How to use salary sacrificing to cut tax and boost your super

How to use salary sacrificing to cut tax and boost your super

Salary sacrificing has become a popular technique for reducing personal tax and increasing superannuation. As we draw near to the start of a new financial year, it's a good time consider it.

Simply talking to your employer about setting up an arrangement to “sacrifice” some of your pre-tax salary could potentially lower your tax bill – and boost your retirement nest-egg.

Reducing your tax bill

A salary sacrifice arrangement simply involves coming to an agreement with your employer to pay for everyday items or services you would normally pay for out of your after-tax salary directly from your before-tax salary. This might include things like childcare, health insurance or super. The benefit is that this reduces the level of income the ATO uses to calculate your tax bill.

If you set up a salary sacrifice arrangement with your employer, it’s important to understand that while your taxable income is lower, the benefits are still listed on your annual payment summary. For some people, this reduces the tax offsets, child support payments or other government benefits they receive, limiting the value of salary sacrifice.

Salary sacrificing options

The items or services you can pay for using salary sacrifice depends on your employer.

Some employers let their employees salary sacrifice for expenses such as cars, health insurance, school fees and home phones. Others are not prepared to do this, as they may end up paying Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) on the benefits you receive.

Employers are usually more willing to allow you to package FBT-exempt work-related items such as portable electronic devices, computer software, protective clothing or tools of trade, as these generally don't result in FBT bills.

Boost your super account

One of the most popular forms of salary sacrifice is redirecting some of your pre-tax salary into your super fund. Most companies are willing to provide this option as it not only helps you build retirement savings, but it can also earn them a tax deduction.

When you salary sacrifice into your super, your contributions are taxed at 15 per cent when your super fund receives the money. For most people this is a lower tax rate than if they received the money as normal income.

A further bonus with salary sacrificing into super is you only pay 15 per cent on any investment earnings you receive inside super, instead of your marginal tax rate for investments held outside super.

Find out what’s on offer

If you’re interested in a salary sacrifice arrangement, it’s a good idea to discuss the subject with your employer or HR team to find out the company’s policy.

It’s also a good idea to talk to us, as the value of these arrangements needs to be weighed up carefully against your reduced take-home pay and the potential loss of government benefits.

These arrangements should be put in writing before you earn the income you are sacrificing, so you need to talk to your employer prior to the start of the new financial year if your salary will change from 1 July.

Tips for employers

Allowing your employees to salary sacrifice can help them reduce their tax bill and it boosts engagement with your business. Another overlooked benefit is if your employee salary sacrifices into their super, you can claim a tax deduction for their contributions, as they are considered employer contributions.

To do this, you need to ensure you create an 'effective' salary sacrifice arrangement meeting the ATO’s guidelines. Otherwise the benefits your employee receives are considered part of their taxable income.

Effective arrangements require a clear agreement stating the terms and conditions and they must be documented in writing to avoid any uncertainty or future disputes.

Sacrifice arrangements can only apply to wage and salary payments for work yet to be performed, not past earnings. Salary and wages, leave entitlements, bonuses or commissions accrued prior to the arrangement cannot be used.

A simple way to avoid problems is to document your employees’ salary sacrifice arrangements before the start of a new financial year – or whenever there is a change to their salary – so it covers future earnings.

You need to keep detailed records of these arrangements for five years and list all sacrifice amounts on the employee’s annual payment summary.

If you would like help working out if a salary sacrifice arrangement makes sense for you, call our office today.

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 offset vs tax deduction: What are the differences?

Tax offset vs tax deduction: What are the differences?

This year’s Federal Budget was full of talk about one-off support for households in the form of tax offsets, but most people are a bit hazy on the difference between a tax offset and a tax deduction.

Both can help reduce the amount of tax you pay each year, but a tax offset generally results in a bigger dollar tax saving than a tax deduction of the same amount. The key difference is the point at which they are applied to your income when calculating the final amount of tax payable.

What is a tax deduction?

A tax deduction is one of the first things applied to your income when calculating your tax bill. It reduces your taxable income and hence the amount of tax you pay, potentially moving you into a lower tax bracket. Deductions are intended to ensure you only pay tax on income exceeding the costs associated with earning that income.

