What the US election means for investors

What the US election means for investors

Democrat Joe Biden is pressing ahead with preparations to take the reins as the next President of the United States. Despite legal challenges and recounts, the early signs are that markets are responding positively.

In fact, the US sharemarket hit record highs in the weeks following the November 3 election as Biden’s lead widened.

So what can we expect from a Biden Presidency?

Biden’s key policies

The policies Joe Biden took to the election which stand to have the biggest impact on the US economy and global investment markets include the following:

• Corporate tax increases. The biggest impact on corporate America would come from Biden’s plan to lift the corporate tax rate to 28 per cent. This would partially reverse President Trump’s 2017 cut from 35 per cent to 21 per cent. Biden is also considered more likely to regulate the US tech giants to promote more competition. These plans may face stiff opposition from a Republican Senate (which appears likely).

• Stimulus payments to households. Biden supports further fiscal stimulus to boost consumer spending. While there were hopes that this could be delivered before the end of the year, action now seems unlikely until after January 20.

• Infrastructure program. Biden has promised to rebuild America’s ageing public infrastructure, from roads, bridges, rail and ports to inland waterways. This would stimulate the construction and engineering sectors.

• Climate policy. Biden is expected to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and join other major economies pledging zero net carbon emissions by 2050. To achieve this, he would likely promote renewable technologies at the expense of fossil fuels.

• Expand affordable healthcare. Biden wants to create affordable public health insurance and lower drug prices to put downward pressure on insurance premiums.

• Turn down the heat on trade. Biden will continue to put pressure on China to open its economy to outside investment and imports. But unlike President Trump’s unpredictable, unilateral action, he is expected to take a more diplomatic approach and build alliances with other countries in the Asian region to counter China’s expansionism.
While a Republican Senate may oppose measures such as higher corporate taxes and tougher regulation of industry, it is expected to be more open to other policy initiatives.

The outlook for markets

The general view is that further stimulus spending should support the ongoing US economic recovery which will in turn be positive for financial markets.

While Biden is committed to heeding expert advice in his handling of the coronavirus, a return to lockdown in major cities may put a short-term brake on growth.

Longer-term, recent announcements by pharmaceutical company Pfizer and others have raised hopes that vaccines to prevent COVID-19 may not be far off. This would provide an economic shot in the arm and continued support for global markets.

However, as sharemarkets tend to be forward looking, the US market appears to have already given Biden an early thumbs up with the S&P500 Index hitting record highs in mid-November.

Lessons of history

Despite the Republicans’ more overt free market stance, US shares have done better under Democrat presidents in the past with an average annual return of 14.6 per cent since 1927. This compares with an average return of 9.8 per cent under Republican presidents.

While the past is no guide to the future, it does suggest the market is not averse to a Democratic president.

What’s more, shares have done best during periods when there was a Democrat president and Republican control of the House, the Senate or both with an average annual return of 16.4 per cent.i

Implications for Australia

Australian investors should also benefit from a less erratic, more outward-looking Biden presidency.

Any reduction in trade tensions with China would be positive for our exporters and Australian shares. While a faster US transition to cleaner energy might put pressure on the Morrison government and local companies that do business in the US to do the same, it could also create investment opportunities for Australia’s renewables sector.

Ultimately, what’s good for the US economy is good for Australia and global markets.

If you would like to discuss your overall investment strategy as we head towards a new year and new opportunities, don’t hesitate to contact us.

i https://www.amp.com.au/insights/grow-my-wealth/joe-biden-on-track-to-become-us-president-implications-for-investors-and-australia

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


Tax Alert December 2020

 

Tax Alert December 2020

Although individuals and small business owners are now enjoying welcome tax relief in the wake of some valuable tax changes, there is more on the horizon as the government seeks to reboot the Australian economy.

Here’s a quick roundup of significant developments in the world of tax.

Temporary carry-back of tax losses

Previously profitable companies struggling with tough COVID-induced business conditions may find the government’s new tax loss carry-back provisions a useful tool to help keep their operation running. Businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion can now generate a tax refund by offsetting tax losses against previous profits.

Under the new measures, eligible companies can elect to carry-back tax losses incurred in 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 against profits made in 2018-19 or later years to gain a refund.

