Category Archives: Newsletters

Newsletter: April 2017

Ride-sharing drivers must register for GST

In a recent decision, the Federal Court has held that the UberX service supplied by Uber’s drivers constitutes the supply of “taxi travel” for the purposes of GST. The ATO has now advised that people who work as drivers providing ride-sharing (or ride-sourcing) services must:

  • keep records;
  • have an Australian Business Number (ABN);
  • register for GST;
  • pay GST on the full fare they receive from passengers;
  • lodge activity statements; and
  • include income from ride-sharing services in their tax returns.

If you work as a ride-sharing driver, you are also entitled to claim income tax deductions and GST credits on expenses apportioned to the services you have supplied.
TIP: You must register for GST if you earn any income by driving for a ride-sharing service. The usual $75,000 GST registration threshold does not apply for these activities.

 

 

Tax offset for spouse super contributions: changes from 1 July 2017

The ATO has reminded taxpayers that that the assessable income threshold for claiming a tax offset for contributions made to a spouse’s eligible superannuation fund will increase to $40,000 from 1 July 2017 (the current threshold is $13,800). The current 18% tax offset of up to $540 will remain in place. However, a taxpayer will not be entitled to the tax offset when their spouse who receives the contribution has exceeded the non-concessional contributions cap for the relevant year or has a total superannuation balance equal to or more than the general transfer balance cap immediately before the start of the financial year when the contribution was made. The general transfer balance cap is $1.6 million for the 2017–2018 year.
The offset will still reduce for spouse incomes above $37,000 and completely phase out at incomes above $40,000.
TIP: Contact us for more information about making the most of super contributions for you and your spouse.

 

 

ATO targets restaurants and cafés, hair and beauty businesses in cash economy crackdown

The ATO will visit more than 400 businesses across Perth and Canberra in April as part of a campaign to help small businesses stay on top of their tax affairs. The primary focus is on businesses operating in the cash and hidden economies. ATO officers will be visiting restaurants and cafés, hair and beauty and other small businesses in these cities to make sure their registration details are up to date. These businesses represent the greatest areas of risk and highest numbers of reports to the ATO from across the country, and the visits are part of the ATO’s ongoing program of compliance work.

 

 

Super reforms: $1.6 million transfer balance cap and death benefit pensions

Where a taxpayer has amounts remaining in superannuation when they die, their death creates a compulsory cashing requirement for the superannuation provider. This means the superannuation provider must cash the superannuation interests to the deceased person’s beneficiaries as soon as possible. The ATO has released a Draft Law Companion Guideline to explain the treatment of superannuation death benefit income streams under the $1.6 million pension transfer balance cap that will apply from 1 July 2017.
The Draft Guideline provides that where a deceased member’s superannuation interest is cashed to a dependant beneficiary in the form of a death benefit income stream, a credit will arise in the dependant beneficiary’s transfer balance account. The amount and timing of the transfer balance credit will depend on whether the recipient is a reversionary or non-reversionary beneficiary.
TIP: To reduce an excess transfer balance, you may be able to fully or partially convert a death benefit or super income stream into a super lump sum. Contact us if you would like to know more.

 

 

No deduction for carried-forward company losses

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has ruled that a company was not entitled to deductions for carried-forward losses of over $25 million that it incurred in the 1990 to 1995 income years. The AAT found that the company did not satisfy the “continuity of ownership” and “same business” tests that applied in relation to the 1996 to 2003 income years, when it sought to recoup the losses. In relation to the continuity of ownership test, the AAT found that the interests the relevant shareholders held during the loss years were different from their interests recoupment years. The AAT noted that the taxpayer company was obligated to keep appropriate records, even though 25 years had passed since the first claimed loss year (1990). The Tribunal also found that the company had clearly not met the requirements of the “same business” test for the different years in question.
TIP: This decision illustrates the need for companies to keep appropriate ownership records year-by-year to support any future carried-forward loss claims.

 

 

Overseas income not exempt from Australian income tax

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has agreed with the ATO’s decision that income a tapayer earned when working for the United States Army was not exempt from Australian income tax. The taxpayer, who was a mechanic and electrician, played a critical role in plant construction in Afghanistan.
While the project the taxpayer worked on met the legal definition of an “eligible project”, the AAT decided that the exemption he had claimed under s 23AF of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 did not apply because the project was not one that the Trade Minister had approved in writing, and there was no evidence that the Trade Minister considered it “in the national interest”.

 

 

GST on low-value imported goods

A Bill introduced into Parliament in February proposes to make Australian goods and services tax (GST) payable on supplies of items worth less than A$1,000 (known as “low value goods”) that consumers import into Australia with the assistance of the vendor who sells the items. For example, GST would apply when you buy items worth less than $1,000 online from an overseas store and the seller arranges to post them to you in Australia.

Under the proposed measures, sellers, operators of electronic distribution platforms or redeliverers (such as parcel-forwarding services) would be responsible for paying GST on these types of transactions. The GST could also be imposed on the end consumer by reverse charge if they claim to be a business (so the overseas supplier charges no GST) but in fact use the goods for private purposes. If the Bill is passed, the measures would come into force on 1 July 2017.
TIP: The ATO has also released a Draft Law Companion Guideline that discusses how to calculate the GST payable on a supply of low-value goods, the rules to prevent double taxation of goods and how the rules interact with other rules for supplies connected with Australia.

 

 

Alternative assessments not tentative: Federal Court

The Federal Court has found that a company’s tax assessments were not tentative or provisional, and therefore were valid.
For the 2011 to 2014 income years, the Commissioner of Taxation had notified the taxpayer, which was the trustee of a discretionary trust, that it was liable to pay tax assessed in two different amounts calculated by two different methods. The Commissioner explained to the taxpayer in writing how the two assessments applied.
The taxpayer argued that the assessments were tentative because, for each year, they imposed two separate and different income tax liabilities on its single trustee capacity. The Court denied this claim, agreeing with the ATO that a trustee’s liability to pay income tax is of a “representative character” and the relevant tax law provisions allow for a trustee’s liability to multiple assessments regarding different beneficiaries’ entitlements to a share of the net trust income. Accordingly, in effect the Court found that the primary and alternative assessments were comparable to assessments issued to two or more taxpayers in relation to the same income in the same income year, and were not liable to be set aside as tentative or provisional.

 

Newsletter: March 2017

Re-characterisation of income from trading businesses

The ATO has released Taxpayer Alert TA 2017/1 to say it is reviewing arrangements that try to fragment integrated trading businesses to re-characterise trading income as more favourably taxed passive income. The ATO is concerned with cases where a single business is divided in a contrived way into separate businesses. The business income expected to be subject to company tax is artificially diverted into a trust and, on distribution from the trust, that income is ultimately subject to no tax or to a lesser rate than the corporate rate of tax.
The ATO explains that “stapled structures” are one mechanism being used in these arrangements, but the review will not be limited to arrangements involving stapled structures.
TIP: Taxpayer Alert 2014/1 deals with similar arrangements where trusts “mischaracterise” property development receipts as concessionally taxed capital gains to obtain a lower tax rate.