For a small business, deductions ensure it doesn’t pay tax if its running costs exceed its revenue. Common deductions include operating expenses such as stationery, and capital expenses such as equipment.

There are also temporary deductions, such as the additional 20 per cent deduction for costs related to digital adoption (like portable payment services and cyber security) and employee training expenditure announced in the 2022 Federal Budget.

Employees can claim deductions in a similar way. Personal deductions include work-related expenses like the cost of a computer if you have a home office, or supplies purchased for classroom use by a teacher. Other deductions include the cost of managing your tax affairs, donations and income protection insurance.

Offsets are similar but different

Tax offsets on the other hand, are deducted at the end of the calculation process and directly reduce the tax you pay.

Offsets are used by the government to encourage specific outcomes, such as uptake of health insurance through the Private Health Offset, or adding money to your spouse’s super through a contribution offset. They are also used to provide tax relief or financial support to certain groups in the community.

Calculating tax using offsets and deductions

The easiest way to understand the difference between an offset and a deduction is to walk through an example.

In the table below, we have two taxpayers. One person has an income of $30,000 a year paying tax of 19c on every dollar above the tax-free threshold of $18,200. This results in tax of $2,242 before any deductions or offsets. The other earns $130,000 a year, paying the top marginal tax rate of 37c in every dollar above $120,000, resulting in tax of $33,167.

As you can see in the table below, the impact of a $1,000 tax deduction provides a bigger tax saving of $370 for the higher income earner, compared with $190 for the lower income earner.

However, not only does a $1,000 tax offset provide both taxpayers with a bigger tax saving of $1,000 each, but it’s worth relatively more to the lower income earner at 3.3 per cent of $30,000 compared with less than one per cent of $130,000.

Impact of a $1,000 tax deduction and tax offset on tax owed

How tax offsets affect the tax you pay

Unlike tax deductions, the ATO automatically applies most offsets to your tax payable when you lodge your tax return.

In general, tax offsets can reduce your tax payable to zero, but they can’t be used to generate a tax refund if you don’t pay tax. If your taxable income is $18,200 or less, an offset won’t reduce the tax you pay as your tax payable is already zero. If you have paid any tax on this amount, you receive the tax back as a refund, but no offset is applied.

Also, most tax offsets don’t reduce the Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge (if any) you are required to pay.

The amount of tax offset you receive also depends on the particular offset and your taxable income. For example, with the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO) for 2021-22, if your taxable income is $37,0000 or less, you will receive a $675 offset on your tax payable when you lodge your tax return. If your income is $48,001 to $90,000, however, the offset is worth $1,500.

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.


How The 2022-23 Federal Budget affects our tax bills

How The 2022-23 Federal Budget affects our tax bills

Tax offsets and temporary cuts were at the heart of this year’s Federal Budget as the government attempts to woo voters in the run-up to the election.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg emphasised the crucial role of his tax measures in helping Australians cope with the growing cost of living pressures and in supporting the small businesses he calls the “engine room of our economy”.

According to the Treasurer, the measures in this year’s Budget represent the “next stage in leading Australia’s strong economy into the future”.

One-off tax offset and payments

A signature announcement in the Federal Budget was providing one-off cost of living tax offsets and payments to lower-income earners.

From 1 July 2022, taxpayers will receive a one-off $420 cost of living offset. The offset will take effect when they submit their tax returns at the end of the 2021-22 financial year.

In addition, the Budget included a one-off income tax-exempt payment of $250 to help eligible pensioners, welfare recipients and concession card holders with their cost of living pressures. They will automatically receive the payment in April 2022.

A key tax omission in this year’s Budget was another extension to the existing Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO), which means eligible taxpayers will no longer receive the offset (currently worth up to $1,080) beyond the current financial year.

Cut to fuel excise

Another major measure in the Budget was a temporary halving of the current excise rates for petrol, diesel and other fuel and petroleum-based products for six months until 28 September 2022.

This temporary cut in petrol and diesel rates (from 44.2 cents to 22.1 cents) per litre is designed to reduce cost of living pressures for households and small businesses.

According to the Treasurer, households will be around $300 better off over the 6 month period. Businesses will receive fuel tax credits where fuel is used in light vehicles travelling off public roads and by heavy vehicles or plant and machinery. Light vehicles operating on public roads are ineligible for FTCs, but will benefit from cheaper bowser prices.