Full expensing of capital purchases

Another valuable initiative is the introduction of a temporary tax incentive allowing the full cost of eligible capital assets to be written off in the year they are first used or installed ready for use.

The measure applies from 6 October 2020 to 30 June 2022 and applies to new depreciable assets and improvements to existing assets.

Small businesses with an annual turnover under $10 million can also use it for second-hand assets.

Depreciation pool changes

From 6 October 2020, small businesses with a turnover under $10 million are allowed to deduct the balance of their simplified depreciation pool. This applies while full expensing is in place.

The current provisions preventing small businesses from re-entering the simplified depreciation regime for five years also remain suspended.

Early start to personal tax cuts

Individual taxpayers are now enjoying the next stage of the government’s tax plan, after the start date was brought forward to 1 July 2020.

Under the Stage 2 changes, the low income tax offset increased from $445 to $700; the upper limit for the 19 per cent tax bracket moved from $37,000 to $45,000; and the upper limit for the 32.5 per cent bracket rose from $90,000 to $120,000.

During 2020-21, there is also a one-year extension to the low and middle income tax offset, which is worth up to $1,080 for individuals and $2,160 for dual income couples.

Shortcut for home expenses extended again

Employees using the shortcut method to calculate their working from home expenses can continue using it following the ATO’s decision to extend its end date again – this time until 31 December 2020.

The ATO has updated its guidance on the shortcut measure and stated consideration will be given to a further extension.

The shortcut method allows employees and businessowners working from home between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 to claim 80 cents per work hour for their running expenses.

Additional small business tax concessions

Small businesses should also check out their eligibility for several tax concessions now the annual turnover threshold for them has been increased from $10 million to $50 million.

From 1 April 2021, eligible businesses will be exempt from the 47% FBT on car parking and work-related portable devices (such as phones and laptops) provided to employees.

Eligible business will also be able to access simplified trading stock rules, remit their PAYG instalments based on GDP adjusted notional tax and have a two-year amendment period for income tax assessments from 1 July 2021.

Granny flats to be CGT exempt

Families considering building a granny flat on their property will benefit from the announcement of a new capital gains tax (CGT) exemption for granny flat arrangements. Although the exemption is yet to be legislated, the planned start date is 1 July 2021.

The exemption will clarify that CGT does not apply to the creation, variation or termination of a formal written granny flat arrangement within families. CGT still applies to commercial rental arrangements.

Refresh your ABN details

The ATO is reminding business taxpayers to keep their Australian Business Number (ABN) details updated so government agencies can identify business in affected areas during natural disasters.

Incorrect details could see you miss out on valuable assistance or potential grants during and after a disaster.

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


super changes add flexibility

Super Changes Add Flexbility

super changes add flexibility

Super Changes Add Flexbility

Just when you thought you had a grip on the superannuation rules, they change again. This time though, the changes are mostly positive, especially for older super members keen to top up their savings.

From 1 July 2020, changes came into effect with the potential to help retirees as well as members suffering financial hardship due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

If you are not working you may be able to contribute to super for longer, while couples can take advantage of spouse contributions for longer. The temporary reduction in minimum pension drawdowns remains in place, as does early access to super. And if you own a business, you have a brief window of opportunity to get up to date with your employees’ super payments without penalty.

Here’s a summary of the new rules.

Work test to kick in at 67

Under changes to the work test, if you are aged 65 or 66 you can now put money into super even if you aren’t working. This gives people flexibility to make voluntary catch-up contributions for a few more years and give their retirement savings a last-minute boost.

Say you are 65 and inherit some money. You can now make a voluntary non-concessional contribution to your super account up to the annual limit of $100,000, even if you are not currently working enough hours to satisfy the work test. You can make withdrawals from this money or start a super pension.

Under the work test, which now kicks in at age 67, you must work at least 40 hours within 30 consecutive days in the financial year in which you make the contribution.

It was also proposed to allow people aged 65 and 66 at the start of the financial year to use the existing non-concessional bring forward rules. If eligible, this allows you to ‘bring forward’ up to three years’ worth of non-concessional contributions (up to $300,000) in the current financial year. Legislation must be passed before this proposal becomes effective.

