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Practice Update February 2018

Further 'affordable housing' measures passed

Parliament has passed the legislation allowing first home buyers to save for a deposit inside superannuation through the First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSSS), and also allowing older Australians to 'downsize' and then contribute the proceeds of the sale of their family home into superannuation.

From 1 July 2018, a first home buyer will be able to withdraw voluntary superannuation contributions they have made since 1 July 2017 (up to $30,000 each, with individuals being able to contribute up to $15,000 a year within existing caps), along with a deemed rate of earnings, to help buy their home.

Also, from 1 July 2018, when Australians aged 65 and over sell a home they have owned for at least 10 years, they may contribute up to $300,000 from the proceeds into their superannuation accounts, over and above existing contribution restrictions. Both members of a couple may take advantage of this measure, together contributing up to $600,000 from the proceeds of the sale into superannuation.


Consultation on 'protecting superannuation entitlements'

Following the recommendations of the Superannuation Guarantee Cross-Agency Working Group, the Government has released draft legislation "to protect workers' superannuation entitlements and modernise the enforcement of the superannuation guarantee".

The draft laws extend Single Touch Payroll to all employers from 1 July 2019, and will require superannuation funds to commence 'event-based' reporting to the ATO of payments they receive for employees from their employer from 1 July 2018.

Combined, these measures (if passed as drafted) should provide the ATO with more timely information to support earlier detection and proactive prevention of non-payment of superannuation owed to employees.

The ATO will have a suite of enforcement and collection tools for employers who break the law, including:

  • strengthened arrangements for director penalty notices and security deposits for superannuation and other tax-related liabilities;
  • the ability (for the first time) to apply for court-ordered penalties, including up to 12 months imprisonment; and
  • the ability to require employers to undertake training.

The Government's commitment to a Director Identification Number will also help identify those directors who are robbing their employees of their superannuation.

The Government introduced legislation last year to implement another recommendation by the Working Group to close a loophole that could be used by unscrupulous employers to short-change employees who use salary sacrifice arrangements, and will progress that legislation along with this broader compliance Bill.


ATO warning regarding small business record-keeping

According to the ATO, of all of the things that can cause small businesses to fold, "high on that list is poor record keeping".

More than half of the businesses they visited in their Protecting honest business campaign needed to improve their record keeping. 

Issues they found include businesses:

  • estimating their sales and income;
  • using the 'no sale' and 'void' button on cash registers when taking cash payments;
  • not keeping cash register tapes and not reconciling at the end of the day; and
  • paying their employees cash-in-hand.

They are writing to these businesses to recommend they attend one of the ATO's record keeping workshops, which cover why good record keeping is important and how it will save them time.


ATO data matching program – Visa Holders

The ATO will acquire information on holders of a Visa from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for the 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years.

It is estimated that records of 20 million individuals will be obtained over the course of the three year period. 

These records will be electronically matched with ATO data holdings to identify non-compliance with obligations under taxation and superannuation laws, as well as (for example) support compliance activities under Australia's foreign investment rules.


Review of rules for early release of superannuation

The Government has announced that Treasury will review the current rules governing early release of superannuation on grounds of severe financial hardship and compassionate grounds.

It will also review whether, and the circumstances in which, a perpetrator's superannuation should be available to pay compensation or restitution to victims of crime.

The review will not examine other general conditions of release for superannuation.

The Government also announced that it will transfer the regulatory role of administering the early release of superannuation benefits on compassionate grounds from the Department of Human Services to the ATO in 2018, to enable the ATO to provide a more streamlined service to members.


ATO extends due date for 2016/17 SMSF returns

The ATO will extend the due date for lodgement of self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) annual returns for 2016/17 to 30 June 2018.

Deputy Commissioner James O'Halloran said "We recognise there are some major new considerations and decisions for SMSFs and their advisers to make in this first financial year of operation of the superannuation reforms that came into effect from 1 July 2017.

"We have therefore decided to extend the lodgement date for 2016/17 SMSF annual returns so that SMSF trustees and their advisers can focus on these important matters."