Small business support

The Budget also included a reduction in the GDP uplift rate to be used for 2022-23, which will provide $1.85 billion in cash flow support for small business.

Both the offsetting of losses against previously taxed profits and the instant write-off of assets for businesses with a turnover of less than $5 billion were extended again until 30 June 2023.

Businesses with annual turnover of less than $50 million will also gain access to a new bonus 20 per cent tax deduction for the costs (up to $100,000) of expenses and depreciating assets relating to improvement of the organisation’s uptake of digital technologies. These technologies include such things as cloud computing, cyber security enhancements and portable payment devices.

Training and apprenticeship subsidies

A new Skills and Training Boost will provide small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million with access to a bonus 20 per cent tax deduction for the cost of external training courses delivered to their employees. The deduction will apply to training expenditure from Budget night until 30 June 2024.

Employers will also be able to access wage subsidies if they take on apprentices in occupations listed on the Australian Apprenticeship Priority List. For an apprentice earning $34,000 a year, an employer will be eligible to receive up to $8,750 in wage subsidies over two years.

The Budget also provided $5.6 million over four years in funding for a new dedicated small business unit in the Fair Work Commission and $2.1 million for Financial Counselling Australia’s Small Business Debt Helpline.

COVID-19 tests tax deductible

To clarify concerns expressed by taxpayers, the Budget included a provision to make the cost of taking a COVID-19 test to attend a place of work tax deductible for individuals from 1 July 2021. The government also announced that Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) will not be incurred by businesses where they provide COVID-19 tests to their employees for this purpose.

If you would like to discuss any measures in the Federal Budget, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Information in this article has been sourced from the Budget Speech 2022-23 and Federal Budget support documents.

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 March 2022: New super and tax rules passed in Parliament

Tax Alert March 2022: New super and tax rules passed in Parliament

Some of the last sitting days before this year’s Federal election saw changes to the tax and super rules finally pass through both houses of Parliament. Here’s a roundup of some of the key developments.

Loss carry back extended and super rules changed

Several reforms to the tax and super rules were legislated during the final marathon full Parliamentary session before this year’s Federal election. They include an extension of the business loss carry-back tax offset for the 2022-23 financial year and an extension to 30 June 2023 for the temporary full expensing regime.

Removal of the current $450-per-month threshold for payment of Superannuation Guarantee (SG) contributions means from 1 July 2022, employers will be required to make contributions for employees earning less than this amount.

Other key changes to the super rules include application of the work test to super contributors aged 67 to 74 who claim a deduction for personal contributions. However, from 1 July 2022 contributors over age 67 will be able to make or receive non-concessional super contributions using a bring-forward arrangement.

The new legislation also includes a reduction in the age limit for downsizer super contributions to 60 and an increase to the maximum allowable amount of contributions under the First Home Super Saver Scheme from $30,000 to $50,000.

Loss carry back tool launched

To help businesses correctly claim the loss carry back (LCB) tax offset in their company tax return, the ATO has launched a new online tool to help prevent errors and ensure correct completion of LCB labels in your return.

The interactive tool helps companies work out their eligibility for the tax offset and calculate the maximum offset they can claim. It also displays labels that must be completed in the company tax return.

FBT deadline approaching

Employers need to remember the annual fringe benefits tax (FBT) deadline is rapidly approaching on 31 March 2022.

The FBT year runs from 1 April to 31 March, and you are required to self-assess your FBT liability for certain benefits you have provided to your employees or their families and other associates.

As an employer, you may be able to claim an income tax deduction for the cost of providing fringe benefits and for the amount of FBT you pay, so it’s important to get your paperwork in order.

New ‘right’ for businesses to request B2B eInvoicing

The government is currently consulting on whether to introduce a Business eInvoicing Right (BER) giving businesses the ‘right’ to ask other businesses to send an eInvoice for transactions.

The BER would be established as part of a new regulatory framework or under the Corporations Act 2001.

Implementation of the BER would be in three phases starting with large entities before moving to medium and finally small businesses.

Add industry codes to your ABN details

Holders of an Australian Business Number (ABN) can now include up to four additional business activities when updating their ABN details.

The extra information will help government agencies better target appropriate business support and stimulus measures.

