tax

2019/20 Budget Update

The Government handed down the 2019/20 Federal Budget on Tuesday 2 April 2019.

Some of the important proposals include:

  • Increasing and expanding access to the instant asset write-off from 7:30 pm (AEDT) on 2 April 2019 (i.e., ‘Budget night’) until 30 June 2020, as follows
    • Increasing the instant asset write-off threshold from $25,000 to $30,000.
    •  Making the instant asset write-off available to medium sized businesses (with aggregated annual turnover of $10 million or more, but less than $50 million).

Editor: The legislation to make the above changes to the instant asset write-off has already been passed and received Royal Assent.

  • Allowing individuals aged 65 and 66 years to:
    • make voluntary superannuation contributions (both concessional and non-concessional) without meeting the work test from 1 July 2020; and
    • make up to three years of non-concessional contributions under the bring-forward rule (without satisfying the work test).
  • Increasing the upper threshold of the 19% personal income tax bracket to $45,000 from 1 July 2022, and reducing the 32.5% marginal tax rate to 30% from 1 July 2024 (in addition to changes already legislated).
  • Increasing the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (‘LAMITO’), with effect from the 2019 income year, to provide tax relief of up to $1,080 per annum, as well as an increased base amount of $255 per annum.
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Federal Election called!

The Federal Election has been called for Saturday 18 May 2019, and the Governor-General has ‘prorogued’ the Parliament from 11 April 2019 until 18 May 2019, and dissolved the House of Representatives.

The election will also be for half the Senate.

As a result, all outstanding Bills have also lapsed (so any measures not yet passed will need to be reintroduced in new Bills after the election if they are to become law).

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What’s new for Australian business

The ATO has recently reminded small businesses of the expanded tax concessions potentially available to them, as outlined below:

  • The pending increase in the small business instant depreciating asset write-off to less than $25,000 (as discussed in further detail above).
  • Accelerated depreciation deductions for primary producers for eligible fodder storage assets, as well as for fencing and water facilities.
  • Assistance for primary producers impacted by drought at Drought Help, or by contacting the ATO on 1800 806 218.
  • A lower company tax rate of 27.5% for companies qualifying as a Base Rate Entity (‘BRE’).
  • Increased Small Business Income Tax Offset (‘SBITO’) for eligible sole traders and individual partners and beneficiaries.

Finally, the ATO has reminded taxpayers that more businesses are now eligible for most small business tax concessions.

Specifically, from 1 July 2016, a range of small business tax concessions became available to all businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $10 million (i.e., the turnover threshold).

Previously the turnover threshold was less than $2 million.  The $10 million turnover threshold applies to most concessions, except for:

  • the SBITO – which has a $5 million turnover threshold from 1 July 2016; and
  • the small business CGT concessions – which continue to have a $2 million turnover threshold.

Note: The relevant turnover threshold for accessing the lower company tax rate is $50 million from  the 2019 income year (increased from $25 million in the 2018 income year).

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Non-compliant payments to workers

The rules for claiming deductions for payments to workers are changing.

From 1 July 2019, businesses can only claim deductions for certain payments made to workers where they’ve met the Pay As You Go (‘PAYG’) withholding obligation for that payment.

Specifically, a business can only claim a deduction for the following payments if it complies with the relevant PAYG withholding rules:

  • Salary, wages, commissions, bonuses or allowances to an employee.
  • Directors’ fees.
  • Payments to a religious practitioner.
  • Payments made under a labour hire arrangement.
  • Payments made for a supply of services (except from supplies of goods and real property) where the contractor has not provided their ABN.

Where the PAYG withholding rules require an amount to be withheld, the business must:

  • withhold the amount from the payment before they pay their worker; and
  • report that amount to the ATO.

Importantly, a deduction will not be lost if an incorrect amount is withheld (or reported) by mistake.

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Tax scammer alert

The ATO has again warned taxpayers to be alert for scammers impersonating the ATO, as it appears they have changed tactics in 2019.