 

 

ATO warning: research and development claims in building and construction industry

The ATO and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science have released Taxpayer Alert TA 2017/2 and TA 2017/3 as a warning to businesses that are not being careful enough in their claims or seeking to deliberately exploit the research and development (R&D) Tax Incentive program. The alerts relate to particular issues identified in the building and construction industry, where specifically excluded expenditure is being claimed as R&D expenses. The alerts provide clarification for a wide range of businesses who had been incorrectly claiming ordinary business activities against the R&D tax incentive.

 

Intangible capital improvements made to a pre-CGT asset

The ATO has issued Taxation Determination TD 2017/1. It provides that for the purposes of the “separate asset” rules in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (ITAA 1997), some intangible capital improvements can be considered separate capital gains tax (CGT) assets from the pre-CGT asset to which the improvements are made, if the improvement
cost base is more than the improvement threshold for the income year when CGT event happened, and it is more than 5% of the capital proceeds from the event.
This determination updates CGT Determination No 5 to apply to the ITAA 1997 provisions, without changing the CGT determination’s substance.

 

Personal services income diverted to SMSFs: ATO extends offer

Since April 2016, the ATO has been reviewing arrangements where individuals divert personal services income (PSI) to a self managed super fund (SMSF). The arrangements, described in Taxpayer Alert TA 2016/6, involve individuals (typically SMSF members at or approaching retirement age) performing services for a client but not directly receiving consideration for the services. Instead, the client sends the consideration for the services to a company, trust or other non-individual entity.
The ATO has previously asked taxpayers to help identify and resolve these issues before 31 January 2016, offering to remit the related penalties. That offer has now been extended to 30 April 2017.

 

Depreciating assets: composite items

Draft Taxation Ruling TR 2017/D1 sets out the Commissioner of Taxation’s views on how to determine if an entire composite item is a depreciating asset or whether its component parts are separate depreciating assets. The draft ruling says that a “composite item” is an asset made up of a number of components that can exist separately. Whether one or more of the item’s components can be considered separate depreciating assets is a question of fact and degree to be determined in the particular circumstances. For a component of a composite item to be considered a depreciating asset, the component must be separately identifible as having commercial and economic value.
TIP: The draft ruling usefully lists the main principles to take into account when determining whether a composite item is a single depreciating asset or is made up of multiple depreciating assets.

 

Tax risk management and governance review guide released

The ATO has released a tax risk management and governance review guide to help businesses develop and test their governance and internal control frameworks, and demonstrate the effectiveness of their internal controls to reviewers and stakeholders. The guide sets out principles for board-level and managerial-level responsibilities, and gives examples of evidence that a business can provide to demonstrate the design and operational effectiveness of its control framework for tax risk. The guide was developed primarily for large and complex corporations, tax consolidated groups and foreign multinational corporations conducting business in Australia, but the ATO says the principles can be applied to a corporation of any size if tailored appropriately.

 

Overtime meal expenses disallowed because no allowance received

A taxpayer has failed in claiming deductions for overtime meal expenses before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The AAT denied his appeal because he was not paid an allowance under an industrial agreement.
The AAT noted that whether overtime meal expenses are deductible according to the tax law depends on whether the taxpayer receives a food or drink allowance under an industrial instrument. The AAT agreed with the Commissioner of Taxation that the taxpayer had not received an allowance of this kind and, in fact, had not received any allowance at all.

 

Time extension to review objection decisions disallowed – again!

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has refused to allow a taxpayer extra time to apply for review of a decision made by the Commissioner of Taxation. The taxpayer had previously made the same application for an extension, seven years after the Commissioner’s decision, but both the AAT and the Federal Court refused it.
In this later case, the AAT found that the taxpayer’s application should not be allowed because he had still not adequately explained why it took him seven years to ask for an extension and a decision review.

TIP: This decision illustrates that a taxpayer can continue to apply to the AAT for extension of time to apply for review of the Commissioner’s decision disallowing an objection, even after being previously rebuffed. The additional application must include new claims and the taxpayer’s case must have merit.

 

No deduction or capital loss for apparent guarantee liability

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has affirmed that two family trusts that were involved in a building and construction business with other related entities were not entitled to a deduction or a capital loss for $4.3 million that they claimed related to a guarantee liability. The AAT found that the documentary evidence and the oral evidence from the relevant trust controllers was not sufficient support for their claim that the guarantee obligation existed. The AAT noted that unusual features of the “guarantee deed” that put into question whether the trusts were genuinely subject to a guarantee obligation – including that the deed did not record any actions that the guarantors were to perform if the debtor defaulted.

 

Taxpayer denied deduction for work expenses of $60,000

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has confirmed that a mechanical engineer with a PhD qualification was not entitled to deductions for various work-related expenses totally approximately $60,000. The expense claims in question (for vehicle, self-education and other work expenses), were denied because the taxpayer was unable to establish the required connection between the outgoing amounts and the derivation of his assessable income as a mechanical engineer. Furthermore, in relation to a range of miscellaneous expenses (such as mobile phone and internet charges, professional membership fees, conference fees and depreciation), the AAT found that most of the deductions were not substantiated with sufficient (or any) evidence. The AAT did not exercise its discretion to allow these deductions on the basis of the “nature and quality” of any other evidence regarding the taxpyer’s incurring the expenses.
TIP: This case clearly shows the importance of properly substantiating any claims you make for work-related expense deductions.

Newsletter: February 2017

ATO priority on settling cases – but not at any cost

The ATO has advised that it places a high priority on resolving tax disputes early, including through reaching settlements where appropriate, but that it will not settle disputes at any cost. It says “the sensible use of settlements” is part of its commitment to earlier and more effective dispute resolution. In this regard, the ATO has advised that in 2015–2016, it settled 1,362 cases (31% more than in the previous year) and that the increased number of settlements can be attributed entirely to settlements finalised as part of Project DO IT (Disclose Offshore Income Today).
TIP: The ATO’s stated policy of “placing a high priority on resolving disputes early, including through settlements where appropriate” is something that should be kept in mind in any dispute with the Commissioner, whether large or small. A settlement may provide a great opportunity to finalise a difficult or long-running dispute.

 

ATO develops work-related expenses risk profiles

The ATO has developed work-related expenses risk profiles to help it identify how work-related expense deduction amounts compare for similar taxpayers. The ATO said improvements in data analytics and modelling have allowed it to create a risk profile for tax agents’ practices based on comparing their clients’ work-related expenses claims with those made by similar taxpayers.
The ATO has said it will share these risk profiles with some tax professionals where their clients’ claims appear higher than expected.
TIP: The ATO’s increasing capacity to monitor the often difficult issue of work-related expenses claims means taxpayers and tax professionals need to take care when preparing returns.

 

Onus on taxpayers to show no fraud or evasion: Full Federal Court

Several taxpayers have been unsuccessful in their appeals to the Full Federal Court in which they challenged tax assessments that dramatically increased their assessable income for certain income years. In each case, the Court confirmed that where the Commissioner of Taxation has issued an amended or default assessment out of time on the grounds of taxpayer “fraud or evasion”, the taxpayer bears the responsibility of proving that such fraud or evasion does not exist.

