Client Alert – July 2022

Tax Time 2022: businesses get ready

As the end of another tax year approaches, the ATO is reminding businesses that it is time to:

  • see if there are tax-deductible items the business needs before 30 June;
  • check if there are any concessions the business can access before 30 June – for example, the small business restructure rollover CGT concession or the increased small business income tax offset (now 16%) for sole traders (capped at $1,000);
  • think about their recordkeeping habits this past year – should anything be done differently in future?

For businesses with employees, the Single Touch Payroll (STP) information for 2021–2022 must be finalised by 14 July. Businesses should let their employees know when the information is finalised, so they can lodge their income tax returns.

Deductions

Increasing tax deductions will lead to a lower tax bill. For example, businesses can bring forward expenditure from the next tax year to the current tax year and may be able to deduct the full cost of a depreciating asset under the temporary full expensing rules. An immediate deduction is also available for start-up costs and certain prepaid expenses.

Businesses that are in an industry that requires physical contact with customers, such as healthcare, retail or hospitality, can claim deductions for expenses related to COVID-19 safety. This includes hand sanitiser, sneeze or cough guards, other personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

Charitable donations (including, in some circumstances, donating trading stock) are a good way to increase deductions. Don’t forget to keep receipts for all charitable donations. The deductibility status of charities can be checked at https://www.abn.business.gov.au/Tools/DgrListing.

For sole traders or partners in a partnership, the benefits of reducing their taxable income could include:

  • reducing their marginal tax rate from, for example, 45% to 37%, or 37% to 32.5%;
  • qualifying for the maximum amount of the low and middle income offset – remember it has been increased to a maximum of $1,500 for this tax year; and
  • avoiding liability for the Medicare levy surcharge (at least 1%) if they don’t have appropriate private health insurance.
The ATO’s golden rules

The ATO has three golden rules for a valid business deduction.

  1. The expense must have been for business, not private, use.
  2. If the expense is for a mix of business and private use, only the business portion can be claimed as a deduction.
  3. The business must have records to prove it incurred the expense.

For example, if a business owner buys a laptop and only uses it for their business, they can claim a deduction for the full purchase price. However, if the laptop is used 50% of the time for the business and 50% of the time for private use, only 50% of the purchase price can be claimed as a deduction.

The GST component of the purchase price cannot be claimed as a deduction if it can be claimed as a GST credit on the business activity statement.

Recordkeeping

Records explain the tax and super-related transactions conducted by a business. Businesses are legally required to keep records of all transactions relating to their tax and superannuation affairs as they start, run, sell, change or close the business, specifically:

  • any documents related to the business’s income and expenses;
  • any documents containing details of any election, choice, estimate, determination or calculation made for the business’s tax and super affairs, including how any estimate, determination or calculation was made.

Your clients should make sure that they understand what records are needed for their business and make accurate and complete recordkeeping practices a part of their daily business activities. You may like to use the following general information to talk to your clients about what records they need to keep and for how long.

What is a record?

A record explains the tax and super-related transactions conducted by your business.

The record needs to contain enough information for the ATO to determine the essential features or purpose of the transactions. The minimum information that needs to be on the record is generally:

• the date, amount, and character (eg sale, purchase, wages, rental) and the relevant GST information for the transaction;

• the purpose of the transaction; and

• any relevant relationships between the parties to the transaction.

Five rules for recordkeeping

The ATO has five recordkeeping rules, which are based on law and the ATO’s views.

1. You need to keep all records related to starting, running, changing, and selling or closing your business that are relevant to your tax and super affairs.

If your expenses relate to business use and personal use, make sure you have clear documents to show the business portion.

2. The relevant information in your records must not be changed (for example, by using electronic sales suppression tools) and must be stored in a way that protects the information from being changed or the record from being damaged.

You need to be able to reconstruct your original data if your record-keeping system changes over time.

3. You need to keep most records for five years.

Generally, the five-year retention period for each record starts from when you prepared or obtained the record, or completed the transactions or acts those records relate to, whichever is later. However, in some situations, the start of the five-year retention period is different. For example, for super contributions for employees, the five years starts from the date of the contribution.

You also need to keep all information about any routine procedures you have for destroying digital records.

4. You need to be able to show the ATO your records if they ask for them. The ATO will also need to be able to check that your recordkeeping system meets the recordkeeping requirements.

If you store your data and records digitally using an encryption system, you will need to provide encryption keys and information about how to access the data when asked. You also need to ensure the ATO can extract and convert your data into a standard data format (eg, Excel or CSV).