If you offer business services other than those listed as your main business activity, it may be time to update your ABN details with some additional industry codes.

Focus on small business CGT concessions

The ATO has announced it’s paying closer attention to businesses mistakenly claiming small business capital gains tax (CGT) concessions to which they are not entitled.

Anyone claiming one or more small business CGT concessions in a recent income tax return may receive an ATO letter asking you to check your claim and ensure you meet the basic eligibility conditions.

The taxman is also encouraging taxpayers planning to claim a small business CGT concession to check what attracts its attention in this area.

Trading stock taken for private usage

If you take goods from your business’ trading stock for private use, you will need to check the updated values applying for both adults and children aged four to 16 when preparing your tax return.

The tax man has updated the value of goods it will accept for certain industries during 2021-22.

The new amounts will apply to owners of businesses such as cafes, greengrocers, takeaway food shops, mixed businesses, butcheries and bakeries.

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.


End of Tax Year Approaching: avoid the rush and get ready for June 30

End of Tax Year Approaching: avoid the rush and get ready for June 30

It seems like June 30 rolls around quicker every year, so why wait until the last minute to get your finances in order?

With all the disruption and special support measures of the past two years, it’s possible your finances have changed. So it’s a good idea to ensure you’re on track for the upcoming end-of-financial-year (EOFY).

Starting early is essential to make the most of opportunities on offer when it comes to your super and tax affairs.

New limits for super contributions

Annual contribution limits for super rose this financial year, so maximising your super contributions to boost your retirement savings is even more attractive.

From 1 July 2021, most people’s annual concessional contributions cap increased to $27,500 (up from $25,000). This allows you to contribute a bit extra into your super on a before-tax basis, potentially reducing your taxable income.

If you have any unused concessional contribution amounts from previous financial years and your super balance is less than $500,000, you may be able to “carry forward” these amounts to further top up.

Another strategy is to make a personal contribution for which you claim a tax deduction. These contributions count towards your $27,500 cap and were previously available only to the self-employed. To qualify, you must notify your super fund in writing of your intention to claim and receive acknowledgement.

Non-concessional super strategies

If you have some spare cash, it may also be worth taking advantage of the higher non-concessional (after-tax) contributions cap. From 1 July 2021, the general non concessional cap increased to $110,000 annually (up from $100,000).

These contributions can help if you’ve reached your concessional contributions cap, received an inheritance, or have additional personal savings you would like to put into super. If you are aged 67 or older, however, you need to meet the requirements of the work test or work test exemption.

For those under age 67 (previously age 65) at any time during 2021-22, you may be able to use a bring-forward arrangement to make a contribution of up to $330,000 (three years x $110,000).

To take advantage of the bring-forward rule, your total super balance (TSB) must be under the relevant limit on 30 June of the previous year. Depending on your TSB, your personal contribution limit may be less than $330,000, so it’s a good idea to talk to us first.

More super things to think about

If you plan to make tax-effective super contributions through a salary sacrifice arrangement, now is a good time to discuss this with your employer, as the ATO requires documentation prior to commencement.

Another option if you’re aged 65 and over and plan to sell your home is a downsizer contribution. You can contribute up to $300,000 ($600,000 for a couple) from the proceeds without meeting the work test.

And don’t forget contributing into your low-income spouse’s super account could score you a tax offset of up to $540.

Get your SMSF shipshape

If you have your own self-managed super fund (SMSF), it’s important to check it’s in good shape for EOFY and your annual audit.

Administrative tasks such as updating minutes, lodging any transfer balance account reports (TBARs), checking the COVID relief measures (residency, rental, loan repayment and in-house assets), and undertaking the annual market valuation of fund assets should all be started now.

It’s also sensible to review your fund’s investment strategy and whether the fund’s assets remain appropriate.

Know your tax deductions

It’s also worth thinking beyond super for tax savings.

If you’ve been working from home due to COVID-19, you can use the shortcut method to claim 80 cents per hour worked for your running expenses. But make sure you can substantiate your claim.

You also need supporting documents to claim work-related expenses such as car, travel, clothing and self-education. Check whether you qualify for other common expense deductions such as tools, equipment, union fees, the cost of managing your tax affairs, charity donations and income protection premiums.