 

No disclaimer of trust interest: unsuccessful appeal

A beneficiary of two trusts whose assessable income was increased from some $70,000 to some $13 million in light of her entitlement to distributions from the trusts has been unsuccessful in claiming on appeal that she had “disclaimed her interests” in the trusts. Instead, the AAT found that she could not argue she had disclaimed her interests in the distributions. This finding was on the basis that she did not bring up having made “disclaimers” when she originally objected to amended assessments that the Commissioner of Taxation issued in 2013. Additionally, in any event, the AAT found that the disclaimers were legally ineffective because of the significant period of time between the distributions being made (in 2006 and 2007) and the disclaimers being made (in 2015).
TIP: Any attempt to disclaim an interest in a trust for tax purposes must be legally valid first – and the key consideration is that there must not have been behaviour that indicates implied acceptance of the interest. In this case, the taxpayer’s behaviour was problematic because she did not act until well after she received the distributions and they were assessed as part of her income.

 

Admin penalties of 75% for failing to lodge FBT returns

The AAT has confirmed that 75% administrative penalties were rightfully imposed on several companies for their failure to lodge FBT returns over a four-year period. The AAT found that the Commissioner of Taxation was obliged to impose a 75% administrative penalty because the FBT returns were not lodged, and that the “safe harbour” provisions did not apply to such an administrative penalty.
The AAT also found that it was not appropriate to exercise its discretion to remit the penalties in part or whole under the circumstances. The AAT relied on the criteria in Practice Statement Law Administration PS LA 2014/4 in arriving at its decision.

 

New ATO data-matching program: ride-sourcing

The ATO has announced a new data-matching program involving ride-sourcing providers. Under the program, the ATO will acquire data to identify individuals who may be engaged in providing ride-sourcing services during the 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 financial years. Details of all payments made to ride-sourcing providers from accounts held by a ride-sourcing facilitator will be requested from the facilitator’s financial institution for the 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 financial years. The ATO estimates that up to 74,000 individuals (ride-sourcing drivers) offer, or have offered, the services.
TIP: If you work as a driver for Uber or a similar ride-sourcing facilitator, the money you make is assessable income that needs to be included in your tax return. Contact us for more information about how the ATO’s data-matching program may apply to your circumstances.

 

Taxation ruling on commercial website deductibility

A new taxation ruling from the ATO sets out the tax deductibility of expenditure incurred in acquiring, developing, maintaining or modifying a commercial website for use in carrying on a business.
Broadly, the ruling explains that acquiring or developing a commercial website for a new or existing business is considered to be a capital expense, and is therefore not deductible. On the other hand, maintaining a website, including remedying software faults, is generally a revenue expense, so may be deductible.

 

Taxation determination on deductions for bad debts: trust beneficiaries and UPEs

In a new tax determination, the ATO states that a beneficiary is not entitled to a bad debt deduction for an amount of unpaid present entitlement (UPE) that the beneficiary purports to write off as a bad debt.
It says this is because the amount of UPE is not included in the beneficiary’s assessable income. Instead, the entitlement is used to determine how much net income of the trust is included in the beneficiary’s assessable income. This means that the the debt amount cannot be included in the taxpayer’s income in that year or in an earlier income year, which is a requirement for writing off a bad debt.

 

Taxpayer failed to prove that payments were “loans”

In a recent case, the Full Federal Court has found that several taxpayer companies had not discharged the onus of proving that assessments the Commissioner of Taxation issued to them were excessive. The amended assessments took into account income of some $4 million that the Australian companies received from overseas sources. The taxpayers had claimed that the payments were loans.
In allowing the Commissioner’s appeal, the Court majority held that it would not be appropriate to find that the taxpayers had provided the required proof that the payments were genuine loans; in fact, they had made inconsistent or “alternative” arguments about the nature of the payments.

Newsletter: January 2017

Contrived trust arrangements in ATO sights

 

The ATO has cautioned taxpayers against arrangements that seek to minimise tax by creating artificial differences between the taxable net income and distributable income of closely held trusts. Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston said the ATO is investigating arrangements where trustees are engineering a reduction in trust income to allow taxpayers to improperly gain favourable tax breaks, or sometimes to pay no tax at all.

Although he noted that many people use trust structures appropriately and within the law, Mr Cranston said the ATO has seen some trustees exploit the differences between trust net income and distributable income to have the net income assessed to individuals and businesses that pay little or no tax, and allow others to enjoy the economic benefits of the net income tax-free.

TIP: The ATO has identified problematic arrangements through the Trusts Taskforce’s ongoing monitoring and reviews, and will continue to look for similar arrangements using sophisticated analytics. Please contact our office for further information.

 

 

GST and countertrade transactions

The ATO has issued a Practical Compliance Guideline which sets out the Tax Commissioner’s compliance approach, in the context of GST, to entities that enter into countertrade transactions as part of carrying on their enterprise. “Countertrade” refers to the direct exchange of things by one entity for things provided by another entity, and does not include transactions where any of the consideration is monetary.

Each entity to a countertrade makes a supply and an acquisition. The Commissioner is aware of various practical problems in the context of these transactions and notes that the compliance and administrative costs may be unnecessarily burdensome where such transactions have no net revenue effect. Accordingly, the Guideline seeks to apply a practical compliance approach for certain countertrade transactions that are GST-neutral.

TIP: The Practical Compliance Guideline is only applicable in relation to GST – not for any other purpose or in relation to any other tax obligations and entitlements. It also only applies in specified circumstances, including where the countertrade transactions account for no more than approximately 10% of the entity’s total number of supplies.

 

Companies held to be resident and liable to tax in Australia

In a long-running saga, the High Court has unanimously dismissed the appeals of four corporate taxpayers. The Court confirmed the taxpayers were Australian residents for income tax purposes, and therefore liable to tax in Australia on the profits they made from share trading activities on the Australian Stock Exchange. In making this decision, the Court rejected the taxpayers’ contention that because Justice Perram had in the first case found that the directors of each taxpayer were resident abroad, and because meetings of those directors were held abroad, then Justice Perram and the Full Federal Court should have held that the central management and control of each company was exercised abroad, and therefore that the companies were not residents of Australia for income tax purposes.

The High Court held that, as a matter of long-established principle, the residence of a company is a question of fact and degree to be answered according to where the company’s central management and control actually occurs. Moreover, the Court emphasised the answer was to be determined by reference to the course of the company’s business and trading, rather than by reference to the documents establishing its formal structure and other procedural matters.

The High Court further held that the fact the boards of directors of the companies were located in overseas countries was insufficient to locate the companies as “foreign residents” in circumstances where (as found in the first case) the boards of directors had abrogated their decision-making in favour of a Sydney-based accountant, and only met to mechanically implement or rubber-stamp decisions that he made in Australia.

 

Payment was assessable as “deferred compensation”

The High Court has unanimously dismissed a taxpayer’s appeal and held that payments of US$160 million made to him pursuant to an incentive “profit participation plan” after termination of his employment was income according to ordinary concepts. In particular, the Court found that the payments were “deferred compensation” for the services the taxpayer performed in his employment. At the same time, the Court dismissed the taxpayer’s claim that the amount was assessable as a capital gain on the basis that it did not represent the proceeds for the future right to receive a proportion of company profits he was entitled to.

 

ATO data-matching programs continue

The ATO has advised that it will continue with the following data-matching programs.

Share transactions
Data about share transactions will be acquired for the period 20 September 1985 to 30 June 2018 from various sources, including stock transfer companies. The ATO will collect full names and addresses, purchase and sale details, and other information. The program aims to ensure that taxpayers are correctly meeting their tax obligations in relation to share transactions. It is estimated that records relating to 3.3 million individuals will be matched.