Couples get a super boost

Couples also have more flexibility to grow their retirement savings later in life, thanks to recent changes to spouse contributions. As of 1 July 2020, you can contribute to your spouse’s super fund until they reach age 75, up from the previous age limit of 70.

What’s more, if your spouse (married or de facto) earns less than $37,000 you may be able to claim a tax offset of up to $540 for your contribution to their super. The offset phases out once your partner’s income reaches $40,000.

The usual non-concessional contribution limits still apply, and the receiving spouse still needs to meet the work test where applicable (outlined above).

Super pension drawdowns halved

Retirees whose superannuation has taken a hit from the COVID-19 market volatility have also been given a bit more wriggle room this financial year. The government has temporarily halved the minimum amount retirees must withdraw each financial year from their account-based super pension.

This temporary measure will help retirees who might otherwise have to sell assets at depressed prices to provide cash for their pension payments.

For example, someone aged 65 would normally be required to withdraw 5 per cent of their super pension account balance each financial year. But in 2020-21 they need only withdraw 2.5 per cent of their account balance if they wish. The minimum drawdown rate increases gradually with age, reaching 7 per cent from age 95 under the temporary rules (normally 14 per cent), as you can see in the table below. There is no maximum withdrawal rate.

Table 1: Minimum pension drawdown rates (as a percentage of your super pension account balance)

Age of beneficiaryTemporary withdrawal rate
2019-20 and 2020-21
Normal withdrawal rate
Under 652%4%
65 to 742.5%5%
75 to 793%6%
80 to 843.5%7%
85 to 894.5%9%
90 to 945.5%11%
95 and older7%14%

Source: ATO

Early release of super

Younger super fund members have not been forgotten. You can withdraw up to $10,000 from your super account this financial year if you are suffering financial hardship due to the economic impact of COVID-19. This is in addition to the $10,000 you could withdraw last financial year.

It must be stressed though, that the early withdrawal of your super should be a last resort because of the adverse impact on your retirement savings. An amount of $10,000 withdrawn early in your working life could potentially be worth many times that by the time you retire.

If, after weighing up your financial options, you wish to take advantage of this temporary measure the application period has recently been extended to 31 December 2020.

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


Outsmart your biases using investor psychology to your advantage

Outsmart your biases: using investor psychology to your advantage

Outsmart your biases using investor psychology to your advantage

Outsmart your biases: using investor psychology to your advantage

When it comes to decision making, we don’t always get it right. It is human nature to fall for several behavioural traps when making everyday decisions and also when trying to predict the future. Even the smartest people can succumb to their own biases when forming judgements and making choices.

While it’s unrealistic to expect to never again make a bad decision, we can of course recognise and anticipate possible biases so we can make informed decisions. This knowledge helps us to better understand how our mind works so we can use this information to our advantage for our next financial decisions, investments and life choices.

Here are a few of the most common behavioural biases (and therefore traps) to be aware of and tips for how to overcome them.

Loss aversion

This bias is ruled by fear, as you are focused on what you can lose rather than what you can gain. Mark Twain posed the example of a cat who jumps on a hot stove once and never will again, even though the stove would be cold and potentially contain food later, as a way to illustrate loss aversion.

Overcoming this bias requires confidence and pragmatism, as often the fear and expectation of loss is greater than the loss itself. It can help to lower the cost of failure (for example, if you are investing) and increase the likelihood of success to feel more assured when making decisions.

Overconfidence

On the flipside, overconfidence can cause bad decision making as it means you’ll take greater risks. Facets of this bias include an illusion of control, planning fallacy (such as underestimating how long a project will take) and positive illusions.

This type of bias is often linked to people with high self-evaluations, however anyone can fall into the trap of overconfidence. To avoid it, consider the consequences of the decision and explore all possibilities rather than just the best case scenario. Be open to feedback and advice from others to help balance overconfidence and to give you more options to consider.

Groupthink

Groupthink is where you are influenced by the ideas of others in order to reach a consensus in a group situation – this is also called the bandwagon effect. Something might not sit well with you but rather than voicing your feelings and being at odds with the group, you go along with it.

It is easy to get swept along with group consensus but there are ways you can minimise groupthink. Encouraging conversation and debate allows differing ideas and opinions to be considered – in a group scenario this enables everyone to have their voices heard.