Review your investment portfolio

After a year of strong investment market performance, now is also a good time to review your investments outside super. Benchmark your portfolio’s performance and check whether any assets need to be sold or purchased to rebalance in line with your strategy.

You might also consider realising any investment losses, as these can be offset against capital gains you made during the year.

If you would like to discuss EOFY strategies and super contributions, call our office.

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 deductions for your home-based business

Tax deductions for your home-based business

Using your home as the base for your business is increasingly popular, particularly due to COVID-19, with many of Australia’s 2.1 million enterprises with four or less employees now based at home.

As a result, the ATO is busy revisiting the rules on the tax deductions you can claim for a home-based business. Your claimable expenses will depend on how you operate your business, so it’s worth checking the current rules to ensure you know what’s what.

Your business structure matters

The structure (sole trader, partnership, trust or company) you use to operate your business affects your entitlements and obligations when claiming expense deductions.

Sole traders and partnerships can claim a deduction for the costs of running their business from home. What you can deduct is governed by whether or not you have an area of your home set aside as a ‘place of business’.

Trusts and companies, however, must have a genuine market-rate rental contract or agreement in place with the property owner covering which expenses the business is responsible for paying.

Different types of expenses

For home-based sole traders and partnerships, there are two main types of claimable expense.

Running expenses are the increased costs from using your home’s facilities for your business, such as heating, cooling, cleaning, landline phone and internet, equipment and furniture depreciation, and equipment repairs.

These can be claimed if you have a separate study or desk in a lounge room, even if the area doesn’t have the character of a place of business.

You can only claim deductions for the portion of your expenses related to running your business. Any part of an expense related to personal use cannot be claimed.

You may also be able to claim motor vehicle expenses between your home and other locations if the travel is for business purposes.

Claiming your business costs

When you calculate your running costs, you can choose the actual cost, fixed rate or temporary shortcut method. Each one is acceptable provided it’s reasonable for your circumstances, excludes your private living costs and there are appropriate records for your calculations.

With the actual cost method you use the real cost of the expense, while the fixed rate uses a set cost of 52 cents for each hour you operate your business. This covers heating, cooling, lighting, cleaning and depreciation. Other expenses need to be worked out separately.

The temporary shortcut method (available until 30 June 2022), is an 80 cents per hour rate covering all your expenses.

Occupancy expenses can’t always be claimed

Your business can claim occupancy expenses (such as mortgage interest, council rates, and home and contents insurance) if the area in your house set aside for your business has the character of a place of business (even if most of your business is conducted online).

Indicators of a place of business include identification (such as an external sign) it’s a place of business, the area is not easily adaptable for domestic use and is almost exclusively used for your business, or you receive regular client visits.

If you are eligible to claim occupancy expenses, they must be apportioned based on the share of the year your home is used for business and the portion of the floor plan.

Recordkeeping is essential

The ATO expects you to keep records for at least five years to show your business actually incurred the claimed expenses.

You must be able to substantiate your claims with written evidence or receipts for all running costs. If you claim occupancy expenses, you need to substantiate your mortgage interest, insurance, council rates and rental agreement with the homeowner.

The ATO also requires you to demonstrate how you calculated your expense claims and separated them into business and private use.

Capital gains implications

A word of warning though. If you claim deductions for the cost of using your home as your main place of business, there may be capital gains tax (CGT) implications when you sell.

If you claim occupancy expenses, the usual main residence exemption may not apply to the proportion of your home and the periods you used it for your business.

If you have recently started working from home or plan to do so, we can help you work out the best method of claiming deductions for your home-based business.

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.


Employers: What you should know about the new rules for Single Touch Payroll (STP)

Employers: What you should know about the new rules for Single Touch Payroll (STP)

Are you ready for the new Single Touch Payroll (STP) requirements? With Phase 2 of STP now just weeks away, there are some key changes that all employers need to be aware of. Keep reading for a summary of what you need to know.

So, what will the changes mean for your small business?

STP reporting to expand

Under the current STP rules, employers are required to report payroll information to the ATO each time they pay an employee salary or wages, pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding or superannuation.

In the 2019-20 Federal Budget, the government announced an expansion of the data it collected through the STP system starting from 1 January 2022.