Specifically, the ATO is seeing the emergence of a new tactic where:

“scammers are using an ATO number to send fraudulent SMS messages to taxpayers asking them to click on a link and hand over their personal details in order to obtain a refund”.

The ATO has received reports of scammers maliciously manipulating the calling line identification so the phone number that appears is different to the number from which the call originated.

This is referred to as “spoofing” and is a common technique used by scammers to appear legitimate.

It appears these scams aim to steal taxpayers’ personal details and identities.

The ATO has advised it will not:

  • send an email or SMS asking a taxpayer to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment;
  • use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten taxpayers with arrest, jail or deportation;
  • request payment of a debt via iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account; or
  • request a fee in order to release a refund owed to taxpayers.

Editor: If you are unsure about a call, text message or email purportedly received from the ATO, the best advice is not to reply.

Should you have any concerns, please contact our office directly, or alternatively you can call the ATO on 1800 008 540 to check if the contact was legitimate or to report a scam.

tax

Changes to the small business instant asset write-off

On 29 January 2019, the Prime Minister announced that legislation will be introduced to:

  • extend the small business instant asset write-off by 12 months to 30 June 2020; and
  • increase the write-off threshold from less than $20,000 to less than $25,000 (effective immediately).

The current threshold of $20,000 has applied since 7.30pm AEST on 12 May 2015 and was due to revert to $1,000 on 1 July 2019.

Under the proposed changes, from 29 January 2019 until 30 June 2020, small businesses with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $10 million may claim an immediate deduction for the business-use portion of each depreciating asset costing less than $25,000.

Example

To illustrate, assume an individual acquires a van for $22,000 (excluding GST entitlements) on 1 February 2019.

The individual is a small business entity and estimates the van will be used 90% for the business and 10% for private purposes.

Under the current rules, while the business-use portion of the cost of the van is less than $20,000 (i.e., $22,000 x 90% = $19,800), an immediate deduction is not available because the entire cost is $20,000 or more. 

However, the van may be depreciated as part of the taxpayer’s SBE small business pool.

In contrast, an immediate deduction of $19,800 may now be claimed under the proposed changes, as the entire cost of the van is below the new threshold of $25,000.

This measure is expected to benefit more than 3 million eligible small businesses.

Editor: On 13 February 2019, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Increasing the Instant Asset Write-Off for Small Business Entities) Bill 2019 was introduced in the House of Representatives.

Once this Bill becomes law, it will open up opportunities for small businesses to claim an immediate deduction for depreciating assets (where they cost less than $25,000) up until 30 June 2020.

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Taxation of income for an individual’s fame or image

The Government has released a consultation paper with respect to the implementation of the 2018/19 Federal Budget announcement relating to the direct taxation of an individual’s fame or image at their marginal tax rates.

The proposed reform aims to ensure that all remuneration (including both cash and non-cash benefits) provided for the commercial exploitation of a person’s fame or image will be included in their assessable income.

Editor: These reforms reflect the Government’s concern that high-profile individuals (including sportspersons, actors and other celebrities) have been ‘taking advantage’ of lower tax rates by licencing their fame or image to another (generally related) entity for the purpose of tax-effective income splitting. 

Following the Federal Budget announcement, the ATO withdrew its draft Practical Compliance Guideline PCG 2017/D11 (the ‘draft PCG’).

The draft PCG had set out a 10% safe harbour for apportioning lump sum payments for the provision of a professional sportsperson’s services and the use and exploitation of their ‘public fame’ or ‘image’ under licence.

In withdrawing the draft PCG, the ATO advised that for the period up to 1 July 2019, it will not seek to apply compliance resources to review an arrangement complying with the terms of the draft PCG if it was entered into prior to 24 August 2018 (i.e., being the date the draft PCG was withdrawn).

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MYEFO report

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (‘MYEFO’) report was recently released.