Even when making a decision by yourself you can still be swayed by the opinions of others, so don’t let these overpower your instincts. Think critically and have confidence in your own analysis.

The primacy/recency effect

This bias is part of the serial-position effect: why we can often remember the first and last items in a series the most clearly (and forget what comes in the middle). The primacy and recency effect are intertwined for this reason, and they are often used by teachers, speakers, lawyers and advertising, in order to make their message most impactful.

Awareness of this effect can help you understand why you’re likely not using all information presented in your decision making, but only the first and last messages. Keep a record of all information to get a more accurate picture of the situation. It also helps to do your research so you won’t just be influenced by the message from one source either.

These are just some of the biases that impact our decision making, from the day-to-day to the bigger life decisions. Having a trusted adviser in your corner can help improve your financial decision making, by providing market research together with considered advice through an external, unemotional lens. In fact recent findings from Russell Investments found one significant benefit of an advisers is they prevent clients from making silly behavioural mistakes.i

We can offer guidance to help you overcome your biases and make better choices, so don't hesitate to get in touch today.

 

i https://russellinvestments.com/au/blog/5-key-ways-advisers-deliver

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


Making your savings work harder

Making your savings work harder

Making your savings work harder

Making your savings work harder

With tax cuts and stimulus payments on the way, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is urging us to open our wallets and spend to kick start the national economy. But if your personal balance sheet could do with a kick along, then saving and investing what you can also makes sense.

One positive from this COVID-19 induced recession, is that it has made many of us more aware of the importance of building a financial buffer to tide us over in lean times. Even people with secure employment have caught the savings bug.

According to the latest ME Bank Household Finance Confidence Report, 57 per cent of households are spending less than they earn. This is the highest percentage in almost a decade.i

More troubling however, was the finding that one in five households has less than $1,000 in savings, and only one third of households could maintain their lifestyle for three months if they lost their income.

Whatever your financial position, if saving is a priority the next step is deciding where to put your cash.

Banking on low interest

Everyone needs cash in the bank for living expenses and a rainy day. If you’ve been caught short this year, then building a cash buffer may be a priority.

If you have a short-term savings goal such as buying a car or your first home within the next year or so, then the bank is also the best place for your savings. Your capital is guaranteed by the Government so there’s no risk of investment losses.

But with interest rates close to zero, the bank is probably not the best place for long-term savings. So once your need for readily accessible cash is covered, there are more attractive places to build long-term wealth.

Pay down your mortgage

A question often asked is whether it’s better to put savings into super or your mortgage. Well, it depends on factors including your age, personal circumstances and preferences, interest rates and tax bracket.

If you have a mortgage, then making extra repayments can reduce the total amount of interest you pay and cut years off the life of your loan. This strategy has the most impact for younger people in the early years of a 25 to 30-year loan.

If your mortgage has a redraw or offset facility, you can still access your savings if you need cash for an emergency or home renovations down the track. This may be a deciding factor if retirement is a long way off.

Boost your super

Making extra super contributions is arguably the most tax-effective investment, especially for higher income earners.

Even so, super is likely to be more attractive as you get closer to retirement, the kids have left home, and your home is close to being paid off.

You can make personal, tax-deductible contributions up to the annual cap of $25,000. Be aware though that this cap includes super guarantee payments made by your employer and salary sacrifice amounts.

You can also make after-tax contributions of up to $100,000 a year up to age 75, subject to a work test after age 67.

Invest outside super

If you would like to invest in shares or property but don’t want to lock your money away in super until you retire, then you could invest outside super.

If you are new to investing, you could wait until you have saved $5,000 or so in the bank and then buy a parcel of shares or an exchange-traded fund (ETF). ETFs give you access to a diversified portfolio of investments in a particular market, market sector or asset class.

First home buyers might consider the Federal Government’s expanded First Home Loan Deposit Scheme with as little as 5 per cent deposit. There are limited packages available and price caps on the home value, depending on where you live.