5. Your records must be in English or able to be easily converted to English.

Tax return checklists

The May 2022 edition of Client Alert included a handy set of checklists for individual tax returns, super fund tax returns and company, trust or partnership tax returns to assist your clients in compiling all of the necessary information before seeing you about their returns this tax time.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/Tax-professionals/TP/Tax-Time-Toolkit—Small-business/

www.ato.gov.au/Media-centre/Media-releases/Tax-time-for-small-business–how-to-nail-your-tax-return/

www.ato.gov.au/Business/Income-and-deductions-for-business/Deductions/

www.ato.gov.au/Media-centre/Media-releases/COVID-19-and-getting-your-tax-right/

ATO guidance update: debt relief and waivers

Tax-related debts are sometimes ignored by those struggling with inflationary pressures and sky-high energy prices. However, this may not be the wisest course of action, since these disregarded debts are likely to continue to accumulate general interest charges. A simpler way of dealing with these debts, particularly if experiencing hardship, is to apply to be released from the debt. The ATO has recently updated its Practice Statement on debt relief and waivers, which may provide more clarity for affected taxpayers.

The ATO has recently updated its Law Administration Practice Statement on debt relief, waivers and non-pursuit of debt. Specifically, the Practice Statement provides guidance on the Commissioner of Taxation’s discretion to not pursue the recovery of tax debts, and the ATO’s ability to release individual taxpayers from their obligation to pay certain tax-related liabilities.

Generally, the ATO will not pursue a debt if it is satisfied that the debt is uneconomic or irrecoverable at law. There are many factors which determine whether debts are uneconomical to pursue, including, but not limited to:

  • the anticipated cost of future recovery likely to exceed the amount of the debt;
  • the age of the debt;
  • the type of debt involved (ie super guarantee charge debts are more likely to be pursued);
  • the taxpayer cannot be located (the debt may be re-raised when the taxpayer is located); and
  • the asset position of the taxpayer.

However, in certain instances, such as where a taxpayer has a significant history of non-compliance or where there are public interest considerations, the ATO may pursue a debt even though it is uneconomical.

The Practice Statement also details the tax liabilities that taxpayers can be fully released from in cases of serious hardship, and sets out the application process to obtain a release. “Serious hardship” is given its ordinary meaning in this context. According to the ATO, serious hardship exists where the payment of a tax liability would result in a person being left without the means to afford basics such as food, clothing, medical supplies, accommodation or reasonable education.

To decide whether serious hardship exists, the ATO will use the income/outgoings test, the assets/liabilities test, and other relevant factors to determine whether the consequences of paying the tax would be so burdensome that the person would be deprived of what are considered necessities according to normal community standards.

The income/outgoings and the assets/liabilities tests are quite straightforward. The former assesses the taxpayer’s capacity to meet their tax liabilities from their current income, taking into account household income and expenditure. The latter assesses the taxpayer’s equity in, or access to, assets which may be indicative of their capacity to pay (including residential property, motor vehicle, life insurance or annuity entitlements, collections, furniture and household goods, tools of trade etc).

It is the category “other relevant factors” that has recently been updated in the Practice Statement. The information now states that when deciding whether release should be granted, the ATO should take into consideration the facts of the case and have regard to the taxpayer’s particular circumstances. In addition, the examples of factors the ATO may consider in arriving at its decision have been reordered and reworded in the recent update.

Applying all three tests – income/outgoings, assets/liabilities, and other relevant factors – will enable the ATO to decide whether serious hardship exists and to what extent. It may be the case that hardship exists, but it is not serious enough to warrant a full release of a tax debt. In this case, a partial release may be applied. Nevertheless, if any of your clients wish to apply for release of debts based on serious hardship, you should revisit this updated Practice Statement.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/law/view/document?DocID=PSR/PS201117/NAT/ATO/00001

www.ato.gov.au/General/Support-to-lodge-and-pay/In-detail/Release-from-your-tax-debt/

www.ato.gov.au/general/paying-the-ato/if-you-don-t-pay/

What might the Federal Government’s proposed electric car discounts mean for taxpayers?

Under the current statutory formula for valuing car fringe benefits, electric cars are arguably at a disadvantage compared to fossil fuel-consuming cars, but this may soon change.

One of the new Federal Government’s policies, announced as part of its election platform, is to introduce import tariff and FBT concessions for certain electric vehicles from 1 July 2022.

Such vehicles would be exempt from:

  • import tariffs – a 5% tax on some imported electric cars; and
  • FBT – this is imposed on electric cars that are provided through work for private use.

These exemptions would apply to vehicles valued below the threshold for the luxury car tax for low-emission vehicles, which for the 2021–2022 financial year is $79,659.

FBT exemption

The taxable value arrived at using the statutory formula for valuing car fringe benefits covers a variety of expenses associated with the ability to use the car, such as leasing costs, fuel, maintenance and insurance.

However, the statutory formula only uses 20% of the cost price of the car as the principal component of the formula. Running costs such as fuel and maintenance are not part of the calculation at all.

Therefore, a car with a relatively high purchase cost to running cost ratio (as would typically be the case with an electric car) generally incurs a higher FBT burden for every dollar the employer spends on the car.

The Federal Government’s proposal to treat a car fringe benefit arising from the availability of an electric car for private use as FBT-exempt will therefore tilt the balance very much back in favour of electric cars.

