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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.

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.

Why Every Business Needs a CFO (and How Small Businesses Can ‘Rent a Slice’ of one)

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Larger businesses have a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on staff. But what can small and medium sized businesses do in this regard?

Clearly, larger businesses can afford an in-house CFO. But it goes beyond an affordability issue: Large, successful businesses also understand how crucial the CFO role is to their business performance.

The CFO in a business:

  • Keeps a close eye on the numbers and trends,
  • Alerts management when preventative actions are required,
  • Helps management create sound forecasts and plans,
  • Ensures the cash inflows and outflows are managed well so the business never runs out of cash or needs to borrow in haste,
  • Reports on revenues achieved compared with targets,
  • Gives solid information on a range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to the business decision makers, and also
  • Helps management with decision making.
  • This is management input that all businesses require regardless of their size. But how can small and medium sized business access CFO-level input and guidance?

    The answer: You out-source it. You get a part-time, out-sourced CFO until you can afford one full-time.

    That’s where we play a role for many of our business clients.

    Our ‘Your CFO’ service has been developed with input from our clients to make sure it’s the ideal mix of support services and affordability.

    As your CFO we roll our sleeves up and work with you in management meetings throughout the year on:

    • Cash flow – Efficient management of cash flow to provide cash for saving or investing in growth
    • Profitability – Identifying key drivers of profit and focusing on these
    • Business value – Growing a valuable and saleable business asset
    • Structure management – Staying on top of risk and taxation issues 
    As business owners we all need to measure and monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). That is, the handful of numbers that really matter in running our business. 
     
    It is also important that you have a ‘KPI dashboard’ to display your KPI targets compared with your current KPI performance. This helps tremendously in monitoring and managing your business’ performance and, ultimately, hitting your targets.

    As your outsourced CFO, we will bring to each meeting that we conduct with you clear financial reports, easy-to-understand KPI information, as well as our commercial experience to interpret the information, make suggestions and help guide your decision making.

    Items we’ll discuss each meeting include:

  • Profit (historical and future)
  • Cash flow (historical and future)
  • KPIs: A mixture of focusing on Lead Indicators which drive performance and Lag Indicators that measure the outcomes
  • Marketing activity and effectiveness
  • Operational efficiencies such as work-in-progress or workflow
  • Financial indicators such as debtors, inventory, stock turn (depending on your industry and type of business)
  • Team efficiencies, knowledge management, morale and safety.

  • By helping with your forward planning for achieving the next period’s targets, and by being a sounding board for you as you strive to meet your targets, our ‘Your CFO’ service and support gives you a crystal clear focus for what needs to be done to achieve the goals of your business.

    Your next step … Call us on 1300 574 108 or email us on info@middlewise.com.au for a no cost and no obligation meeting to discuss how we can work with you as your outsourced CFO. We’ll outline for you what’s included and what costs are involved so you can see how the service can be comfortably included in your budget.

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