With tax cuts set to flow and a new appreciation of the importance of financial security, now is the perfect time to start a savings plan. Contact our office if you would like to discuss your savings and investment strategy.

i https://www.mebank.com.au/getmedia/c27b0a0d-cc4e-470e-8a37-722d6f00af98/Household_Financial_Comfort_Report_July_2020_FINAL.pdf

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


FBT changes under COVID- What are the rules

FBT changes under COVID: What are the rules?

FBT changes under COVID- What are the rules

FBT changes under COVID: What are the rules?

The COVID-19 pandemic is raising some interesting questions for small business employers in relation to their Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) liabilities.

With many employees working from home, common employee benefits are often not being supplied, while some employers are now providing protective equipment such as gloves and COVID-19 testing.

To complicate things there are new FBT exemptions on the horizon next year, so it’s important to ensure you know the rules when preparing your FBT return.

Workplace items used at home

If you have provided your employees with a laptop, portable printer or electronic device so they can work from home due to COVID-19, these items are exempt from FBT if they are primarily used for the employee’s work.

Where you allow your employee to use a monitor or keyboard normally used in the workplace, provide them with stationery or computer consumables, or pay for their phone and internet access, the minor benefits exemption applies. This covers minor, infrequent and irregular employee benefits of less than $300.

COVID-19 protective items

On the other hand, you may need to pay FBT on items given to employees to help protect them while at work, such as gloves, masks and anti-bacterial spray.

These benefits are exempt, however, if you provide them to employees who have physical contact or proximity to customers or who are involved in cleaning premises. If your employee’s specific duties are not covered by this rule, the $300 minor benefits exemption may still apply.

Emergency health care

There is a limited exemption from FBT if you provide emergency health care to employees affected by COVID-19. This only applies to health care treatment provided to an employee on your premises or adjacent to their worksite.

Flu vaccinations and COVID-19 tests

Reimbursing your employees for getting a flu vaccination is exempt from FBT, provided it is offered to all employees. The same applies to COVID-19 testing if it is available to all staff and is carried out by a qualified health professional.

FBT and car fringe benefits

Where employees have been garaging their work cars at home due to COVID-19 there can be FBT implications. Normally, a car fringe benefit arises if an employer makes a car available for private use by the employee, or if it is garaged at home.

During the pandemic, if a home garaged car is not being driven – or only for maintenance purposes – the ATO accepts a fringe benefit is not being provided. If you use the operating cost method and maintain appropriate records, there is nil taxable value for the car and no FBT liability.

Where you are not using the operating cost method or don’t have odometer records, an FBT liability will arise as it’s assumed the car is available for private use.

Logbooks and driving patterns

Where you use the operating cost method with an employee vehicle, during the pandemic you can rely on its existing logbook to make a reasonable estimate of the business kilometres travelled or choose to start a new logbook.

Accommodation, food and transport

FBT does not apply if you provide emergency accommodation, food and transport to an employee if they are at risk of being adversely affected by COVID-19 and the benefit provides emergency assistance.

This assistance can include costs relating to relocating an affected employee and food or accommodation provided due to travel restrictions or a requirement to self-isolate.

Temporary accommodation and meals provided to fly-in fly-out employees unable to return home due to COVID-19 restrictions are also exempt.

New SME exemption coming

You also need to keep in mind the rule change for the FBT year starting in April. The October Federal Budget included the announcement of a new FBT concession for businesses with an aggregate annual turnover between $10 and $50 million.

From 1 April 2021, if your business is eligible it will be exempt from the current 47 per cent fringe benefits tax on car parking and work-related portable electronic devices such as phones or laptops provided to employees.

If you have any questions regarding your Fringe Benefit Tax liabilities, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


Easy ways to boost your credit score

Easy ways to boost your credit score

Easy ways to boost your credit score

 

Easy ways to boost your credit score

Most Australians are only vaguely aware – or completely unaware – of the fact that credit-reporting agencies monitor their financial transactions.

While most Australians don’t give much thought to what’s on their credit report, the credit score that’s based on the contents of that report can have a significant impact on your financial choices. A modest score may mean you miss out on getting a mortgage or business loan.

There’s no shame in relying heavily on your credit card or delaying bill or loan payments to help ride out the financial impacts of the pandemic. However, it is worth understanding how the financial decisions you’re making can affect your creditworthiness.

