Editor: The ATO has released its latest taxation determination on reasonable travel expenses, and it includes a big change for employee truck drivers.
For the 2017/18 income year, the reasonable amount for travel expenses (excluding accommodation expenses, which must be substantiated with written evidence) of employee truck drivers who have received a travel allowance and who are required to sleep away from home is $55.30 per day (formerly a total of $97.40 per day for the 2016/17 year).
If an employee truck driver wants to claim more than the reasonable amount, the whole claim must be substantiated with written evidence, not just the amount in excess of the reasonable amount.
Editor: The determination includes an example of a truck driver who receives a travel allowance of $40 per day in 2017/18 ($8,000 over the full year for 100 2-day trips), but who spent $14,000 on meals on these trips.
In terms of claiming deductions for these expenses, he can either claim $14,000 as a travel expense (if he kept all of his receipts for the food and drink he purchased and consumed when travelling), or just rely on the reasonable amount and claim $11,060 ($55.30 x 200 days) as a travel expense (in which case he will need to be able to show (amongst other things) that he typically spent $55 or more a day on food and drink when making a trip (for example, by reference to diary entries, bank records and receipts that he kept for some of the trips)).
The Government will seek to legislate to close a loophole that could be used by unscrupulous employers to short‑change employees who choose to make salary sacrificed contributions into their superannuation accounts.
The Government will introduce a Bill into Parliament this year that will ensure an individual’s salary sacrificed contributions do not reduce their employer’s superannuation guarantee obligation.
From 1 July 2017, where a foreign resident disposes of Australian real property with a market value of $750,000 or above, the purchaser will be required to withhold 12.5% of the purchase price and pay it to the ATO unless the seller provides a variation (this is referred to as ‘foreign resident capital gains withholding’).
However, Australian resident vendors who dispose of Australian real property with a market value of $750,000 or above will need to apply for a clearance certificate from the ATO to ensure amounts are not withheld from their sale proceeds.
Therefore, all transactions involving real property with a market value of $750,000 or above will need the vendor and purchaser to consider if a clearance certificate is required.
Parliament has passed legislation which applies GST to goods costing $1,000 or less supplied from offshore to Australian consumers from 1 July 2018.
Using a ‘vendor collection model’, the law will require overseas suppliers and online marketplaces (such as Amazon and eBay) with an Australian GST turnover of $75,000 or more to account for GST on sales of low value goods to consumers in Australia.
The deferred start date gives industry participants additional time to make system changes to implement the measure.
Editor: It should be noted that this is a separate measure to that which applies GST to digital goods and services purchased from offshore websites, as outlined above.
From 1 July 2017, GST applies to imported services and digital products from overseas, including:
- digital products such as streaming or downloading of movies, music, apps, games and e-books; and
- services such as architectural, educational and legal.
Australian GST registered businesses will not be charged GST on their purchases from a non-resident supplier if they:
- provide their ABN to the non-resident supplier; and
- state they are registered for GST.
However, if Australians purchase imported services and digital products only for personal use, they should not provide their ABN.
The ATO is increasing attention, scrutiny and education on work-related expenses (WREs) this tax time.
Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said: “We have seen claims for clothing and laundry expenses increase around 20% over the last five years. While this increase isn’t a sign that all of these taxpayers are doing the wrong thing, it is giving us a reason to pay extra attention.”
Ms Anderson said common mistakes the ATO has seen include people claiming ineligible clothing, claiming for something without having spent the money, and not being able to explain the basis for how the claim was calculated.
“I heard a story recently about a taxpayer purchasing everyday clothes who was told by the sales assistant that they could claim a deduction for the clothing if they also wore them to work,” Ms Anderson said.
“This is not the case. You can’t claim a deduction for everyday clothing you bought to wear to work, even if your employer tells you to wear a certain colour or you have a dress code.”
Ms Anderson said it is a myth that taxpayers can claim a standard deduction of $150 without spending money on appropriate clothing or laundry. While record keeping requirements for laundry expenses are “relaxed” for claims up to this threshold, taxpayers do need to be able to show how they calculated their deduction.
The main message from the ATO was for taxpayers to remember to:
- Declare all income;
- Do not claim a deduction unless the money has actually been spent;
- Do not claim a deduction for private expenses; and
- Make sure that the appropriate records are kept to prove any claims.
Up until 30 June 2017, an individual (mainly those who are self-employed) could claim a deduction for personal super contributions where they meet certain conditions. One of these conditions is that less than 10% of their income is from salary and wages. This was known as the “10% test”.
