business expenditure made in the 2017 income year;

       –     the simplified method for paying PAYG instalments calculated by the ATO; and

       –     the FBT car parking exemption;

n       Expanded access to the FBT exemption for portable electronic devices;

n       Ability to claim an immediate deduction for start-up expenses; and

n       The option to account for GST on a cash basis and pay GST instalments as calculated by the ATO.

Editor: Note that the reduction in the SBE company tax rate to 27.5% for the 2017 income year was accompanied by a limitation on the maximum rate that such companies can frank their dividends also to 27.5%.  Consequently, if an SBE company fully franked a distribution before the law changed on 19 May 2017, the amount of the franking credit on the distribution statement provided to shareholders may be incorrect (if the franked distribution was based on the 30% company tax rate).

The ATO has set out a practical compliance approach for such companies to recognise the change and to notify their shareholders.  Please contact this office if you would like more information about this.

Who is assessed on interest on bank accounts?

As a general proposition, for income tax purposes, interest income on a bank account is assessable to the account holders in proportion to their beneficial ownership of the money in the account.

The ATO will assume, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that joint account holders beneficially own the money in equal shares. 

However, this is a rebuttable presumption, if there is evidence to show that joint account holders hold money in the account on trust for other persons.

Example – Joint signatory (but no beneficial ownership of account)

Adrian's elderly aunt has a bank account in her name, and Adrian is a joint signatory to that account.  Adrian will only operate the account if his aunt is unable to do so due to ill health, but all the funds in the account are hers, and Adrian is not entitled to personally receive any money from the account.

Adrian does not have any beneficial ownership of the money in the account and is therefore not assessable on the interest income.

Children’s bank accounts

In relation to bank accounts operated by a parent on behalf of a child, where the child beneficially owns the money in the account, the parent can show the interest in a tax return lodged for the child, and the lodgment of a trust return will not be necessary.

Example – Child savings account – parent operates as trustee

Raymond, aged 14, has accumulated $7,000 over the years from birthdays and other special occasions.  Raymond's mother has placed the money into a bank account in his name, which she operates on his behalf, but she does not use the money in the account for herself or others. 

Raymond earns $490 in interest during an income year and, since he has beneficial ownership of the money in the account, he is therefore assessable on all of the interest income.

However, as Raymond is under 18 years of age, he will be subject to the higher rates of tax that can apply to children.  If Raymond shows the interest in his tax return for that income year, his mother will not need to lodge a trust tax return.


Using social media? Be aware of tax scams!

The ATO has advised that, in the lead up to tax time, it's important to be aware of what taxpayers share on social media.

Note that scammers may also try to impersonate a tax agent (or their practice) and try to trick recipients into providing personal information or to release funds.

The ATO recommends that all taxpayers:

u      ensure their computer security systems are up to date and they are protected against cyber attacks;

u      keep personal information secure (including user IDs, passwords, AUSkeys, TFNs); and

u      do not click on downloads, hyperlinks or open attachments in unsolicited or unfamiliar e-mails, SMS or social media.

Editor: Call our office if you think you've received a suspicious e-mail claiming to be from us or the ATO.

FBT: Car parking threshold

The car parking threshold for the FBT year commencing 1 April 2017 is $8.66.  This replaces the amount of $8.48 that applied in the previous year commencing 1 April 2016.

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.

Practice Update - May 2017

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P r a c t i c e  U p d a t e

May 2017

Company tax cuts pass the Senate with amendments

Editor: After a marathon few days of extended sittings (the last before the Federal Budget in May), the Government finally managed to get its company tax cuts through the Senate, but it was not without compromise.

The following outlines the final changes to the law, as passed by the Senate, including a recap of which of the original proposals remained intact and also which ones were changed.

Increase to the SBE turnover threshold

As was previously announced, the Small Business Entity (‘SBE’) definition has changed with respect to the turnover eligibility requirement. 

The aggregated turnover threshold has increased from $2 million to $10 million with effect from 1 July 2016 (i.e., the current, 2017, income year).