Credit and debit cards
Data about credit and debit card transactions will be acquired for the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 financial years from various financial institutions. The ATO will collect details (such as name, address and contact information) of merchants with a credit and debit card merchant facility and the amount and quantity of the transactions processed. The program seeks to identify businesses that may not be meeting their tax obligations. It is estimated that around 950,000 records will be obtained, including 90,000 matched to individuals.

Online selling
Data will be acquired relating to registrants who sold goods and services to an annual value of $12,000 or more during the 2015–2016, 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 financial years. The ATO said data will be sought from eBay Australia and New Zealand Pty Ltd. The data will be used to identify those apparently operating a business but failing to meet their registration and/or lodgment obligations. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 records will be obtained.

 

Tax debt release applications refused

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has recently refused the applications of two individuals who sought to be released from their tax debts under the tax law.

Case 1
An individual suffering from Parkinson’s disease had received income protection policy payments and sought to be relieved from the related tax debts, which totalled $130,416. He said he was unable to dispose of his home or an investment property to pay the debts, as there were mortgages over the properties in favour of his wife. The individual also argued that selling the properties would compound his illness and make it more difficult to meet his living needs. Although the AAT accepted that serious illness was a consideration, after reviewing the circumstances it held that the taxpayer would not suffer serious hardship if he was required to pay his tax liability. The AAT said the taxpayer did not make proper provisions to meet his tax liabilities and preferred to pay his other debts. Accordingly, relief was not granted.

Case 2
A Sunshine Coast real estate agent sought to be relieved from his tax debts, which totalled $437,681 as at 11 August 2016. He argued he had an outstanding compliance history and that his circumstances were the result of a catastrophic financial event in 2005, among other things. The Commissioner pointed to the taxpayer’s “unusually high level of discretionary spending, including on holidays, dining out and entertainment, which could be reduced”. The AAT said the taxpayer had a “poor compliance history” and agreed with the Commissioner’s description of his discretionary spending. The AAT was of the view that the taxpayer “simply gave priority to other matters and ignored his tax obligations”. The AAT accordingly refused the application for relief.

Newsletter: November 2016

Budget superannuation changes on the way

The Federal Government has been consulting on draft legislation to give effect to most of its 2016–2017 budget superannuation proposals. Here are some of the key changes.
Deducting personal contributions
All individuals up to age 75 will be able to deduct personal superannuation contributions, regardless of their employment circumstances. Of course, such deductible contributions would still effectively be limited by the concessional contributions cap of $25,000, proposed from 1 July 2017.
Pension $1.6 million transfer balance cap
The total amount of accumulated superannuation an individual can transfer into retirement phase (where earnings on assets are tax-exempt) will be capped at $1.6 million from 1 July 2017. Those with pension balances over $1.6 million at 1 July 2017 will be required to “roll back” the excess amount to accumulation phase by 1 July 2017 (where it will be subject to 15% tax on future earnings).
Concessional contributions cap
This cap is to be reduced to $25,000 for all individuals (regardless of age) from 1 July 2017. The concessional cap will be indexed in increments of $2,500 (down from $5,000 increments). Contributions to constitutionally protected funds and untaxed or unfunded defined benefit superannuation funds will be counted towards an individual’s concessional contributions cap. However, any excess concessional contributions in respect of such funds will not be subject to tax, but instead limit the individual’s ability to make further concessional contributions.

Note that the Government has decided to:

  • dump the proposed $500,000 lifetime cap on non-concessional contributions (which would have been backdated to 1 July 2007) – instead, the lifetime cap will be replaced by a reduced non-concessional cap of $100,000 per year for individuals with superannuation balances below $1.6 million;
  • not proceed with the proposal to remove the work test for making contributions between ages 65 and 74; and
  • defer to 1 July 2018 the start date for catch-up concessional contributions for superannuation balances of less than $500,000.

TIP: The government says it intends to introduce the proposed changes in Parliament “before the end of the year”. It remains to be seen if the changes will pass smoothly through Parliament. In any case, it would be prudent to check in with your professional adviser to see if and how the proposed changes would affect your retirement savings strategy.

 

Primary producer income tax averaging

Legislation has been introduced in Parliament that proposes to allow primary producers to access income tax averaging 10 income years after choosing to opt out, instead of the opt-out choice being permanent. The Federal Government says this will assist primary producers, as averaging only recommences when it is to their benefit (ie they receive a tax offset) and they can still opt out if averaging no longer suits their circumstances. The changes are proposed to apply for the 2016–2017 income year and later income years.
TIP: Primary producers have to meet basic conditions to be eligible for income averaging. Please contact our office for further information.

 

Research and development tax incentive rates change

The Federal Government has reduced the rates of the tax offset available under the research and development (R&D) tax incentive for the first $100 million of eligible expenditure by 1.5 percentage points. The higher (refundable) rate of the tax offset has been reduced from 45% to 43.5% and the lower (non-refundable) rate of the offset has been reduced from 40% to 38.5%. Here are some relevant points to note:

  • Eligible entities with annual turnover of less than $20 million, and which are not controlled by an exempt entity or entities, may obtain a refundable tax offset equal to 43.5% of their first $100 million of eligible R&D expenditure in an income year, and a further refundable tax offset equal to the amount by which their R&D expenditure exceeds $100 million multiplied by the company tax rate.
  • All other eligible entities may obtain a non-refundable tax offset equal to 38.5% of their eligible R&D expenditure and a further non-refundable tax offset equal to the amount by which their R&D expenditure exceeds $100 million multiplied by the company tax rate. The changes apply from 1 July 2016.

TIP: AusIndustry and the ATO manage the R&D tax incentive jointly. The R&D tax incentive aims to offset some of the costs of undertaking eligible R&D activities. A company must lodge an application to register within 10 months after the end of its income year. Please contact our office for further information.

 

SMSF related-party borrowing arrangements

The ATO has issued a taxation determination (TD 2016/16) concerning whether the ordinary or statutory income of a self managed super fund (SMSF) would be non-arm’s length income (NALI) under the tax law, and therefore attract 47% tax, when the parties to a scheme have entered into a limited recourse borrowing arrangement (LRBA) on terms which are not at arm’s length.

The ATO has also updated a practical compliance guideline (PCG 2016/5) which sets out the Commissioner’s “safe harbour” terms for LRBAs. If an LRBA is structured in accordance with the guideline, the ATO will accept that the LRBA is consistent with an arm’s length dealing and the NALI provisions (47% tax) will not apply. Trustees who do not meet the safe harbour terms will need to otherwise demonstrate that their LRBA was entered into and maintained consistent with arm’s length terms.
TIP: The ATO has allowed a grace period to 31 January 2017 for SMSFs to restructure LRBAs on terms consistent with the compliance guideline’s safe habour terms (or bring LRBAs to an end before that date). Please contact our office for further information.