An employee on a salary of $150,000 who salary-packages a $60,000 electric car with annual running costs (including lease payments) of $17,000 net of GST could expect to be around $4,500 better off annually after tax, due to the change in FBT treatment.

Import tariff exemption

The exemption from the import tariff should make certain electric models cheaper for Australian consumers and businesses.

Several models are already exempt from import tariffs because they are manufactured in countries with which Australia has a free trade agreement covering electric cars.

Looking ahead

The Government has not yet confirmed when the next Parliamentary sittings will take place, and so a start date of 1 July 2022 may require an element of retrospective legislation.

The Government has indicated that the electric car discount policy would be reviewed after three years, taking account of developments in the adoption of electric cars by that time. However, as we have seen with the low- and middle-income tax offset, it can be politically challenging to remove tax concessions even when they have been introduced as temporary. Watch this space!

Source: www.alp.org.au/policies/electric-car-discount

www.ato.gov.au/General/Fringe-benefits-tax-(FBT)/Types-of-fringe-benefits/Car-fringe-benefits/

Tax benefits for unused “carry forward” concessional superannuation contributions

From 1 July 2019, new rules were introduced that allow eligible taxpayers to claim tax deductions for the unused portion of their super concessional contributions caps from prior years. This brings tax deductions into the current financial year that would have otherwise been in excess of the ordinary annual concessional contribution cap.

The fundamentals behind the “carry forward” unused cap rules are outlined here.

Outline of rules

A concessional contribution is defined as a contribution to a super fund before tax. This type of contribution is taxed at a flat rate of 15% in the fund.

Concessional contributions can come from several sources: from a person’s employer, from pre-tax salary sacrificed contributions the person has elected to make through their employer, and from contributions they have made personally where they claim a tax deduction for those contributions. The combined total of the contributions from each of these sources counts towards the person’s concessional contribution cap.

The 2022 financial year concessional contribution cap is $27,500, an increase from the previous financial year’s $25,000.

The new rules give people the capacity to look back on each financial year commencing from 1 July 2018 to calculate the “unused” portion of their concessional contributions cap in each financial year. Once this is calculated, the individual can “carry forward” and, when desired, “catch up” and claim the unused portion of their concessional contributions caps in a later financial year. Claiming the unused portion of concessional contributions caps in a later financial year can achieve a better tax outcome for that financial year, and maximise the amount the person is able to contribute to their super.

The “unused” cap is effectively the difference between the concessional contribution cap for the financial year less the total of all before tax contributions made in that same financial year.

A person can only claim unused super contributions from previous years if their total super balance is less than $500,000 at 30 June in the financial year before the year in which they make their catch-up contributions. For example, if a person’s total super balance is $450,000 at 30 June 2021, they can make catch-up contributions for their unused cap in the 2022 financial year. If their total super balance at 30 June 2021 is $550,000, they are not eligible to claim unused super contributions from previous years.

Unused concessional cap amounts can only be carried forward for a maximum of five years. After five years, the unused amounts expire.

What are the benefits of catch-up contributions?

Making a catch-up contribution is an easy way to boost a super balance at a time when a person has the financial resources to do so, while offering significant tax benefits.

The rules give greater flexibility in making contributions to a range of taxpayers, at a time that suits their personal circumstances. For example:

  • Work patterns and income may fluctuate from year to year. A tax deduction for super contributions may not be required in a low income year, but may be the following financial year if income is significantly higher.
  • Restricted cash flow may prevent making super contributions. As cash flow improves, catch-up contributions can be made.
  • Usual income may mean there is little to no tax advantage in making super contributions, but the sale of a large capital asset, such as shares or rental property, could result in a significant capital gain. In this instance, a catch up contribution made by harnessing unused caps from previous years would reduce taxable income in the year of the sale.
Beware complexity

Concessional superannuation contributions can be complex, and implementing the right strategies is vital to ensure people maximise their superannuation savings.

Case study

In the 2019 financial year, Virginia was employed on a full-time basis. The superannuation contributions from her employer and her salary sacrificed pre-tax contributions totalled $25,000. In that financial year, Virginia maximised her concessional contributions cap and has no “unused cap” to carry forward.

During the 2020 financial year, Virginia lost her job due to the impacts of COVID-19. Her employer had made $8,000 in super guarantee contributions during that financial year. Virginia was concerned about her short-term employment prospects and chose to make no personal super contributions in that year. At the end of the 2020 financial year, Virginia had an unused cap amount of $17,000 – the annual concessional contributions cap of $25,000, minus the $8,000 employer super guarantee contributions.

Virginia remained unemployed throughout the 2021 financial year and made no personal contributions. Her concessional contributions cap for that year was again $25,000, with the total amount counting towards her unused cap. Virginia’s total unused cap of $42,000 across the 2020 and 2021 financial years carries forward to the 2022 financial year: $17,000 from the 2020 financial year plus $25,000 from the 2021 financial year.

During the 2022 financial year, Virginia finds employment and her employer pays $16,000 in super guarantee contributions to her fund.

