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Lump sum payments received by healthcare practitioners

The ATO must be concerned about healthcare practitioners receiving lump sums and treating them as capital payments, as they have released a detailed fact sheet setting out what they expect to see in such situations.

If a healthcare practitioner (such as a doctor, dentist, physical therapist, radiologist or pharmacist) gets a lump sum payment from a healthcare centre operator, according to the ATO “it’s probably not a capital gain. It’s more likely to be ordinary income”.

Specifically, the lump sum will typically be ordinary income of the practitioner for providing services to their patients from the healthcare centre.

Importantly, the mere fact the payment is a one-off lump sum, or expressed to be principally consideration for the restraint imposed, for the goodwill or for the other terms or conditions, does not define it as having the character of a capital receipt.

Editor: If you think this may affect you, we can help you work out what you need to do.

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Tax officers “hit the streets” to “help small businesses”

The ATO is visiting more than 400 businesses across Perth and Canberra this month as part of a campaign to “help small businesses stay on top of their tax affairs”.

Assistant Commissioner Tom Wheeler said: “Our officers will be visiting restaurants and cafés, hair and beauty and other small businesses in Perth and Canberra to make sure their registration details are up to date. These industries are on our radar because they have ready access to cash, and this is a major risk indicator.”

“We then work to protect honest businesses from unfair competition by taking action against those who do the wrong thing.”

The industries they are visiting have some of the highest rates of concerns reported to the ATO from across the country.

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Planned changes to GST on low value imported goods

From 1 July 2017, overseas clients with an Australian turnover of $75,000 or more will need to register for, collect and pay GST on goods up to $1,000 that they sell to consumers in Australia.

If Australian clients are registered for GST and buy low value imported goods for their business from overseas, they will need to supply their ABN at the time of purchase so they won’t be charged GST.

If the Australian business is not registered for GST, they will be treated as a consumer and unable to recover the GST charged by the overseas business.

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Company disallowed $25 million of carried forward tax losses

A lack of supporting evidence has led to a company failing to prove it was entitled to claim deductions for tax losses (totalling $25 million) the company incurred for a property development, most notably during the 1990 to 1995 income years.

The company then claimed these tax losses as deductions on its income tax returns for the 1996 to 2003 income years.

The ATO disallowed the deductions because the company was unable to satisfy either of the tests that companies must satisfy to successfully claim losses incurred in prior years (being the ‘Continuity of Ownership Test’ and the ‘Same Business Test’), and the AAT agreed with the ATO.

This was basically because the shares in the company could not be traced to the same shareholders that owned shares in some of the loss years. Further, there were periods of uncertain ownership positions during the relevant time frame, which meant the AAT could not conclude a ‘continuity of ownership’ had been established in some cases. Also, the business has changed in the 1996 income year from property development to investing in units in a trust.

Editor: It is important to remember that the burden of proving an ATO assessment is excessive rests with the taxpayer.

Although this burden may prove difficult in cases such as this (i.e., the first claimed loss year was 1990), the AAT noted that a taxpayer has the obligation to make good its case on some “satisfactory basis other than speculation, guesswork or corner-cutting”.

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Super changes may require action by 30 June 2017!

Due to the introduction of the new ‘transfer balance cap’ from 1 July 2017, super fund members with pension balances (in ‘retirement phase’) exceeding $1.6 million will need to partially commute one or more of their pensions to avoid the imposition of excess transfer balance tax.

In addition, members in receipt of a transition to retirement income stream (‘TRIS’) will lose the pension exemption from 1 July 2017.

This means that the future disposal of any assets currently supporting such pensions will potentially generate a higher taxable capital gain (even though the disposal of the asset prior to 1 July 2017 could be fully or partially tax-free, depending on whether the asset is a segregated or unsegregated asset).

Fortunately, to avoid funds selling off assets before 1 July 2017, transitional provisions have been introduced to allow super funds to apply CGT relief in certain situations.