 

Travel expense and transport of bulky tools claim denied

 
An individual has been unsuccessful before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in a matter concerning certain deduction claims for work-related travel expenses. The individual was a sheet metal worker whose home was located some 60 km from his employer’s main work site. The individual made a number of work-related deduction claims. However, after various concessions made by both the individual and the Commissioner of Taxation, the remaining issue between the parties was whether the taxpayer was entitled to a deduction for work-related travel expenses.
The man argued that his employer required him to supply his own tools and that they were too bulky to be transported to work other than by car. He also questioned whether his employer provided secure storage facilities for his tools. In refusing the taxpayer’s claim, the Tribunal noted it was the taxpayer’s own admission that it was his own personal choice to transport his various hand tools out of security concerns. The Tribunal also said the taxpayer’s security concerns were “not supported by objective evidence”. The taxpayer’s claim was therefore refused.
TIP: The ATO reminds individuals to make sure they get their deductions right. In certain circumstances it will contact employers to verify employees’ claims. In this case, the ATO contacted the taxpayer’s employer to check his claims, including whether the employer supplied safe storage facilities.

Newsletter: September 2016

Share economy participants reminded of tax obligations

The ATO has reminded people who earn income in the share economy that they have tax obligations. The type of goods or services you provide, and how much you provide, will determine what you need to do for tax. Popular sharing economy services include:

  • providing “ride-sourcing” services for a fare;
  • renting out a room or a whole house or unit on a short-time basis;
  • renting out a car parking space; and
  • providing personal services, such as creative or professional services like graphic design and website creation, or doing odd jobs like deliveries and furniture assembly.

The ATO notes that you need to get an ABN if you are carrying on an enterprise providing goods and services through the sharing economy, and register for GST if:

  • your turnover is $75,000 or more per year; or
  • you are providing ride-sourcing services, regardless of how much you earn from doing so.

TIP: No matter how much you earn or your reasons for providing goods or services, it’s a good idea to maintain records of your income and expenses, so you can keep track of your activities and deal with tax obligations when they arise.Tax deductions may also be available in certain circumstances. Please contact our office for more information.

 

Itinerant worker claim denied, so travel deductions refused

An individual has been unsuccessful before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), where he argued that he was an itinerant worker and was therefore entitled to claim tax deductions for travel expenses of some $38,000 for the 2011–2012 income year.
The taxpayer worked a number of short-term jobs in various country towns across New South Wales. He and his wife had a house, but they would travel to the work locations, taking their car and a motorhome to live in. The individual argued he was entitled to claim deductions for car expenses and travel expenses such as meals and accommodation.
The AAT found that he was not an itinerant worker and that the expenses were private in nature and therefore not tax deductible. Among other things, the AAT noted that his duties did not in fact require him to travel between and stay near the different workplace locations in the course of his employment.

 

ATO flags retirement planning schemes of concern

The ATO has launched the Super Scheme Smart initiative to inform people about retirement planning schemes that are of increasing concern. According to the ATO, people approaching retirement are most at risk of becoming involved in schemes that are “too good to be true”. While retirement planning schemes can vary, you should be aware of some common features of problematic schemes. These schemes generally:

  • are artificially contrived and complex, and usually connected with a self managed super fund (an SMSF);
  • involve a lot of paper shuffling;
  • are designed to leave you paying minimal or no tax, or even receiving a tax refund; and/or
  • aim to give you a present -day benefit.

The ATO has previously issued statements about concerning schemes that involve non-arm’s length limited borrowing arrangements, dividend stripping and diverting personal services income.
TIP: The ATO encourages people to report their involvement in such schemes early. In specific circumstances, penalties may be reduced. Please contact our office for more information.

 

Deductibility for gifts to clients and airport lounge membership fees

The ATO has recently released the following Taxation Determinations:

  • TD 2016/14 states that business taxpayers are entitled to a tax deduction for the outgoing incurred for a gift made to a former or current client, if the gift is made for the purpose of producing future assessable income. The gift is not deductible if the outgoing is capital, relates to gaining “non-assessable, non-exempt” income, or is non-deductible under another provision.
  • TD 2016/15 states that employer taxpayers are entitled to a tax deduction for annual fees incurred on an airport lounge membership for use by employees, if that membership is provided because of the employment relationship.

 

Changes to $500,000 lifetime super cap confirmed

The Federal Treasurer has confirmed that there will be some changes to the Government’s proposal for a lifetime cap of $500,000 on non-concessional superannuation contributions. A number of exemptions will be available.
Scott Morrison said in a radio interview that he had previously spoken about the changes and that draft legislation on the measures, to be released soon, will contain a number of changes. He said if someone gets a pay-out “as a result of an accident or something like that, then that is exempted from the $500,000 cap”. He also said that if someone had entered into a contract before Budget night to settle on a property asset out of their SMSF and they use after-tax contributions to settle that contract, “that won’t be included” in the $500,000 cap. Mr Morrison said there also would be “other measures” in the exposure draft legislation.
He effectively ruled out lifting the $500,000 cap amount, saying “the only people that would benefit are people who […] already on average have $2 million in their superannuation scheme, have already put $700,000 in after tax contributions”.
TIP: The ATO can only calculate the amount of your non-concessional contributions available based on the information it has. You may wish to review your own history of contributions. Please contact our office for more information.

 

Home exempt from land tax for “world-traveller”

An individual has been successful before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in seeking the principal place of residence land tax exemption for his home located in Shoreham, Victoria, despite being a “world-traveller” whose wife lives overseas.
In 2003, the taxpayer was left the property in Shoreham in his mother’s will. After moving into the property, he continued his interest of overseas travel, meeting and marrying his now wife, who continues to live in Canada. Broadly, for each of the five tax years in question, the taxpayer spent a couple of months in Australia at the property, with the balance spent mostly in Canada and other overseas destinations. He submitted that he considered the Shoreham property his “home”, where he kept “all his personal treasures”, among other things. He also noted “significant and communal family ties” in Victoria (including his three children and eight grandchildren in Melbourne) and “financial ties” to Australia.
In finding in favour of the taxpayer, VCAT said that in this day and age people are far more mobile than in the past, and it is not unreasonable that someone would have a base at a particular place to which they intend to return and resume occupation. In this regard, the Tribunal was of the view that the land tax exemption applied to the taxpayer’s circumstances.
TIP: Land tax regimes differ from state to state. Please contact our office for assistance or more information.

Newsletter: July 2016

Tax Time 2016: take care with work and rental property claims

The ATO encourages people to check which work and rental property-related expenses they are entitled to claim this tax time, and to understand what records they need to keep.
Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte has reminded taxpayers that there has been a change in the rules for calculating car expenses this year, and people need to use a logbook or the cents-per-kilometre method to support their claims.
“It’s important to remember that you can only claim a deduction for work-related car expenses if you use your own car in the course of performing your job as an employee”, Mr Whyte said.
The ATO will pay extra attention to people whose deduction claims are higher than expected, in particular those claiming car expenses (including for transporting bulky tools), and deductions for travel; internet and mobile phones; and self-education. Mr Whyte also noted that “the ATO will take a closer look at any unusual deductions and contact employers to validate these claims”.
The ATO also encourages rental property owners to better understand their obligations and get their claims right. Mr Whyte said the ATO would pay close attention to excessive interest expense claims and incorrect apportionment of rental income and expenses between owners. “We are also looking at holiday homes that are not genuinely available for rent and incorrect claims for newly purchased rental properties”, Mr Whyte said.
TIP: The ATO says advances in technology and data-matching have enhanced its ability to cross-check the legitimacy of various claims.
The ATO also reminds people engaged in the share economy (eg ride-sourcing) to include income and deductions from those enterprises in their tax returns.
TIP: Ride-sourcing drivers are likely to be carrying on a business and be eligible for deductions and concessions in their tax returns. This could include depreciation deductions and GST input credits.