The change is called STP Phase 2 and under the new rules, employers will be required to report additional information on or before each pay day.

According to the government, the aim of STP Phase 2 is to “reduce the reporting burden for employers who need to report information about their employees to multiple government agencies”.

The additional data collected from 1 January 2022 will also be used in the administration of the social security system.

New STP Phase 2 requirements

The key changes in your reporting include providing extra information on the employment basis for each of your employees (full-time, part-time or casual).

You will also need to provide information on the tax treatment of their salary. This is to help the ATO identify the factors influencing how you calculated your employee’s PAYG withholding. For instance, where your employee has notified you that they have a Study Training Support Loan.

When an employee ceases employment, you will now need to provide information on the reason, for example, voluntary separation, redundancy or due to illness. This will remove the need for you to provide former employees with separation certificates.

Phase 2 also gives you the option to include child support garnishees and child support deductions in your STP report, reducing the requirement to provide a separate remittance advice report to the Child Support Registrar.

More detailed information

Reporting of income types and country codes is also being introduced with STP Phase 2 to help the ATO identify employee payments with specific tax consequences. The government believes this will allow your employees to complete their personal tax returns more easily.

A significant change with Phase 2 will be the new requirement to separately itemise the components of any gross payment amounts such as bonuses and commissions, directors’ fees, paid leave, salary sacrifice, overtime and allowances.

Allowances will need to be reported separately, not just expense allowances that may be deductible for your employees. Any lump sum payments you make to employees need to be reported under new labels.

Although you need to provide additional information in your STP reports, the way you submit the report, due dates and types of payments covered in your reports will stay the same. Your tax and super obligations and the requirements for end of year finalisation will also stay the same.

Benefits from the STP expansion

The government claims employers will receive a number of benefits from the introduction of STP Phase 2.

A key one is a reduction in the duplicate information you are required to provide to different government agencies, reducing unnecessary interactions with these departments.

You will also no longer be required to send tax file number (TFN) and withholding declaration information to the ATO, as this will be captured in the employment conditions section of your STP report.

By more clearly defining the components making up an employee’s gross income, the government says it will be easier for employers to understand their various obligations.

Assistance with new reporting requirements

The government is working closely with digital service providers to ensure they update their software, so it is ready to commence collecting the additional information from 1 January 2022.

The specific information your business needs to provide for STP Phase 2 depends on the particular software product you use, and how you manage your payroll.

Contact us if you would like more information or help transitioning your business to the new STP requirements.

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 2021

Tax Alert December 2021

As COVID-19 turbulence starts to settle, the ATO is moving away from its supportive position and returning to its more usual compliance focus.

That means taxpayers need to be aware their financial affairs will come under renewed attention in the year ahead.

Data gathering programs increase

In recent months the ATO has announced programs to gather data on various aspects of Australians’ financial lives to use in its ongoing data-matching projects.

Recent programs include gathering data on property management and rental bonds, cryptocurrency, online selling and novated leases for the upcoming financial year (2022-23). The ATO will also be collecting data on payments made by government agencies such as Comcare, the Department of Health, the NDIA, Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the clean energy regulator.

Taxpayers who buy and insure high-value lifestyle assets will also be under the microscope, with the ATO looking to collect details that will “assist with profiling [to obtain] a holistic view of a taxpayer’s wealth”. Under this program, the taxman will be obtaining information from insurance companies for the period 2020-21 to 2022-23 about assets exceeding certain nominated thresholds.

These high-value assets include boats valued over $100,000, motor vehicles (including caravans) and thoroughbred horses valued over $65,000, fine art worth over $100,000 per item and aircraft valued over $150,000. Data obtained from insurers will include individual client identification and policy details.

Overseas gifts or loans under scrutiny

The ATO has also announced it will be increasing scrutiny of undeclared foreign gifts or loans from related overseas entities, including family and friends.

The regulator says it has encountered many situations where Australian taxpayers are deriving assessable income or capital gains offshore but failing to declare these in their income tax returns. The ATO will be looking at arrangements where taxpayers are attempting to avoid tax on foreign assessable income by disguising amounts as gifts or loans.

Anyone receiving genuine monetary gifts or loans should keep supporting documentation. Inheritances count as gifts, so if you receive an inheritance from overseas, get a certified copy of the person’s will or estate distribution statement.