Know the score

Australia’s credit reporting agencies make it as easy as possible for people to access their credit scores. You should be able to get a free copy of your consumer credit report by contacting the relevant credit-reporting agency or putting in a request via its website.i

The two big players in the credit-reporting industry are Equifax and Experian, but Illion may also have a ‘consumer credit report’ on you. If you’re based in the Apple Isle, the Tasmanian Collection Service will be keeping an eye on whether you’re paying your bills.

Credit scores range from 1 to 1000 or 1200, depending on the agency rating it. If you discover your score is around 500 or better (again, depending on the agency) you can take comfort in the knowledge you’re of above-average creditworthiness. If your score is lower, there are some simple remedies.

Credit repair 101

While credit reporting agencies guard the finer details of their credit-score calculations, they are transparent about what will cause people’s credit score to fall and what is required to rectify the situation.

Here’s what you need to do to boost your creditworthiness.

Sort out any unpaid bills

People often discover unpaid bills – the technical term is ‘delinquencies’ – on their credit report that they either didn’t know existed or which they assumed were ancient history and covered by a statute of limitations.

If you’ve been wrongly charged for something, act quickly to get the charge removed. Start by contacting the business that has mistakenly billed you. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, contact the credit reporting agency.

If you’ve been legitimately charged but didn’t get the bill or were unable to pay it, contact the creditor and negotiate repayment arrangements.

Stop applying for credit

In the current unpredictable environment, it can be comforting to know you have access to plentiful credit in an emergency. But credit agencies view multiple applications for credit in a short period of time as a sign of financial distress, so think twice about applying for another credit or store card. Even if you don’t ever get the card, the fact you’ve enquired about doing so is listed on your credit file.

On this point, it’s worth considering alternative options before applying for credit. While applying for JobKeeper or JobSeeker, or withdrawing money from your super account, may have other financial implications, your credit score won’t be impacted.ii

Don’t put off paying bills for too long

The Australian Banking Association recently announced that borrowers who have deferred bank loans will not have their credit rating affected until at least March 2021.iii That’s welcome news, but don’t assume all companies will be as generous.

Unless the business you owe money to has put in place other arrangements, if they send you a bill for $150 or more and you don’t pay it off within 60 days of the due date, your late or missing payment will stay on your credit report for the next five years.

Get on the front foot

Even if you think you’ve been careful in your spending, debts can quickly mount up or get lost in the bottom of a drawer, so it’s worth getting into the habit of checking your credit score from time to time just to be sure.

This is particularly important if you are hoping to borrow money to buy a home, start a business, or for a major purchase. If you’d like advice about getting your finances back into shape and maximising your ability to access credit in the future, please call.

i https://moneysmart.gov.au/managing-debt/credit-scores-and-credit-reports

ii https://www.societyone.com.au/blog/early-access-to-super

iii https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/credit-rating-amnesty-for-loan-deferrals-extended-20200913-p55v5y.html

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


Granny flats- tax tips and traps

Granny flats: tax tips and traps

Granny flats- tax tips and traps

Granny flats: tax tips and traps

The idea of adding a granny flat to your property sounds like a great idea. A property to rent out to generate some welcome extra income, or a home for adult children or mum and dad in their later years.

But there are important tax and personal considerations to consider before taking the plunge and digging up the backyard. Although the Federal Budget proposed significant reform in this area (which we cover later in this article), important tax questions remain.

Tax and granny flats: what you need to know

A granny flat is usually a self-contained secondary dwelling with a separate entrance, bathroom, kitchen and living space.

Unlike an investment property, granny flats do not have a separate title and are built within the boundary of your existing property or attached to your home. A granny flat cannot be sold separately unless you subdivide the existing property title.

Before you rush off to start building, you need to carefully consider the tax implications and get professional advice, or you could find yourself facing significant tax bills.

For example, if you rent out your granny flat at commercial rates to a third party like a student, the rent will be assessable income and you will pay income tax on it at your marginal tax rate. You are, however, entitled to claim the normal deductions for depreciation against income from an investment property.i

Subdividing the property could also create a GST obligation, as the flat may be deemed a new residential property.