 

Tax Time 2016: take care with work and rental property claims

The ATO encourages people to check which work and rental property-related expenses they are entitled to claim this tax time, and to understand what records they need to keep.
Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte has reminded taxpayers that there has been a change in the rules for calculating car expenses this year, and people need to use a logbook or the cents-per-kilometre method to support their claims.
“It’s important to remember that you can only claim a deduction for work-related car expenses if you use your own car in the course of performing your job as an employee”, Mr Whyte said.
The ATO will pay extra attention to people whose deduction claims are higher than expected, in particular those claiming car expenses (including for transporting bulky tools), and deductions for travel; internet and mobile phones; and self-education. Mr Whyte also noted that “the ATO will take a closer look at any unusual deductions and contact employers to validate these claims”.
The ATO also encourages rental property owners to better understand their obligations and get their claims right. Mr Whyte said the ATO would pay close attention to excessive interest expense claims and incorrect apportionment of rental income and expenses between owners. “We are also looking at holiday homes that are not genuinely available for rent and incorrect claims for newly purchased rental properties”, Mr Whyte said.
TIP: The ATO says advances in technology and data-matching have enhanced its ability to cross-check the legitimacy of various claims.
The ATO also reminds people engaged in the share economy (eg ride-sourcing) to include income and deductions from those enterprises in their tax returns.
TIP: Ride-sourcing drivers are likely to be carrying on a business and be eligible for deductions and concessions in their tax returns. This could include depreciation deductions and GST input credits.

 

Lifetime $500,000 non-concessional superannuation cap

As announced in the 2016–2017 Federal Budget, the Government has proposed a lifetime non-concessional superannuation contributions cap of $500,000 to apply
from Budget night (3 May 2016). This means that people who are planning to make non-concessional contributions now need to check their historical non-concessional contributions data back to 1 July 2007 (which will be counted against the $500,000 lifetime limit). To this end, the ATO can calculate non-concessional contribution amounts for the period 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2015, provided that the individuals and funds have met their lodgment obligations.
TIP: The ATO can only calculate the amount of non-concessional contributions based on the information it has. It may be prudent to review your own history of contributions. Please contact our office for further information.

 

ATO clearance certificates for property disposals

A new foreign resident capital gains withholding tax regime has been introduced. The new rules will apply where real property contracts are entered into on or after 1 July 2016, but will only apply to sales of residential property where it has a market value of $2 million or more. Where the new rules apply, the transaction will incur a 10% non-final withholding amount at settlement.
Withholding does not apply to sales by Australian resident sellers, but these sellers will need to obtain a clearance certificate from the ATO and provide it to the purchaser. Note that Australian resident vendors will need to obtain this clearance certificate before settlement to ensure they do not incur the 10% non-final withholding amount. Vendors can also apply for a variation if they are not entitled to a clearance certificate, if a vendor’s declaration is not appropriate or if 10% withholding is too high compared to the actual Australian tax liability on the sale of the asset.
TIP: The ATO has talked to real estate agents, conveyancers and legal practitioners to ensure the industry is prepared to help its clients meet their withholding obligations.

 

Hotel owner liable to GST for accommodation supply

A hotel owner has been unsuccessful before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in seeking a GST refund of $476,610.

The hotel owner had a management agreement with a hotel operator. Under the agreement, the operator was to “act solely as the agent” for the owner. The ATO ruled that the owner was making a taxable supply of accommodation in commercial residential premises for the purposes of the GST Act. The owner objected, arguing that it had incorrectly accounted for GST.
The AAT said the only issue it was required to determine was whether the supply of accommodation in the hotel by the owner was correctly described as a supply of accommodation in commercial residential premises, provided to an individual by the entity that owns or controls the commercial residential premises. If it was so, then the hotel owner could not claim that the supply was input taxed under the GST law.
The AAT concluded that the supply in this case was made by the hotel owner through its agent, the operator. Accordingly, the AAT affirmed the Commissioner’s decision that GST was payable on the supply of the accommodation.

 

ATO to make new decision on superannuation death benefit

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has ordered the Commissioner to request that a couple make an application for another private ruling in relation to a life insurance payout they received after the death of their adult son.
In 2013, the couple’s’ son died in a motorbike accident. He was employed as a pilot and up to the time of his death had lived at home with his parents. As administrators of their son’s estate, the couple received a lump sum payment of $500,000 under their son’s life insurance policy, which was part of his employer’s super scheme.
The couple applied for a private ruling that the $500,000 was a superannuation lump sum that was not assessable under the tax law. The Commissioner issued a private ruling to each taxpayer ruling that they were not death benefit dependants.
Although the AAT held that the Commissioner’s ruling was correct, it noted the couple had provided “additional information” asserting they had a close personal relationship with their son. The AAT said that had the Commissioner been provided with that information earlier, he would have asked the couple to make an application for another private ruling. Accordingly, the AAT ordered the Commissioner to request that the couple make another private ruling application.

Newsletter: June / July 2016

Tax Time 2016: take care with work and rental property claims

The ATO encourages people to check which work and rental property-related expenses they are entitled to claim this tax time, and to understand what records they need to keep.
Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte has reminded taxpayers that there has been a change in the rules for calculating car expenses this year, and people need to use a logbook or the cents-per-kilometre method to support their claims.
“It’s important to remember that you can only claim a deduction for work-related car expenses if you use your own car in the course of performing your job as an employee”, Mr Whyte said.
The ATO will pay extra attention to people whose deduction claims are higher than expected, in particular those claiming car expenses (including for transporting bulky tools), and deductions for travel; internet and mobile phones; and self-education. Mr Whyte also noted that “the ATO will take a closer look at any unusual deductions and contact employers to validate these claims”.
The ATO also encourages rental property owners to better understand their obligations and get their claims right. Mr Whyte said the ATO would pay close attention to excessive interest expense claims and incorrect apportionment of rental income and expenses between owners. “We are also looking at holiday homes that are not genuinely available for rent and incorrect claims for newly purchased rental properties”, Mr Whyte said.
TIP: The ATO says advances in technology and data-matching have enhanced its ability to cross-check the legitimacy of various claims.
The ATO also reminds people engaged in the share economy (eg ride-sourcing) to include income and deductions from those enterprises in their tax returns.
TIP: Ride-sourcing drivers are likely to be carrying on a business and be eligible for deductions and concessions in their tax returns. This could include depreciation deductions and GST input credits.
SMSF borrowing arm’s-length terms deadline extended
The ATO has extended until 31 January 2017 the deadline for trustees of self managed super funds (SMSFs) to ensure that any related-party limited recourse borrowing arrangements (LRBAs) are on terms consistent with an arm’s-length dealing. The ATO had previously announced a grace period whereby it would not select an SMSF for review for the 2014–2015 year or earlier years, provided that arm’s-length terms for LRBAs were implemented by 30 June 2016 (or non-compliant LRBAs were brought to an end before that date).
The deadline extension to 31 January 2017 follows the ATO’s release of Practical Compliance Guideline PCG 2016/5, which sets out “safe harbour” terms for LRBAs. If an LRBA is structured in accordance with PCG 2016/5, the ATO will accept that the LRBA is consistent with an arm’s-length dealing and the non-arm’s length income (NALI) rules (47% tax) will not apply.
TIP:The ATO requires arm’s-length payments of principal and interest for the year ended 30 June 2016 to be made under LRBA terms consistent with an arm’s-length dealing by 31 January 2017.