Focus on working from home deductions

On a positive note, if you are still working from home due to COVID-19, you can continue using the shortcut method for claiming deductions until 30 June 2022.

From 1 July 2022, you will need to use either the traditional fixed rate or actual cost methods and meet their eligibility and recordkeeping requirements.

The ATO says it’s currently reviewing the 52 cents per hour fixed rate method to make it easier and simpler to use, given more people will be working from home in the longer term.

Backpacker tax under fire

Employers paying working holidaymakers will need to keep a close eye on developments in this area following a decision by the High Court that tax rates applied to these employees is discriminatory as it is based on nationality.

The decision could affect the applicability of the backpacker tax for workers from countries with double tax agreements with Australia. According to the ATO, this means working holidaymakers from Chile, Finland, Germany, Japan, Norway, Turkey, UK, Germany or Israel.

The ATO is currently considering the implications of the High Court decision and will provide further guidance for employers. In the meantime, employers should continue using the tax rates in the ATO’s published withholding tables for backpackers.

Self-education expense threshold to go

The government has made good on its May 2021 Budget promise to remove the $250 non-deductible threshold for claiming work-related self-education expenses.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No.7) Bill 2021 is currently before Parliament. If passed, it will remove the current threshold for taxpayers claiming self-education expenses. It’s also expected to simplify the claims process in your annual tax return.

The start date for the change is likely to be 1 April or 1 July 2022.

Reminder on super stapling

If you are an employer, don’t forget to request super fund details from new employees, now the government’s super stapling rules are in place.

If a new employee doesn’t choose a super fund, you must request their stapled super fund from the ATO if they have one. This fund is linked to them and must be used for your Superannuation Guarantee (SG) contributions unless the employee requests otherwise.

If you would like help getting your tax affairs in order for the new year, contact our office today.

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.


How does the ATO mine your data?

How does the ATO mine your data?

It was hard to miss the media splash about international tax evasion when the Pandora Papers were released, with local interest focussing on what Australian tax authorities would do with this massive trove of information. But it seems the ATO didn't feel it would reveal much they didn't already know.

On questioning, Deputy Commissioner and Serious Financial Crime Taskforce Chief Will Day responded that the tax man doesn’t “rely on data leaks to do our job. We detect, investigate and deal with offshore tax evasion year-round.”

So where does the ATO get its data from and how is it being used?

Information from many sources

As some of the most powerful computers in the country are matching data from just about every facet of a taxpayer’s financial life, the ATO doesn’t miss much. Every year it receives reams of data from share registries, banks and financial institutions, allowing it to identify most of the financial transactions occurring in Australia. In 2020, more than 600 million transactions were reported to the ATO.

Property and lifestyle assets are also key areas of interest, with data from state and territory title offices and revenue agencies covering real property transactions, rental bond payments and property management all flowing to the ATO.

Data is also exchanged with tax agencies in other countries to ensure correct reporting of overseas income and income earned by foreign residents.

Current data-matching programs by the ATO cover credit and debit cards, ride-sourcing providers, sharing economy accommodation platforms and cryptocurrency service providers. Information on online sales over $12,000 also end up with the tax man.

Government departments data sharing

Government agencies are also a major source of data for the ATO, with detailed protocols on information sharing in place with the Australian Electoral Commission, Services Australia (Centrelink and the Child Support Program), and the Department of Home Affairs’ visa and passenger movement records.

Motor vehicle registrations from the states and territories provides data on all motor vehicles sold or registered where the value is over $10,000.

The new Single Touch Payroll (STP) system for businesses is also used to confirm employment income, deduction reporting, payments to contractors and superannuation contributions.

Even tips from other businesses and individual taxpayers can be used in specific data-matching activities.

Matching and analysing the data

Once all this information is received, it’s validated against the ATO’s internally collected data. Algorithms and other analytical tools are used to refine the data and match it against information reported in tax returns.

Although the ATO uses some of the data it receives to pre-fill sections of your tax return, much of it is used to identify discrepancies in taxpayers’ returns.

You are then contacted and provided with details of the discrepancy so you can check your records. Discrepancies can be as simple as omitted interest, employment income or government payments; CGT from the sale of an asset; payments to contractors in the building and construction industry; or distributions from partnerships, trusts and managed funds.