Note that, whilst the increase in this threshold will expand access to most SBE concessions (e.g., simplified depreciation), this change will not apply with respect to:

q   the Small Business Income Tax Offset (a special $5 million threshold will apply when determining eligibility for this tax offset); and

q   the Small Business CGT concessions (the aggregated turnover threshold to access these concessions will remain at $2 million, although taxpayers may still seek to satisfy the $6 million maximum net assets test as an alternative method of obtaining access to these concessions). 

Reduction in the corporate tax rate

The most significant difference between the Government’s original proposals and what was finally passed by Parliament was in relation to the reduction in the corporate tax rate. 

Although the corporate tax rate will still decrease to 25% (by the 2027 income year, as originally proposed), access to the reduced corporate tax rate will be restricted to corporate entities that carry on business with an aggregated turnover of less than $50 million (from the 2019 income year).

The following table provides a summary of how the progressive reduction in the corporate tax rate will apply.

Income
Year

Aggregated turnover

Company tax rate

2016

< $2 million

28.5%

2017

< $10 million

27.5%

2018

< $25 million

2019

< $50 million

2020

2021

2022

2023

2024

2025

27%

2026

26%

2027 & later

25%

Editor: As noted above, corporate entities with at least $50 million aggregated turnover or, more importantly, companies that do not carry on business (e.g., passive investment companies and ‘bucket companies’) will continue to have a corporate tax rate of 30%.

Changes to the franking of dividends

Prior to this income year, companies that paid tax on their taxable income at 28.5% could still pass on franking credits to their shareholders at a rate of 30%, subject to there being available franking credits.

However, with effect from 1 July 2016 (i.e., this income year), the maximum franking credit that can be allocated to a frankable distribution paid by a company will be based on the tax rate that is applicable to the company. 

Editor: Please contact this office if you would like to know how these changes will affect your business specifically.

Costs of travelling in relation to the preparation of tax returns

The ATO has released a Taxation Determination confirming that the costs of travelling to have a tax return prepared by a “recognised tax adviser” are deductible. 

In particular, a taxpayer can claim a deduction for the cost of managing their tax affairs. 

However, apportionment may be required to the extent that the travel relates to another non-incidental purpose.

Example – Full travel expenses deductible

Maisie and John, who are partners in a sheep station business located near Broken Hill, travel to Adelaide for the sole purpose of meeting with their tax agent to finalise the preparation of their partnership tax return. 

They stay overnight at a hotel, meet with their tax agent the next day and fly back to Broken Hill that night. 

The full cost of the trip, including taxi fares, meals and accommodation, is deductible.

Example – Apportionment required

Julian is a sole trader who carries on an art gallery business in Oatlands.

He travels to Hobart for two days to attend a friend's birthday party and to meet his tax agent to prepare his tax return, staying one night at a hotel.

Because the travel was undertaken equally for the preparation of his tax return and a private purpose, Julian must reasonably apportion these costs.

In the circumstances, it is reasonable that half of the total costs of travelling to Hobart, accommodation, meals, and any other incidental costs are deductible.

Editor: Although the ATO's Determination directly considers the treatment of travel costs associated with the preparation of an income tax return, the analysis should also apply where a taxpayer is travelling to see their tax agent in relation to the preparation of a BAS, or another tax related matter.

FBT:  Benchmark interest rate

The benchmark interest rate for the 2017/18 FBT year is 5.25% p.a. (5.65% applied in 2016/17).

This rate is used to calculate the taxable value of:

u  a loan fringe benefit; and

u  a car fringe benefit where an employer chooses to value the benefit using the operating cost method.

Example

On 1 April 2017 an employer lends an employee $50,000 for five years at an interest rate of 5% p.a., with interest being charged and paid 6 monthly, and no principal repaid until the end of the loan.

The actual interest payable by the employee for the current year is $2,500 ($50,000 × 5%). The notional interest, with a 5.25% benchmark rate, is $2,625.  

Therefore, the taxable value of the loan fringe benefit is $125 (i.e., $2,625 – $2,500).

FBT: Cents per kilometre basis

The rates to be applied where the cents per kilometre basis is used for the 2017/18 FBT year in respect of the private use of a vehicle (other than a car) are:

Engine capacity

Rate per kilometre

0 – 2,500cc

53 cents

Over 2,500cc

63 cents

Motorcycles

16 cents


Editor: The ATO also determined that the small business record keeping exemption threshold for the 2017/18 FBT year is $8,393.

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.

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