 

Lifetime $500,000 non-concessional superannuation cap

As announced in the 2016–2017 Federal Budget, the Government has proposed a lifetime non-concessional superannuation contributions cap of $500,000 to apply from Budget night (3 May 2016). This means that people who are planning to make non-concessional contributions now need to check their historical non-concessional contributions data back to 1 July 2007 (which will be counted against the $500,000 lifetime limit). To this end, the ATO can calculate non-concessional contribution amounts for the period 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2015, provided that the individuals and funds have met their lodgment obligations.
TIP: The ATO can only calculate the amount of non-concessional contributions based on the information it has. It may be prudent to review your own history of contributions.

 

ATO clearance certificates for property disposals

A new foreign resident capital gains withholding tax regime has been introduced. The new rules will apply where real property contracts are entered into on or after 1 July 2016, but will only apply to sales of residential property where it has a market value of $2 million or more. Where the new rules apply, the transaction will incur a 10% non-final withholding amount at settlement.
Withholding does not apply to sales by Australian resident sellers, but these sellers will need to obtain a clearance certificate from the ATO and provide it to the purchaser. Note that Australian resident vendors will need to obtain this clearance certificate before settlement to ensure they do not incur the 10% non-final withholding amount. Vendors can also apply for a variation if they are not entitled to a clearance certificate, if a vendor’s declaration is not appropriate or if 10% withholding is too high compared to the actual Australian tax liability on the sale of the asset.
TIP: The ATO has talked to real estate agents, conveyancers and legal practitioners to ensure the industry is prepared to help its clients meet their withholding obligations.

 

Hotel owner liable to GST for accommodation supply

A hotel owner has been unsuccessful before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in seeking a GST refund of $476,610. The hotel owner had a management agreement with a hotel operator. Under the agreement, the operator was to “act solely as the agent” for the owner. The ATO ruled that the owner was making a taxable supply of accommodation in commercial residential premises for the purposes of the GST Act. The owner objected, arguing that it had incorrectly accounted for GST.
The AAT said the only issue it was required to determine was whether the supply of accommodation in the hotel by the owner was correctly described as a supply of accommodation in commercial residential premises, provided to an individual by the entity that owns or controls the commercial residential premises. If it was so, then the hotel owner could not claim that the supply was input taxed under the GST law.
The AAT concluded that the supply in this case was made by the hotel owner through its agent, the operator. Accordingly, the AAT affirmed the Commissioner’s decision that GST was payable on the supply of the accommodation.

 

ATO to make new decision on superannuation death benefit

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has ordered the Commissioner to request that a couple make an application for another private ruling in relation to a life insurance payout they received after the death of their adult son.
In 2013, the couple’s’ son died in a motorbike accident. He was employed as a pilot and up to the time of his death had lived at home with his parents. As administrators of their son’s estate, the couple received a lump sum payment of $500,000 under their son’s life insurance policy, which was part of his employer’s super scheme.
The couple applied for a private ruling that the $500,000 was a superannuation lump sum that was not assessable under the tax law. The Commissioner issued a private ruling to each taxpayer ruling that they were not death benefit dependants.
Although the AAT held that the Commissioner’s ruling was correct, it noted the couple had provided “additional information” asserting they had a close personal relationship with their son. The AAT said that had the Commissioner been provided with that information earlier, he would have asked the couple to make an application for another private ruling. Accordingly, the AAT ordered the Commissioner to request that the couple make another private ruling application.

Newsletter: May 2016

Tax planning

There are many ways in which entities can defer income, maximise deductions and take advantage of other tax planning initiatives to manage their taxable income. Taxpayers should be aware that they need to start the year-end tax planning process early in order to maximise these opportunities. Of course, those undertaking tax planning should be aware of the potential application of anti-avoidance provisions. However, if done correctly, tax planning can provide a number of tax savings.

 

Deferring assessable income

 

 

  • Income received in advance of services being provided is generally not assessable until the services are provided.
  • Taxpayers who provide professional services may consider, in consultation with their clients, rendering accounts after 30 June in order to defer the income.
  • A taxpayer is required to calculate the balancing adjustment amount resulting from the disposal of a depreciating asset. If disposal of an asset will result in assessable income, the taxpayer may consider postponing the disposal to the following income year.
  • Rollover relief may be available for balancing adjustments arising from an involuntary disposal of assets where replacement assets are acquired.

 

Maximising deductions

Business taxpayers

 

 

  • Taxpayers should review all outstanding debts before year-end to identify any debtors who may be unable to pay their bills. Once a taxpayer has done everything in their power to seek repayment of the debt, they may consider writing off the balance as bad debt.
  • The entitlement of corporate tax entities to deductions in respect of prior year losses is subject to certain restrictions. An entity needs to satisfy the “continuity of ownership” test before deducting prior year losses. If the continuity of ownership test is failed, the entity may still deduct the loss if it satisfies the same business test.
  • A deduction may be available on the disposal of a depreciating asset if a taxpayer stops using it and expects never to use it again. Therefore, asset registers may need to be reviewed for any assets that fit this category.
  • Small business entities are entitled to an outright deduction for the taxable purpose proportion of the adjustable value of a depreciating asset, subject to conditions.

 

Non-business taxpayers

 

 

  • Non-business taxpayers are entitled to an immediate deduction for assets that are used predominantly to produce assessable income and that cost $300 or less, subject to conditions.
  • Self-employed and other eligible people are entitled to a deduction for personal superannuation contributions, subject to meeting conditions such as the “10% rule”.

 

Companies

 

 

  • Companies should ensure that all dividends paid to shareholders during the relevant franking period (generally the income year) are franked to the same extent to avoid breaching the “benchmark rule”.
  • Loans, payments and debts forgiven by private companies to their shareholders and associates may give rise to unfranked dividends that are assessable to the shareholders and their associates. Shareholders and entities should consider repaying loans and making payments on time, or have appropriate loan agreements in place.
  • Companies should consider whether they have undertaken eligible research and development (R&D) activities that may be eligible for the R&D tax incentive.
  • Companies may consider consolidating before year-end to reduce compliance costs and take advantage of tax opportunities available as a result of the consolidated group being treated as a single entity for tax purposes.

 

 

Trusts

 

 

  • Taxpayers should review trust deeds to determine how trust income is defined. This may have an impact on the trustee’s tax planning.
  • Trustees should consider whether a family trust election (an FTE) is required to ensure that any losses or bad debts incurred by the trust will be deductible and that franking credits will be available to beneficiaries.
  • Taxpayers should avoid retaining income in a trust because it may be taxed in the hands of the trustee at the top marginal tax rate.

 

Small business entities

 

 

  • From 2015–2016, the tax rate applicable to small business entities that are companies is 28.5% (rather than the standard 30% rate) and other types of small business entities are entitled to a tax discount in the form of a tax offset.
  • Small business entities are entitled to an immediate deduction for certain pre-business expenditure incurred after 30 June 2015.
  • Eligible small business entities can access a range of concessions for a capital gain made on a CGT asset that has been used in a business, provided certain conditions are met.
  • An optional rollover has been introduced for the transfer of business assets from one entity to another for small business owners who change the legal structure of their business.
  • A CGT “look-through” treatment for eligible earnout arrangements has been introduced.
  • From the 2016–2017 FBT year, small business entities will be able to provide more than one work-related portable electronic device to an employee and claim the FBT exemption for each device, even if the devices have substantially identical functions and are not replacement items.