Data-matching is also undertaken on taxpayers purchasing expensive consumer items (such as boats, racehorses, antiques and luxury cars) to determine whether they can afford the items based on their declared income.

Helping businesses operate

Data-matching programs help the ATO identify businesses that may not be reporting all their income, operate outside the system, or operate but fail to lodge a tax return.

Careful analysis of financial data helps businesses to operate on a level playing field. Running part of a business ‘off the books’ and not reporting all the income received provides an unfair advantage.

By data-matching, the ATO can also better understand trends and patterns in specific industries. This is used to create performance benchmarks (or financial ranges) for each industry, particularly in relation to tax and activity statements. These benchmarks cover turnover comparisons with your cost of sales, total expenses, rent, labour and motor vehicle expenses.

The ATO also develops a key benchmark range for an industry. If data analysis shows your business operates outside this range, it’s a red flag raising the possibility that your business may be avoiding its tax obligations by not reporting some of its income. The benchmark range may also be used to determine how much tax a business should have paid if there are insufficient or no records available.

If you would like help with understanding your tax obligations and preparing your tax records, please contact our office today.

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.


How GST impacts the sale of a business property

How GST impacts the sale of a business property

Selling your business property is a major financial transaction that you'll want to get right. Focusing on the sale price may seem like common sense, but this can be a costly mistake. Many owners forget to factor GST into their thinking. But if you do, you could find yourself left with a big tax bill to pay.

There are also valuable opportunities to claim GST credits on your transaction costs, so it’s important to retain all your paperwork in order to satisfy the ATO when tax time rolls around.

GST and commercial property

In general, if you sell business property such as a shop or factory and are registered - or required to be registered - for GST, you must apply GST to the sale amount and include it in your business activity statement (BAS). For example, if you sell an office suite for $1,100,000 (GST inclusive), you need to pay $100,000 to the ATO for GST.

If you are unregistered but liable for GST and fail to make your sales price GST inclusive, you will be forced to pay the GST liability from your own pocket.

As a vendor, you can claim GST credits on any costs involved in selling your business property, such as the GST included in the fees you pay to your real estate agent. If there are settlement adjustments for costs such as council and water rates when you sell, these must be included in your BAS.

The eligibility rules for claiming your credits include that:

  • GST was paid at settlement,
  • Both you and the purchaser are GST registered,
  • Tax invoices are available for the goods and services you are claiming, and
  • Your deduction claim is lodged within four years.

Going concern sales

One way around the GST requirement is if you sell your enterprise and business property as a 'going concern'. These sales are GST-free, but to qualify the ATO will require the business to continue operating into the foreseeable future and be appropriately resourced.

To be eligible for this concession, the business sale must be for payment, the purchaser must be registered for GST, and both you and the purchaser must agree in writing the sale is for a ‘going concern’.

In this situation, although there is no GST liability on the sale, both you and the purchaser may be able to claim GST credits on any related expenses.

It’s worth noting that in a going concern sale, a purchaser may pay less stamp duty, as this is normally calculated on the GST-free price, rather than GST-inclusive price.

Using a margin scheme

If you are eligible, you may also be able to use a margin scheme to reduce the amount of GST owed on your property sale.

Under the margin scheme, the 10 per cent GST payable on the sale amount is calculated on the sale margin (which is usually the sale price less the amount for which the property was originally purchased), rather than the full sale price.

Although it can be worthwhile using the margin scheme, the rules around eligibility are complex, so talk to us before reaching an agreement with your purchaser.

If you are considering trying to avoid the GST issue, remember the ATO regularly receives data relating to purchases and sales of properties around Australia and matches this against activity statements. If you fail to report a sale in your BAS, the ATO will likely catch you out.

Tools to help

To make things a little easier for vendors, the ATO has a GST property decision tool that helps determine the GST implications of property-related transactions.

The online tool asks a series of questions to work out the GST classification of a property transaction and establish eligibility for the margin scheme.

The ATO’s property decision tool requires you to enter information on the date you acquired the property, planned settlement date, amount you paid to acquire the property, past transactions for the property and whether GST was applied, and whether you are registered for GST.

Call us if you are planning to sell a business property and would like to know more about the GST implications.

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.