Virginia’s total super balance at 30 June 2021 is $468,000. Because this is under the $500,000 threshold, she is eligible to utilise all of the unused cap of $42,000 from the previous two financial years.

In addition, Virginia has a 2022 financial year cap of $11,500 remaining, which is the 2022 cap limit of $27,500 minus the $16,000 employer super guarantee contributions made by her employer.

Virginia can therefore choose to make a total concessional contribution of $53,500 in the 2022 financial year, which provides an immediate tax benefit by reducing her taxable income and allowing her to boost her super balance.

After contributing the $53,500, Virginia has no unused cap to carry forward to the 2023 financial year, but will continue to accumulate cap space in future years if she chooses not to maximise her concessional cap.

It is unlikely she will use her unused cap space again in future years, given that her total super balance at 30 June 2022 may exceed the $500,000 threshold once contributions are made during the 2022 financial year.

The following table shows Virginia’s use of the carry forward rules for concessional super contributions across the 2019 to 2022 financial years.

Financial year Concessional contributions made in year Concessional contributions cap for year Unused concessional cap for year Cumulative unused cap to carry forward
2019 $25,000 $25,000 $0 $0
2020 $8,000 $25,000 $17,000 $17,000
2021 $0 $25,000 $25,000 $42,000
2022 $69,500* $27,500 $0 $0
Total $102,500 $102,500 $42,000 N/A
* The $69,500 in contributions made during the 2022 financial year are the combination of Virginia’s employer’s super guarantee contribution of $16,000, plus the concessional cap in 2022 of $11,500, plus her full cumulative unused carry forward cap of $42,000.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/individuals/super/in-detail/growing-your-super/super-contributions—too-much-can-mean-extra-tax/?page=5

Personal super deductions: remember the notice of intent

The end of financial year is fast approaching, and individuals with excess savings or those who have received a bonus since the beginning of the year may want to use the extra cash to grow their super. One of the easiest ways to grow super and get a tax deduction at the same time is to make a personal superannuation contribution. However, there are certain factors that need to be considered including eligibility requirements and contribution caps, as well as giving the required notice in time.

If you are considering making a personal contribution to your super and would like to claim a deduction on the contributions made, it is important to remember to give the required notice to your super fund before making a claim in your tax return. There have been recent cases of taxpayers being denied deductions for personal super contributions made where the required notice to a super fund was not made on time.

There are a few different types of contributions that can be made to super funds. These include compulsory super guarantee that is paid by an employer, salary sacrifice super amounts usually paid from before-tax income, reportable employee super contributions such as having a bonus paid directly into super, and personal contributions to super funds made from after-tax income.

With regard to personal contributions to super funds made from after-tax income, a deduction can only be claimed by an individual if eligibility requirements are met. A deduction for a personal contribution can be claimed if the income earned came from salary and wages, a personal business, investments, government pensions or allowances, superannuation, partnership or trust distributions, or a foreign source.

An individual between 67 and 74 years old must also meet the work test or satisfy the work test exemption criteria to be able to claim a deduction for any personal contributions made. To satisfy the work test, an individual must work at least 40 hours during a consecutive 30-day period each income year. For those individuals 75 years or older, a deduction for personal contributions can only be claimed if made before the 28th day of the month following the month in which they turned 75.

Provided an individual satisfies the eligibility criteria and has made a personal contribution for the year, a notice of intent to claim or vary a deduction must be made to the super fund by the earlier of:

  • the day they lodge their tax return for the year in which they made the contributions; or
  • the end of the income year following the one in which they made the contributions.

The ATO provides a standard form for giving this notice to super funds. However, many super funds also have their own online forms which can be lodged easily. A super fund will then send a written acknowledgment indicating that they have received a valid notice from an individual. Only then can a claim for the deduction be made in the person’s tax return.

Remember, the notice must be given by “earlier of” the two date options, so if an individual inadvertently forgets to give notice by the time their tax return is lodged, they will be unable to claim a deduction for the personal contributions made for the year. Cases have shown that there is no discretion in s 290-170 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, or in any other provision of legislation, to extend the time for giving the notice or to disregard non-compliance with the time frame specified, even if the delay is caused by external factors.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Super/In-detail/Growing-your-super/Claiming-deductions-for-personal-super-contributions/

Client Alert – June 2022

What’s next on the agenda for the government?

With the election campaign finally over and a new government sworn in, many Australians will be wondering what a Labor government is likely to tackle over the next term. A helpful starting point is Labor’s election promises, which provide a useful indication of possible areas that will be targeted over the next few years. Two significant policies that Labor took to the election were child care changes (both in terms of the subsidy and structural changes) and dealing with multinational tax avoidance. In relation to the latter, it proposed a multifaceted approach by limiting debt-related deductions for multinationals, denying a tax deduction for intellectual property in some instances, and increasing transparency.