 

Capital gains tax

 

 

  • Taxpayers may consider crystallising any unrealised capital gains and losses to improve their overall tax position for an income year.

 

Superannuation

 

 

  • Individuals who wish to take advantage of the concessionally taxed superannuation environment should keep track of their contributions.
  • Individuals with salary sacrifice superannuation arrangements may want to have early discussions with their employers to help ensure contributions are allocated to the correct financial year.
  • Individuals earning above $300,000 are subject to an additional 15% tax on concessional contributions. However, despite the extra 15% tax, there is still an effective tax concession of 15% (ie the top marginal rate less 30%) on their contributions up to the relevant cap.
  • Self managed super funds (SMSFs) have been reminded that if they have investments in collectables or personal-use assets that were acquired before 1 July 2011, time is running out to ensure they meet the requirements of the superannuation law for these assets.

 

Fringe benefits tax

 

 

  • The rules for individuals claiming car expense deductions have changed. As a result, if employers reimburse expenses relating to an employee’s use of their own car, only two methods are available for calculating the taxable value of this fringe benefit (when employers apply the “otherwise deductible rule”).
  • A separate gross-up cap of $5,000 has been introduced for salary sacrificed meal entertainment and entertainment facility leasing expenses for certain employees of not-for-profit organisations. Affected individuals may want to discuss it with their employers.

 

Individuals

 

 

  • For the 2015–2016 income year, the general tax-free threshold available to Australian resident taxpayers is $18,200.
  • Australians who have student debts and are travelling or living overseas will soon have the same repayment obligations as people who are still living in Australia.

Newsletter: April 2016

Deadline looming for SMSF collectables compliance

The ATO has reminded trustees of self managed super funds (SMSFs) that if they have investments in collectables or personal-use assets that were acquired before 1 July 2011, time is running out to ensure their SMSFs meet the requirements of the superannuation law for these assets. Assets considered collectables and personal-use assets include artwork, jewellery, antiques, vehicles, boats and wine.
From 1 July 2011, investments in collectables and personal-use assets have been subject to strict rules to ensure they are made for genuine retirement purposes and they do not provide any present day benefit. SMSFs with investments held before 1 July 2011 have until 1 July 2016 to comply with the rules.
The ATO says SMSF trustees have had since July 2011 to make arrangements, and it expects that they will take appropriate action to ensure the requirements are met before the deadline.
TIP: Appropriate actions may include reviewing current leasing agreements, making decisions about asset storage and arranging insurance cover.

 

Overseas student debts: repayment thresholds

From 1 July 2017, anyone with a Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) or Trade Support Loans (TSL) debt who is living overseas and earning above the minimum repayment threshold will be required to make loan repayments to the Australian Government, just as they would if they were living in Australia. The HELP minimum repayment threshold for 2016–2017 is $54,869.
TIP: If you have a student loan debt and are planning to move overseas for longer than six months, you need to provide the ATO with your overseas contact details within seven days of leaving Australia. You should also factor in potentially having to make repayments from 1 July 2017.

 

ATO data-matching for insured “lifestyle” assets

In January 2016, the ATO advised it was working with insurance providers to identify policy owners on a wider range of asset classes, including marine vessels, aircraft, enthusiast motor vehicles, fine art and thoroughbred horses. The ATO has since formally announced the data-matching program that covers these “lifestyle” assets, and will acquire details of insurance policies for these assets where the value exceeds nominated thresholds for the 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 financial years.
The ATO said it will obtain policyholder identification details (including names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth) and insurance policy details (including policy numbers, policy start and end dates, details of assets insured and their physical locations). The data-matching program will provide the ATO with a more comprehensive view of taxpayers’ accumulated wealth, as well as assist in identifying possible tax compliance issues.
TIP: It is estimated that records of more than 100,000 insurance policies will be data-matched. The ATO has released a list of insurers involved with the data-matching program. Please contact our office for further information.

 

Market value of shares is not the selling price

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has ruled that the “market value” of a parcel of shares in a private company that a taxpayer sold in an arm’s-length transaction (together with the other two shareholders’ shares in the company) was not the proportion of the sale price he received from the sale of all the shares. Instead, the AAT agreed it was a discounted amount; the taxpayer was a “non-controlling” shareholder, so the market value was less than simply his one-third share of the sale price.
As a result of this AAT decision, the taxpayer passed the $6 million “maximum net asset value test”, allowing him to qualify for small business capital gains tax (CGT) concessions, where otherwise he would not have.
The Commissioner has appealed to the Federal Court against this AAT decision.
TIP: This decision demonstrates that the actual selling price of an asset may not always represent its “market value”. In this decision, the AAT agreed with the taxpayer’s valuer that “all other things being equal, the average price per share of a controlling shareholding will be higher than the average price per share of a non-controlling shareholding because of the value of control”.

 

Individual not a share trader

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has found that a taxpayer (a childcare worker) was not carrying on a business of share trading, and accordingly was not entitled to claim a loss resulting from her share transactions. In the year in question, the taxpayer turned over approximately $600,000 in share transactions (including both purchases and sales).
In deciding that the taxpayer was a share investor and not a share trader, the AAT considered each of the key indicators established in case law. The AAT decided that a lack of regular and systematic trade, especially in the second half of the income year, when only 10 transactions were made, went against the taxpayer’s contention that she was conducting a share trading business.
TIP: The AAT weighs up all the relevant factors in cases like this. There have been cases where the AAT has found that a taxpayer was carrying on a business of share trading, and has therefore allowed them to claim a deduction for their losses.

 

Small business restructures made easier

The Government has made changes to the tax law to provide tax relief for small businesses that restructure. The tax law changes provide an optional rollover for small business owners who change the legal structure of their business on the transfer of business assets from one entity to another. The effect of the rollover is that the tax cost of the transferred assets is rolled over from the transferor to the transferee.
This optional rollover is in addition to existing rollovers available where an individual, trustee or partner transfers assets to, or creates assets in, a company in the course of incorporating their business.
The changes to the tax law will take effect on 1 July 2016.
TIP: You must meet strict eligibility requirements in order to access the rollover. Among other things, the rollover must be part of a genuine business restructure that does not change the ultimate economic ownership of the assets. There are also tax consequences you should be aware of.

 

Tax law changes to treatment of earnouts

The Government has recently amended the tax law concerning the capital gains tax (CGT) treatment of the sale and purchase of businesses involving certain earnout rights.
Specifically, the changes provide for a “look-through” treatment. Under the amended tax law, capital gains and losses that arise in respect of look-through earnout rights will be disregarded. Instead, payments received or paid under the earnout arrangements will affect the capital proceeds and cost base of the underlying assets to which the earnout arrangement relates when they are received or paid (as the case may be).
The changes apply from 24 April 2015.
TIP: These changes to the tax law do not apply for events that occurred before 24 April 2015. However, transitional protection is provided, subject to conditions, for taxpayers who have reasonably anticipated these changes to the tax law, which were originally announced by the former Government.