Although the choice to apply the CGT relief can be made up until the day the super fund is required to lodge its 2017 tax return, in many cases, action must be taken on or before 30 June 2017 for the fund to even be eligible to make that choice. In particular, funds calculating exempt pension income using the segregated assets method will generally need at least a partial commutation of the pension.

Editor: Please contact our office if you need any information regarding the super reforms, including what needs to be done to obtain CGT relief (if necessary), whether a TRIS should be commuted to accumulation phase or continued into the 2018 year, and how the new contribution rules will affect contributions in both the current and future years.

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Reduction in FBT rate from 1 April 2017

In conjunction with the introduction of the temporary budget repair levy (of 2%, payable by high income earners), the FBT rate was also increased from 47% to 49% for the 2016 and 2017 FBT years.

However, the FBT rate will revert back to 47% from 1 April 2017.

Editor: This means there will be a discrepancy between the FBT rate and the effective income tax rate for high income earners from 1 April 2017 until 30 June 2017.

This means that any such high income earners that genuinely and effectively salary sacrifice relevant fringe benefits (e.g., expense payment fringe benefits, such as school fees or residential rent) during that period, so long as their employer is happy to assist, could basically reduce the tax payable on that income by 2%.

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Working holiday makers – 2017 early lodgers

The ATO has advised that the recent change to tax for working holiday makers means there are extra steps tax agents need to take when preparing an early 2017 income tax return for these clients.

Editor: We will be able to help you this. Basically, we will need to provide the ATO with a schedule separately identifying income earned up to 31 December, and then from 1 January onward, to ensure the correct tax rates are applied (along with any deductions associated with the income period).

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No overtime meal allowance, no overtime meal deduction

An employee construction project manager/supervisor was denied deductions for overtime meal expenses, as he was not paid an overtime meal allowance under an industrial agreement (award).

The taxpayer often worked at nights and on weekends during the relevant income years, and so additional amounts were negotiated and ‘rolled into’ his salary to cover the fact that he was expected to work additional hours, and also to cover any out-of-pocket expenses associated with such overtime.

However, the taxpayer’s salary was not paid under an award, which was simply used as a starting point in annual remuneration negotiations (and he was paid the same amount each week, regardless of hours worked or expenses incurred).

Therefore, the AAT agreed with the ATO, finding that the taxpayer had received no overtime meal allowance under the relevant industrial award.

As no deduction is claimable under the income tax law for overtime meal expenses unless an appropriate award overtime meal allowance is paid, the Tribunal swiftly dismissed the taxpayer’s appeal, and also affirmed the 25% administrative penalty.

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Diverting personal services income to SMSFs

The ATO is currently reviewing arrangements where individuals (at, or approaching, retirement age) purport to divert their personal services income to an SMSF, so that the income is taxed concessionally (or exempt from tax) in the fund, rather than being subject to tax at the individual’s marginal tax rate.

These arrangements normally involve the individual’s income being paid to another entity (e.g., a company) which then makes distributions to the SMSF as a ‘return on investment’ (e.g., dividends, where the SMSF holds shares in the relevant company).

The ATO advises any people that have entered into such an arrangement to contact the ATO by 30 April 2017, so they can work with them to resolve any issues in a timely manner, and minimise the impact on the individual and the fund.

Individuals and trustees who are not currently subject to ATO compliance action, and who come forward will have administrative penalties remitted in full (although interest may still be payable on any tax collected later than it should have been).

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Fringe benefits change for tax offsets from 1 July 2017

The ATO has issued a reminder that the government has changed the way fringe benefits will be treated for the calculation of several tax offsets from 1 July 2017.

The meaning of ‘adjusted fringe benefits total’ (which is used to calculate a taxpayer’s entitlement for the low income superannuation tax offset, the seniors and pensioners tax offset, the net medical expenses tax offset and the dependent tax offset) has been modified so that the gross, rather than the adjusted net value, of reportable fringe benefits is used.

Fringe benefits received by individuals working for registered public benevolent institutions, registered health promotion charities, some hospitals and public ambulance services will not be affected by this change.

This aligns the treatment for tax offsets to the treatment for the income tests for family assistance and youth payments.