Multinational tax avoidance

One of the big tax policies that Labor took to the election was the party’s commitment to ensuring that multinationals pay their fair share of tax in Australia. To do this, Labor proposes a multipronged approach which includes:

  • Limiting debt-related deductions (ie interest payments) by multinationals at 30% of profits to put an end to the creation of artificial debts and repayment arrangements within related entities. Further deductions over 30% may be considered if firms can substantiate those under either the arm’s length or the worldwide gearing ratio test.
  • Limiting the ability of large multinationals to abuse Australia’s tax treaties while holding intellectual property in tax havens from 1 July 2023. Essentially, this means that if a firm makes payments for the use of intellectual property to a jurisdiction where they do not pay “sufficient tax”, a tax deduction in Australia will be denied for those payments.
  • Increasing transparency by requiring large multinational firms to publicly release high-level data on how much tax they pay in the jurisdictions they operate in, along with the number of employees working in their business.
  • Implementation of a public registry of beneficial ownership to show who ultimately owns, controls, or receives profits from a company or legal vehicle. This will stop individuals hiding behind complex corporate structures that avoid accountability and obscure their tax liabilities.
  • Mandatory reporting to shareholders as a “material tax risk” where the company is doing business in a jurisdiction with a tax rate below the global minimum (15%).
  • Requiring government tenderers for contracts worth more than $200,000 to disclose their country of tax domicile.
Child care subsidy

During the election campaign, Labor also promised to reduce the cost of child care by lifting the maximum child care subsidy rate to 90% for those with a first child in care. The following table summarises the current and Labor-proposed child care subsidy income thresholds and percentages.

Total family income
Current child care subsidy
(first child)
Labor election promise child care subsidy (first child)
$0 to $70,015 85% 90%
More than $70,015 to below $175,015 Between 85% and 50% Between 90% and 71%
$175,015 to below $254,305 50% Between 71% and 56%
$254,305 to below $344,305 Between 50% and 20% Between 56% and 37%
$344,305 to below $354,305 20% 37%
$354,305 to $500,000 0% Between 37% and 7%

In addition, Labor will be seeking to retain the higher child care subsidy rates for second and additional children in care. For those with school-aged children, the promise of the increased child care subsidy will be extended to outside school hours care.

Over the longer term, it is also likely that Labor will be engaging with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to design a price regulation mechanism for child care and with the Productivity Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the sector with the aim of implementing a universal 90% subsidy for all families.

Other areas to watch

During the election campaign Labor also made announcements which will affect individuals and businesses, both big and small. These include more security for gig economy workers, making wage theft illegal, and training more apprentices.

Tax time 2022: ATO focus areas

Tax time 2022 is fast approaching, and this financial year, the ATO will again be focusing on a few key areas to ensure that individuals are doing the right thing and paying the right amount of tax. These key areas are considered by the ATO to be problem areas where individuals make the most mistakes.

Like last year, the ATO recommends that people wait until the end of July to lodge their tax returns, rather than rushing to lodge at the beginning of July. This is because much of the pre-fill information will become available later in the month, making it easier to ensure all income and deductions are reported correctly the first time, avoiding the need for amendments which can delay processing and refunds. In the past, it has been noted that individuals who lodge early often forget to include information about interest from banks, dividend income and payments from government agencies and private health insurers.

The ATO also reminds taxpayers that while it receives and matches information on rental income, foreign sourced income and capital gains, not all of that information will be pre-filled for individuals. Taxpayers will therefore need to ensure that all that information is included to avoid being caught up in ATO data-matching programs later on.

Some of the traditional areas that the ATO will be focusing on this year include record-keeping, work-related expenses and rental property income and deductions, as well as capital gains from property and shares. In addition, this year the ATO will focus on capital gains from cryptocurrency assets. It should be noted, however, that with recent crashes in cryptocurrency values, individuals are more likely to have related capital losses.

The ATO reminds taxpayers that any deductions that are claimed require substantiation, and those individuals who deliberately attempt to increase their refunds by falsifying records or are unable to provide evidence to substantiate their claims will be subject to “firm action”. For taxpayers who are working from home or in hybrid working arrangements and claim related expenses, the ATO has said it will be expecting a corresponding reduction in other expenses claimed, such as car, clothing, parking and tolls expenses.

Currently, there are still three methods available for taxpayers to deduct working from home expenses. These are actual cost, fixed rate and the all-inclusive shortcut method (80 cents per hour). Taxpayers should check their eligibility and work out which one that suits their own situation the best.

With the intense flooding experienced earlier this year, the ATO notes that some rental property owners may have insurance payouts related to their property. Any insurance payouts, along with other income received such as retained bonds or short-term rental arrangement income, need to be reported.

Lastly, the ATO will be keeping a close eye on individuals disposing of property, shares, and cryptocurrency, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Those with a capital gain need to include the gain in their tax return and pay tax on the gain at their marginal tax rates. Individuals who have recently sold out of cryptocurrency assets may have experienced a capital loss, which the ATO warns cannot be offset against other income such as salary and wages, and only against other capital gains.