Granny flats and capital gains

Under current legislation, the main tax issue when adding a granny flat is that it can create a capital gains tax (CGT) headache when it comes time to sell your home. CGT is payable on the difference in value between the time you bought the property and the time you sell.

Normally, your main residence is exempt from CGT, but adding a granny flat can affect this. If you charge rent to a student living in your granny flat for example, you will lose some of your main residence exemption from CGT as the property is partly being used for income-producing purposes.

When a family member lives in a granny flat and does not pay commercial rent, generally the main residence exemption still applies as the arrangement is deemed private or domestic.

CGT and cash contributions

Things get more complicated if a relative provides a cash sum to help pay for the cost of building a granny flat in return for a right of occupancy for life or life interest.

Under current tax laws, a cash sum paid by one party to build a granny flat is a CGT event. This means if your parent makes a financial contribution towards you building a flat to live in on your property, you will have a partial CGT liability to pay when you eventually sell your home.

To make things worse, the normal 50 per cent discount on CGT for the disposal of an asset held for over 12 months may not be available.

Potential for elder abuse

In many cases, concern about paying CGT means families fail to put formal agreements in place when a relative contributes to the cost of a granny flat. This leaves the family member with no protection if the relationship breaks down and creates the potential for financial abuse.

The family member can also lose out financially if they need to move into an aged care facility, or if the homeowner needs to sell.

It’s also worth noting that an interest in a granny flat can affect social security entitlements and aged care fees.

Proposed Federal Budget exemption

To solve some of these issues, the October 2020 Federal Budget included a proposed CGT exemption for granny flats where a formal written agreement is in place. The new measure will be limited to arrangements covering family relationships and disabled children – not commercial rentals.

Eligibility conditions for the new CGT exemption will depend on the legislation eventually being passed by Parliament. If passed, a start date is expected as early as 1 July 2021.

If you are considering building a granny flat on your property, contact us today to discuss the potential tax implications.

https://www.ato.gov.au/General/property/your-home/renting-out-part-or-all-of-your-home/

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


Inflation and deflation - what do these terms mean for our economy?

Inflation, Deflation what's in a a name

Inflation and deflation - what do these terms mean for our economy?

When the inflation rate fell into negative territory in the June quarter, it was so unusual it begged the question of what this means for the economy. Are we facing deflation or even stagflation and what is the difference?

In the June quarter the annual inflation rate fell to minus 0.3 per cent, only the third time in 72 years of record keeping that the rate has been in the negative.

Much of the fall was attributed to free childcare (part of the special COVID-19 measures) and low petroleum prices during the quarter. The general view is that the September quarter will return to positive territory when childcare fees resume.

So what is inflation and why does it matter?

What is inflation?

In Australia, the main measure of inflation is the consumer price index (CPI). This measures the rate of change in the average price of a basket of selected goods and services over time.

While the index can move up and down, a negative inflation rate – no, that’s not an oxymoron - is referred to as deflation.

Generally, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) aims to keep the inflation rate between 2 and 3 per cent. But in the current environment, the RBA is now expecting the CPI to remain below 2 per cent until at least December 2022.

A falling consumer price index - particularly one that is in negative territory – sounds like it should be a good thing as it will give you greater purchasing power with the lower prices. After all, who doesn’t like a bargain? But in reality, it can play havoc with retail businesses who are faced with lower profits but not necessarily lower costs. This can put a squeeze on their business, which can often lead to retrenchments and a spike in unemployment.

The other two occasions when Australia experienced deflation were in 1962 and in 1997-98.

The 1962 negative rate was after then Prime Minister Menzies implemented two credit squeezes to end the inflation caused by the Korean War Boom. The 1997 episode was in the wake of the Asian Financial crisis.

A slowing economy

Clearly, we are living in extraordinary times with COVID-19 and until the pandemic is more under control we can expect further slowing in the economy.

But at least this curtailment of economic activity is not coinciding with higher prices for goods. If that were the case, the country would be faced with stagflation which poses a far greater squeeze on households than deflation. Stagflation is a situation with rising inflation (prices) and slowing economic growth, often accompanied with high unemployment.

Of course, if your job is not in jeopardy, you will benefit from cheaper goods. But if lower prices become the norm, people may hold off major purchases on the expectation that they can buy even more cheaply in the future. This is not good news as consumer spending makes up 60 per cent of total economic activity, so a contraction in spending generally results in a contraction in the economy.

