news-40

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).

news-40

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.

tax

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.

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ATO guidance regarding ‘downsizer contributions’

The ability to make ‘downsizer contributions’ effectively commenced on 1 July 2018, prompting the ATO to release further guidance with respect to this new superannuation contribution classification.

Editor: This new measure will be of most assistance for individuals approaching retirement, where they dispose of their family home in an effort to ‘downsize’ and they want to contribute part or all of the proceeds to superannuation.

Basically, these measures allow older Australians to make a downsizer contribution where:

  • they are aged at least 65;
  • there was consideration received for the disposal of an eligible Australian dwelling;
  • the contract of sale for the property was entered into on or after 1 July 2018;
  • a superannuation contribution is generally made within 90 days of settlement;
  • the contribution does not exceed the lesser of $300,000 and the proceeds received from the sale of the dwelling;
  • an ownership interest in the dwelling had been held for at least 10 years (usually by the individual making the contribution or their spouse);
  • either a full or partial CGT main residence exemption applies to the disposal of the dwelling;
  • a choice to treat the contribution as a downsizer contribution is made in the approved form; and
  • broadly speaking, it is the first downsizer contribution the taxpayer has made.
news-42

Improvements to employee share schemes announced

The Government has announced it intends to introduce legislation to improve the ability of small businesses to offer employee share schemes by simplifying the current regulatory framework, and reducing the time and cost burden for businesses by (amongst other things):

  • increasing the value limit of eligible financial products that can be offered in a 12-month period from $5,000 per employee to $10,000 per employee;
  • creating an exemption for disclosure, licensing, advertising and on-sale obligations in the Corporations Act; and
  • allowing small businesses to offer (in most instances) employee share schemes without publicly disclosing commercially sensitive financial information.
tax

ATO data matching and share transactions

The ATO has extended its data matching program, this time focusing on share data.

The ATO will continue to receive share data from ASIC, including details of the price, quantity and time of individual trades dating back to 2014, with more than 500 million records obtained.

The ATO will use the information to identify taxpayers who have not properly reported the sale or transfer of shares as income or capital gains in their income tax returns.

It seems share transactions are high on the ATO’s priority list, given more than 5 million Australian adults (almost one-third) now own

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External collection agencies to enforce ATO lodgment obligations

The ATO has finalised a trial relating to sending overdue taxpayer lodgment obligations to external collection agencies.

As a result, it may now refer taxpayers to an external collection agency to secure tax return lodgment.

The ATO has stated that it will only refer a taxpayer to an external collection agency where the taxpayer takes no action in response to its initial correspondence letters.