Tax return checklists

Last month’s edition of Client Alert (May 2022) included a handy set of checklists for individual tax returns, super fund tax returns and company, trust or partnership tax returns to assist your clients in compiling all of the necessary information before seeing you about their returns this tax time.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/Media-centre/Media-releases/Four-priorities-for-the-ATO-this-tax-time/

Single Touch Payroll: Phase 2

While Single Touch Payroll (STP) entered Phase 2 on 1 January 2022, many employers might not yet be reporting the additional information required under this phase because their digital service providers (DSPs) have obtained deferrals for time to get their software ready and help their customers transition. However, once these deferrals expire, employers will need to start reporting additional information in their payroll software such as tax file numbers (TFNs) or Australian business numbers (ABNs) for payees, employment start dates for employees and details about employees’ basis of employment according to work type. Income and allowance information for individual employees will be further disaggregated and will also require reporting of more details.

Essentially, STP works by sending tax and super information from an STP-enabled payroll or accounting software solution directly to the ATO when the payroll is run. Entering STP Phase 2 means that additional information which may not be currently stored in some employers’ payroll systems will need to be reported through the payroll software. A salient example is the start date of employees. While many newer businesses may have that information handy, older businesses may have trouble finding records of exact start dates, particularly for their long-serving employees. In those instances, the ATO notes that a default commencement date of 01/01/1800 can be reported for STP Phase 2 purposes.

Employers will also be required to report either a TFN or an ABN for each payee included in STP Phase 2 reports. Where a TFN is not available for an employee, a TFN exemption code must be used. If a payee is a contractor and an employee within the same financial year, both their ABN and their TFN must be reported.

In addition to reporting TFNs and commencement dates for employees, employers are now also required to report the basis of employment according to work type. That is, whether an individual is full-time, part-time, casual, labour hired, has a voluntary agreement (is a contractor with their own ABN but is in a voluntary agreement with the business to bring payments into the PAYG system), a death beneficiary, or a non-employee (ie not in the scope of STP but included for the voluntary reporting of superannuation liabilities).

The report generated for STP Phase 2 will include a six-character tax treatment code for each employee, which is a shortened way of indicating to the ATO how much should be withheld from payments to these employees. Most STP solutions will automatically report these codes, but employers should still understand what the codes are to ensure that they are correct. For example, RTSXXX refers to regular (R) employees with a tax-free threshold (T), who have study and training support loans (S) and who have not asked for a variation of amount withheld due to Medicare levy surcharge (X) or Medicare levy exemption (X), or Medicare levy reduction (X).

The income and allowance details attributed to employees will also be further drilled down in Phase 2. For example, instead of reporting a single gross amount of employees’ income, employers need to separately report on gross income, paid leave, allowances, overtime, bonuses, directors’ fees, return to work payments (lump sum W) and salary sacrifice amounts.

If your DSP has a deferral in place, you do not need to apply for your own deferral and will only need to start reporting STP Phase 2 information from your next pay run after your DSP’s deferral expires. However, if your business needs more time in addition to your DSP’s deferral, you can apply for your own deferral using ATO Online Services.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/Business/Single-Touch-Payroll/Expanding-Single-Touch-Payroll-(Phase-2)/

www.ato.gov.au/Business/Single-Touch-Payroll/Need-more-time/STP-expansion-(Phase-2)-delayed-transitions/

ATO resumes collecting aged debts

Taxpayers with aged debts that the ATO had paused collecting or put on hold should be aware that offsetting aged debts against tax refunds or credits has now resumed. The aged debts can be offset either from ATO accounts or credits from other government agencies, although a debt will not be offset if the only available credit relates to a Family Tax Benefit amount.

“Aged debts” is a collective term the ATO uses to refer to uneconomical non-pursued tax debts that it has placed on hold and has not undertaken any recent action to collect. These debts do not typically show up on the online accounts of the taxpayers as an outstanding balance as the ATO has made them “inactive”.

Usually when a debt is put on hold, the ATO notifies the taxpayer via a letter that the debt collection has been paused, although any credits that the taxpayer is entitled to will be offset against the debt. In addition, the ATO will note that it reserves the right to re-raise the debt in the future, depending on the circumstances of the taxpayer. Letters were sent out in May 2022 to remind taxpayers that they have aged debts and June 2022 will see the recommencement of debt collection.

While most taxpayers (or their tax agents) should have received their aged debts letter by now, some may not have received anything, due to a change of address or patchiness in the postal service. The first clue for those taxpayers that they may have an aged debt may be when they notice that their refund is less than expected or that a credit on one account is less than it should be. To avoid surprises, taxpayers who are unsure whether they have aged debt can check their online services for a transaction with the description “non-pursuit” on their statement of account.

It’s important to remember that those with multiple accounts need to check all relevant accounts for that description to ensure they do not have an aged debt.

Taxpayers with aged debts who are unable to or choose not to pay all or part of the debt may find that they end up paying more, as general interest charge (GIC) may be automatically applied even where the debt is “on hold”. Where the ATO offsets aged debts either from ATO accounts or credits from other government agencies, taxpayers will be notified that the debt has been re-raised and offset. If it is offset against an ATO account, taxpayers will be able to find a transaction on online services with the description “offset”.