Taskforce to help digitise small business

The Government has established a Small Business Digital Taskforce, to be headed by entrepreneur Mark Bouris AM, to ensure more Australian small businesses can thrive in an increasingly digital economy.



Mark Bouris said: "When a business begins to digitise and use digital tools, it opens up new

 opportunities to grow, diversify revenue streams, find talent, access finance, work smarter and enhance the value of the business when it is time to sell. If you're not going digital, you should be."

Deloitte research has found that small businesses with advanced levels of digital engagement are 1.5 times more likely to be growing revenue, 8 times more likely to be creating jobs and 14 times more likely to be innovating.

The Taskforce will conduct a series of meetings, workshops and 'hackathons' with businesses over the coming months to explore impediments for business in engaging with digital technologies and how these impediments might be addressed.



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.

Important information if you have employees

Streamlined reporting with Single Touch Payroll is coming and will be compulsory for some employers from 1st July 2018

Single Touch Payroll is a reporting change for employers. It means employers will report payments such as salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and super information to the ATO directly from their payroll solution at the same time they pay their employees. Employers may need to update their payroll solution to report through Single Touch Payroll.

  • For employers with 20 or more employees, Single Touch Payroll reporting starts from 1 July 2018.
  • The Australian Government has announced it will expand Single Touch Payroll to include employers with 19 or less employees from 1 July 2019. This will be subject to legislation being passed in parliament.

From: https://www.ato.gov.au/About-ATO/About-us/In-detail/Strategic-direction/Streamlined-reporting-with-Single-Touch-Payroll/ 09/01/2018

If you are unsure if you are ready for these legislation changes or if your current payroll software is capable of providing this reporting, please contact us at Crowley Calvert & Associates on 07 5534 5155 as soon as possible to ensure you are ready to report on time!

Practice Update December 2017

Parliamentary update

The ongoing citizenship saga in Parliament has resulted in the Government losing its one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, thanks to the resignations of Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander. 

By-elections have been scheduled in the relevant electorates and, in the meantime, some of the cross-benchers have guaranteed the Government's (current) survival by committing to vote with it on motions of no-confidence and supply.

Tax legislation passed

In other news, the Government has passed changes to the tax legislation that will limit, or deny, deductions for travel expenses and depreciation claims for certain residential premises.

Legislation to impose vacancy fees on foreign acquisitions of residential land has also been passed.



ATO relief for SMSFs reporting 'transfer balance account' events

The ATO has announced that, from 1 July 2018, SMSF event-based reporting regarding events impacting a member's transfer balance account (i.e., via a Transfer Balance Account Report) will be limited to SMSFs with members with total superannuation balances of $1 million or more. Note: This new reporting is only required if an event that impacts a member's transfer balance account actually occurs (e.g., such as starting an account based pension, or commuting such a pension).  

This effectively means that up to 85% of the SMSF population will not be required to undertake any additional reporting with respect to a member's transfer balance cap, outside of current time frames (as SMSFs with members with account balances below $1 million can choose to simply report events which impact their members' transfer balances when the fund lodges its SMSF annual return). 

However, from 1 July 2018, SMSFs that have members with total superannuation account balances of $1 million or more will be required to report any events impacting members' transfer balance accounts within 28 days after the end of the quarter in which the event occurs.  

Whilst SMSFs are not required to report anything to the ATO until 1 July 2018, SMSF trustees should be mindful that, where the $1.6 million transfer balance cap has been breached in respect of a member from 1 July 2017, any resulting tax liability will continue to accrue until the excess amount is commuted (i.e., irrespective of when reporting that breach is required).

 



ATO's annual closure

This year, the ATO's annual office closure is between noon Friday 22 December and 8.00am Tuesday 2 January 2018.

Also, the ATO may have systems maintenance on some weekends, so they recommend that lodgments be made as early as possible, as even returns or activity statements lodged in early December may not be finalised until after 2 January 2018.

 


 

Truck drivers' reasonable amounts for travel updated

Following detailed consultation with the transport industry, the ATO has amended their determination for travel expenses for truck drivers to provide separate reasonable travel allowance expense amounts for breakfast, lunch and dinner for employee truck drivers for the 2017/18 income year.