From 1 July 2017, the 10% test has been removed. This means most people under 75 years old will be able to claim a tax deduction for personal super contributions (including those aged 65 to 74 who meet the work test).
Editor: Call our office if you need assistance in relation to the application of the work test for a client that is aged 65 to 74.
An individual can claim a deduction for personal super contributions made on or after 1 July 2017 if:
- A contribution is made to a complying super fund or a retirement savings account that is not a Commonwealth public sector superannuation scheme in which an individual has a defined benefit interest or a Constitutionally Protected Fund;
- The age restrictions are met;
- The fund member notifies their fund in writing of the amount they intend to claim as a deduction; and
- The fund acknowledges the notice of intent to claim a deduction in writing
Concessional contributions cap
Broadly speaking, contributions to super that are deductible to an employer or an individual, count towards an individual’s ‘concessional contributions cap’.
The contributions claimed by an individual as a deduction will count towards their concessional contributions cap, which for the year commencing 1 July 2017 is $25,000, regardless of age. If an individual’s cap is exceeded, they will have to pay extra tax.
Editor: Call our office to discuss the eligibility criteria and tax consequences of claiming a tax deduction for a personal contribution to super for the year commencing 1 July 2017.
Since 1 July 2016, where a foreign resident has disposed of real estate located in Australia, the purchaser has had to withhold 10% of the purchase price upon settlement and remit this amount to the ATO, where the market value of the property was $2,000,000 or greater.
As a result of another 2017/18 Budget Night announcement becoming law, in relation to acquisitions of real estate that occur on or after 1 July 2017, the withholding rate has increased to 12.5% and the market value of the real estate, below which there is no need to withhold, has been reduced to $750,000.
Editor: Unfortunately, even if a sale of real estate with a market value of $750,000 was to take place between two siblings on or after 1 July 2017 (both of whom have been Australian residents for 50 plus years), withholding must occur unless the vendor obtains a ‘clearance certificate’ from the ATO – despite the two siblings clearly knowing the residency status of each other!
These changes highlight the need to obtain clearance certificates where the vendor is an Australian resident and the real estate is worth $750,000 or more – not a high exemption threshold given the sky-rocketing values of Australian real estate! If you are buying or selling real estate worth $750,000 or more (including a residential property, i.e., home) please call our office to see if a clearance certificate is needed.
The ATO is reducing the amount of information needed to be included in the business activity statement (or ‘BAS’) to simplify GST reporting.
From 1 July 2017, Simpler BAS will be the default GST reporting method for small businesses with a GST turnover of less than $10 million.
In relation to GST, small businesses will only need to report:
G1 – Total sales
1A – GST on sales
1B – GST on purchases.
This will not change a business’ reporting cycle, record keeping requirements, or the way a business reports other taxes on its BAS.
Simpler BAS is intended to make it easier for businesses to lodge their BAS. It should also reduce the time spent on form-filling and making changes that don’t impact the final GST amount.
The ATO will automatically transition eligible small business’ GST reporting methods to Simpler BAS from 1 July 2017.
Small businesses can choose whether to change their GST accounting software settings to reduce the number of GST tax classification codes.
Editor: Call our office if you need help with the transition to Simpler BAS or to decide whether your business will use reduced or detailed GST tax code settings in its GST accounting software.
In the 2017/18 Federal Budget handed down on 9 May 2017, the Federal Government announced that it intended to extend the ability of Small Business Entity (or ‘SBE’) taxpayers to claim an outright deduction for depreciating assets costing less than $20,000 until 30 June 2018. This Budget Night announcement has now been passed into law.
Prior to the relevant legislation being passed into law, the outright deduction threshold for SBEs in relation to depreciating assets was scheduled to revert back to $1,000 as of 1 July 2017. Now that this change has become law, the threshold is scheduled to revert back to $1,000 as of 1 July 2018.
To qualify for an immediate deduction for depreciating assets purchased by an SBE taxpayer costing less than $20,000, the asset needs to be first used or installed ready for use on or before 30 June 2018.
Editor: The ‘aggregated turnover’ threshold to satisfy the requirements to be an SBE taxpayer has increased from $2 million to $10 million, as of 1 July 2016. As a result, more business taxpayers than ever before will be eligible for the $20,000 immediate deduction for depreciating assets.
Please contact our office if you need any assistance in determining if your business is an SBE, whether an asset purchase you are considering will qualify as a “depreciating asset” and/or what constitutes being “used or installed ready for use”.