By law, the ATO is required to offset credits against any tax debts owed – except in some very limited circumstances, such where the taxpayer already has a fully compliant payment plan for outstanding debts; where the tax debt is a future debt or is related to a director penalty liability; where a deferral has been granted for recovery action; or where the available credit is a Family Tax Benefit amount.

Taxpayers that do not meet these criteria and are unable to pay their aged debt may be able to apply for a review or a debt waiver depending on their circumstances. For example, a permanent release of a debt may be available to on the basis of serious hardship (ie where the payment of a tax liability would result in a person being left without the means to afford basics such as food, clothing, medical supplies, accommodation or reasonable education).

Source: www.ato.gov.au/Tax-professionals/Newsroom/Your-practice/Resuming-offsetting-of-debts-on-hold/

www.ato.gov.au/General/Paying-the-ATO/How-much-you-owe/Debts-on-hold/

Operation Protego: detecting GST fraud

The ATO has lifted the lid on its most recent operation to stamp out GST fraud, Operation Protego, in order to warn the business community to not engage with fraudulent behaviour and to encourage those who have fallen into the trap to voluntarily disclose, before the application of tougher penalties.

Recently, the ATO has seen a rise in the number of schemes where taxpayers invent fake businesses in order to submit fictitious Business Activity Statements (BASs) and obtain illegal refunds. Most of these schemes have been promoted through social media and it has become such an issue that the ATO has commenced Operation Protego to tackle the problem.

According to the ATO, Operation Protego was initiated when its risk models, coupled with intelligence received from the banks, AUSTRAC-led Fintel Alliance, and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), identified escalation of suspicious refunds. The operation itself is specifically investigating people inventing fake businesses to obtain Australian business numbers (ABNs), which are then used to submit fictitious BASs and get GST refund payments these “business owners” are not actually entitled to receive.

The amounts involved in these schemes are significant, with $20,000 being the average amount in fraudulently obtained GST refund payments. The ATO is currently investigating around $850 million in potentially fraudulent payments made to around 40,000 individuals, and is working with financial institutions that have frozen suspected fraudulent amounts in bank accounts. The ATO notes that while $850 million in fraudulent payments is a substantial sum, the operation has been able to stop many more fraud attempts.

It may be the case that not all of the individuals involved in these refund schemes know they are doing something illegal. For example, schemes promoting loans from the ATO or obtaining government disaster payments from the ATO have been on the rise on various social media platforms. Ever-changing content about all sorts of pandemic and disaster related support has become commonplace online, and many people don’t have detailed knowledge about all the requirements of Australian business and tax law. It’s really not surprising that it can be difficult to distinguish scam promotions from genuine support measures.

“We are working with social media platforms to help remove content promoting this fraud, but if you see something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is”, Will Day, ATO Deputy Commissioner and Chief of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce, has said.

The ATO wants to make it clear that it does not offer loans or administer government disaster payments. Any advertisement indicating that the ATO does these things is a rort. Government disaster payments are administered through Services Australia if they are Federal Government payments (eg Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments), or through various state and territory government bodies if they are state or territory government payments (eg Disaster Relief Grants from the NSW government administered by Resilience NSW).

Scheme promoters will also sometimes require individuals or businesses to hand over their myGov details as a prerequisite to obtaining a fictitious loan or government disaster payment. Taxpayers who may have shared myGov login details for themselves or their business with scheme operators are encouraged to contact the ATO for assistance.

Another red flag the ATO is on the look-out for as a part of Operation Protego is activity backdating when a business is set up. It notes that backdating in conjunction with seeking a GST refund will flag a business as high risk and will subject it to more scrutiny, as well as compliance action.

While Operation Protego is running, the ATO notes that people and businesses acting legitimately may be affected by the extra controls put in place to stop fraudulent refunds.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/Media-centre/Media-releases/ATO-warns-community–do-not-engage-in-GST-fraud/

More ATO action on super guarantee non-compliance

Employers should take note that the ATO is now back to its pre-COVID-19 setting in relation to late or unpaid superannuation guarantee (SG) amounts. Firmer SG-related related recovery actions that were suspended during the pandemic have now recommenced, and the ATO advises it will be prioritising engaging with taxpayers that have SG debts, irrespective of the debt value.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has recently issued a report on the results of an audit conducted on the effectiveness of ATO activities in addressing SG non-compliance. While the ANAO notes that the SG system operates largely without regulatory intervention, because employers make contributions directly to super funds or through clearing houses, the ATO does have a role as the regulator to encourage voluntary compliance and enforce penalties for non-compliance.

To measure the level of non-compliance in this area, the ATO uses a measure called the SG gap, which is an estimate of the difference between the amount the ATO collects and what would have been collected if every taxpayer was fully compliant. The most recent data from the ATO was published in 2021 and indicated that the Australian total net SG gap in 2018–2019 was around $2.5 billion.