The reasonable amount for travel expenses (excluding accommodation) of employee truck drivers who have received a travel allowance and who are required to sleep away from home was originally reduced for 2017/18 to a total of $55.30 per day, but this daily rate has now been replaced with the following amounts for all domestic travel destinations for the 2017/18 income year:

  • Breakfast $24.25
  • Lunch $27.65
  • Dinner $47.70

The amounts for each of these meal breaks are separate and cannot be aggregated into a single daily amount, and amounts cannot be moved from one meal to another (e.g., if the full amount for breakfast is not expended, it cannot be carried over to lunch or dinner).

A driver's work diary (as maintained for fatigue management purposes) can be used to demonstrate when meal breaks were taken.

 


 

Tool for applying the margin scheme to a property sale

The ATO is recommending that taxpayers use their recently updated GST property decision tool to work out if GST applies to their property sales. 

The tool can be used to determine GST on the sale, lease or purchase of real property, and was recently updated for easier use on mobile devices.

In particular, after providing the relevant information, the tool will generate a GST decision that:

  • advises whether GST is payable on a sale;
  • estimates the amount of GST payable when applying the margin scheme; and
  • advises whether the taxpayer is eligible to claim input tax credits.

Note that the ATO does not record any personal information and users will remain anonymous.

 

 


 

Other GST News

The Government has released draft legislation on "improving the integrity of GST on property transactions", as announced in the 2017/18 Federal Budget.

They intend to amend the GST law so that, from 1 July 2018, purchasers will withhold the GST on the purchase price of new residential premises and new residential subdivisions, and remit the GST directly to the ATO as part of settlement.

This is to address tax evasion through "phoenixing arrangements", where developers collect GST from their customers but dissolve their company to avoid paying it to the ATO.

To provide certainty for contracts that have already been entered into, the draft legislation provides a two-year transitional arrangement – contracts entered into before 1 July 2018 will not be affected as long as the transaction settles before 1 July 2020.

In addition, the GST Act has been amended to ensure that supplies of digital currency receive equivalent GST treatment to supplies of money (particularly foreign currency).

 


 

Numerous work-related expense claims disallowed

The AAT has denied a taxpayer's deductions for work-related travel, clothing, self-education and rental property expenses (totalling $116,068 and $140,581 for the 2013 and 2014 income year respectively), and upheld the ATO's 50% administrative penalty on the tax shortfall for recklessness.

Apart from being unable to prove (or 'substantiate') some claims due to lack of receipts, and documents being in the wrong name, the AAT also criticised the taxpayer for:

  • claiming work-related travel expenses on the basis of the 'gap' between travel expenses reimbursed by her employer and the ATO's reasonable rates (which "was clearly not permissible under any taxation law"); and
  • claiming clothing expenses for "formal clothes of high class", despite her clothing not being distinctive or unique to her employment at the Department of Finance, and was instead rather conventional in nature (and so was not deductible).

 


 

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 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:

  • car expenses;
  • home office expenses;
  • clothing expenses; and
  • self-education or professional development expenses.

The guides are available for the following occupations:

  • construction worker;
  • retail worker;
  • office worker;
  • Australian Defence Force;
  • sales and marketing;
  • nurse, midwife or carer;
  • police officer;
  • public servant;
  • teacher; and
  • 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:

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

  • 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;
  • require employers with 19 or fewer employees to transition to single touch payroll ('STP') reporting from 1 July 2019;
  • 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
  • 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:

  • trusts or their beneficiaries who have received substantial income are not registered, or have not lodged tax returns or activity statements;
  • there are offshore dealings involving secrecy or low tax jurisdictions;
  • there are agreements with no apparent commercial basis that direct income entitlements to a low-tax beneficiary while the benefits are enjoyed by others;
  • 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;
  • 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);
  • transactions have excessively complex features or sham characteristics (e.g., round robin circulation of income among trusts); 
  • 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
  • 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).

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