It indicates that the underlying Budget deficit is expected to be $5.2 billion in 2019 (down from the $14.5 billion deficit estimated in the 2018/19 Federal Budget).

The substantial deficit reduction is reportedly a result of increased tax collections, with individual tax collections up $4.1 billion and company tax collections up $3.4 billion.

Additionally, the MYEFO report also provides a useful snapshot of what the Government is thinking when it comes to tax policy – particularly where previously announced reforms are still pending.

A few tax-related policy updates confirmed in the MYEFO worth mentioning include the following:

  • GST compliance program – The Government is looking to provide $467 million of ATO funding from 2020 to 2024 to fund additional GST-related audits and the development of analytical tools to combat emerging risks to the GST system.
  • $10,000 cash payment limit – The Government will delay the introduction of an economy-wide cash payment limit of $10,000 from the originally proposed 1 July 2019 start date, until 1 July 2020.
  • Abandonment of the proposed changes to intangible asset depreciation – The Government has announced it will not be proceeding with the current proposal to allow taxpayers to self-assess the effective lives of certain intangible depreciating assets.
  • Super access for victims of crimes – The Government proposes to introduce legislation to allow victims of certain crimes (i.e. serious violent crimes) access to their perpetrator’s superannuation to pay any outstanding compensation.
  • Increasing the integrity of limited recourse borrowing arrangements (‘LRBAs’) – The Government is making an adjustment to the previously announced reforms requiring outstanding balances of LRBAs to be included in a member’s total superannuation balance by extending the start date and limiting impacted taxpayers.
  • Superannuation guarantee (‘SG’) penalty increase – Where employers fail to come forward during the 12-month SG amnesty, the Government is proposing to increase the minimum penalty from 50% to 100% of the Superannuation Guarantee Charge.

Editor: Note the required legislative amendments needed to implement the tax concessions promoted by the ATO under the SG amnesty (at the time of writing) is yet to be passed by Parliament. This is despite the fact that the Government’s proposed SG Amnesty is meant to run from 24 May 2018 to 23 May 2019.

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Claims for home office expenses increased

The ATO has updated the hourly rate taxpayers can use to determine deductions for home office expenses from 45 cents to 52 cents per hour for individual taxpayers, effective 1 July 2018 (i.e. from the 2019 income year).

According to the ATO’s recently updated PS LA 2001/6, individual taxpayers who claim deductions for either work or business-related home office running expenses may either:

  • claim a deduction for the actual expenses incurred; or
  • calculate the running expenses at the rate of 52 cents per hour.

Taxpayers who use the rate per hour method to claim a deduction for home office running expenses only need to keep a record to show how many hours they work from home.

This reduced substantiation requirement can be recorded either:

  • during the course of the income year; or
  • they can keep a representative four-week diary (where their work from home hours are regular and constant).
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Division 293 assessments

The ATO has been issuing ‘Additional tax on concessional contributions (Division 293) assessments’ with respect to liabilities relating to the 2018 income year.

Division 293 imposes an additional 15% tax on certain concessional (i.e. taxable) superannuation contributions.

It applies to individuals with income and concessional superannuation contributions exceeding the relevant annual threshold.

This means that impacted individuals may ultimately pay 30% tax (when the Division 293 tax is combined with the existing 15% contributions tax) with respect to:

  • superannuation contributions made on their behalf as a result of employer super guarantee obligations or effective salary packaging arrangements; or
  • personal deductible contributions.

The ATO reportedly expects to issue about 90,000 assessments during the first two months of 2019.

Payment needs to be made by the due date to avoid any additional interest charges, although alternative payment methods are available (including the ability to release money from any existing super balances).

Editor: More individuals will receive Division 293 assessments (and be required to pay the additional 15% tax) for the 2018 financial year due to a drop in the applicable threshold from $300,000 to $250,000.

Additionally, one of the key ALP tax policies for the upcoming Federal Election includes a further reduction of this Division 293 threshold from $250,000 to $200,000.