However, if your employment is insecure and the overall unemployment rate rises, this will depress household spending. It will also have an impact on the property market.

Unemployment takes its toll

According to the latest figures, more than one million Australians are currently unemployed and many more could face uncertainty going forward. Whether you rent or are buying your property, finding the funds can present problems.

In some areas, as demand dried up in the June quarter, rents dropped by as much as 25 per cent. This may be good for renters, but it is not for those with investment property as part of their retirement strategy. If rents fall – or indeed if your property is vacant for some time - it may jeopardise retirement income.

Property prices are also under attack with distressed sales coming to the fore as the unemployment rate grows. When property values fall, mortgages become more expensive in real terms as your equity may be reduced – and in some cases you could find yourself with negative equity in your property.

Hopefully, the measures introduced in Australia to counter COVID-19 will prove successful and the economy will begin to recover.

If you would like to discuss your overall investment strategy in light of these challenging times, then please call.

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.


Investment opportunities amidst the COVID-19 disruption

COVID-19 is resulting in significant disruption to well-established business paradigms, impacting businesses, sectors and stocks across the board.

However as Albert Einstein once said “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. That certainly rings true in 2020 as analysists predict significant changes in the types of businesses that will prosper through the crisis and beyond, with certain sectors and types of businesses dominating others.

At a time where our movement has been constrained in an unprecedented way, sectors relating to the movement of goods, data and people are being heavily impacted by the crisis but are also well positioned to capitalise on the changes brought on by the pandemic.

Supply chain and logistics embrace technology

The pandemic has significantly impacted many bricks and mortar businesses, yet online shopping has boomed. Australia’s e-commerce industry had a growth of over 80% in the two months after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation.

Yet this boost to e-commerce has brought its own challenges. Back in April 2020, Australia Post was delivering an estimated 1.8 million parcels each day, which resulted in lengthy delays to delivery times.Meeting the demand for timely deliveries, avoiding supply chain disruption and bottle necks has called for innovation in logistics.

While demand may not remain at the heightened COVID-19 levels, experts are predicting long-term shifts, such as micro supply chains and decentralising of manufacturing capacity. Also critical to the creation of smart and nimble supply chains and effective logistics is the use of technology to drive efficiencies and manage significant fluctuations in demand.

Data movement and security a focus for business

It’s clear that where people’s physical mobility is limited, fast and secure movement of data is critical. 2020 has seen innovation being applied to find new ways to secure, verify and exchange business-critical information.

With many workers based at home, this shift to a hybrid workplace means a change in workflows as well as the immediate need for security measures to protect networks, as staff are no longer using their corporate networks. The increase of Zoom calls, for example, has meant becoming more aware and prepared for the potential of cyber hacks.

Businesses need to ensure their systems are robust and well-tested as we move to an increased reliance on technology. Expect a stronger emphasis on collaboration tools, workflow management and data protection.

Challenges and opportunities for travel

Suffice to say the travel industry has been one of the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no doubt travel will surge once restrictions loosen, although this industry is one that will see profound change as it adapts to the post-COVID landscape.

Airlines are struggling to navigate uncharted territory. The ones that survive this crisis will have to be strategically creative to find a way to prioritise public health and sustainability, all the while maintaining profitability.

With more rigorous sanitation requirements, the quick turnaround times budget airlines have relied on may not be possible, meaning fewer flights and at a higher cost – this will change the budget carrier landscape substantially and make travel less accessible for some.

Longer term trends emerging from the crisis will include greater automation driven by public health and budget constraints, and changing consumer preferences such as holidaying closer to home.

Public transport will also be impacted, as the need for distancing will restrict the number of passengers allowed to travel. Less congestion on our roads may be the silver lining to more flexible working arrangements, with some people continuing to work from home. This ability to work from anywhere will make it possible for an increasing number of Australians to relocate to regional areas.

The term ‘new normal’ has been expressed many times already and for good reason – lives have changed permanently. Only time will tell what life will look like post-pandemic, but there will be more changes as society emerges from the pandemic that will impact how we live, and these will drive innovation in the way businesses and industries operate.