Overall, the ANAO report found that ATO activities addressing SG non-compliance have been only partly effective. This also held true for the risk-based SG compliance framework in which the ATO operates. The report notes that while there was some evidence that the ATO’s compliance activities were improving employer compliance, the extent of improvement could not be reliably assessed.

The report makes three recommendations to improve ATO compliance activities in relation to SG non-compliance. The first is that the ATO should implement a preventative approach to SG compliance. The second is that the ATO should assess its performance measures against the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 and enhance its public SG performance information. This includes setting targets for measures such as the SG gap and having explanations for performance results, as well as changes over time.

While the first two recommendations are likely to have a negligible practical impact on day-to-day operations for employers in general, the ANAO’s third and final recommendation may be a different story. Among other things, the ANAO recommends that the ATO maximise the benefit to employees’ super funds by making more use of its enforcement and debt recovery powers, and consider the merits of incorporating debtors that hold the majority of debt into its prioritisation of debt recovery actions.

In its reply to the ANAO report, the ATO agrees with this third recommendation and states that while it paused many of its firmer SG related recovery actions through the COVID-19 pandemic, those have now recommenced. With the recommencement of recovery actions, the ATO’s focus will generally be on taxpayers with higher debts, although it will be prioritising taxpayers with SG debts overall, irrespective of the debt value.

The ATO’s reply also agrees with the first two recommendations in whole or part. It says that it has already begun implementing a preventative compliance strategy using data sources such as Single Touch Payroll (STP) and regular reporting from super funds. The ATO expects to continuing prioritising a preventative approach while also strengthening its data capability.

In addition, the ATO has indicated it will continue to investigate every complaint received in relation to the non-payment of SG, and take action where non-payment is identified. The actions available include the imposition of tax and super penalties, as well as the recovery and back-payment of super to employees. It will also be increasing transparency of compliance activities and employer payment plans so that affected employees are aware of the expected timing of back payments of super.

Source: www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/addressing-superannuation-guarantee-non-compliance

www.ato.gov.au/Media-centre/Media-releases/Statement-on-ANAO-performance-audit–Addressing-Superannuation-Guarantee-Non-compliance-audit/

www.ato.gov.au/Business/super-for-employers/missed-and-late-super-guarantee-payments/

 

Federal budget | March 2022

PERSONAL TAXATION

Personal tax rates unchanged for 2022–2023

In the Budget, the Government did not announce any personal tax rates changes. The Stage 3 tax changes commence from 1 July 2024, as previously legislated.

The 2022–2023 tax rates and income thresholds for residents are unchanged from 2021–2022:

  • taxable income up to $18,200 – nil;
  • taxable income of $18,201 to $45,000 – 19% of excess over $18,200;
  • taxable income of $45,001 to $120,000 – $5,092 plus 32.5% of excess over $45,000;
  • taxable income of $120,001 to $180,000 – $29,467 plus 37% of excess over $120,000; and
  • taxable income of more than $180,001 – $51,667 plus 45% of excess over $180,000.
Stage 3: from 2024–2025

The Stage 3 tax changes will commence from 1 July 2024, as previously legislated. From 1 July 2024, the 32.5% marginal tax rate will be cut to 30% for one big tax bracket between $45,000 and $200,000. This will more closely align the middle tax bracket of the personal income tax system with corporate tax rates. The 37% tax bracket will be entirely abolished at this time.

Therefore, from 1 July 2024, there will only be three personal income tax rates: 19%, 30% and 45%. From 1 July 2024, taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000 will face a marginal tax rate of 30%. With these changes, around 94% of Australian taxpayers are projected to face a marginal tax rate of 30% or less.

Low income offsets: LMITO temporarily increased, LITO retained

The low and middle income tax offset (LMITO) will be increased by $420 for the 2021–2022 income year so that eligible individuals will receive a maximum LMITO benefit up to $1,500 for 2021–2022 (up from the current maximum of $1,080).

This one-off $420 cost of living tax offset will only apply to the 2021–2022 income year. Importantly, the Government did not announce an extension of the LMITO to 2022–2023. So it remains legislated to only apply until the end of the 2021–2022 income year (albeit up to $1,500 instead of $1,080).

The Government said the LMITO for 2021–2022 will be paid from 1 July 2022 to more than 10 million individuals when they submit their tax returns for the 2021–2022 income year. Other than those who do not require the full offset to reduce their tax liability to zero, all LMITO recipients will benefit from the full $420 increase. That is, the proposed one-off $420 cost of living tax offset will increase the maximum LMITO benefit in 2021–2022 to $1,500 for individuals earning between $48,001 and $90,000 (but phasing out up to $126,000). Those earning up to $48,000 will also receive the $420 one-off tax offset on top of their existing $255 LMITO benefit (phasing up for incomes between $37,001 and $48,000).

All other features of the current LMITO remain unchanged (including that it will only apply until the end of the 2021–2022 income year). Consistent with the current LMITO, taxpayers with incomes of $126,000 or more will not receive the additional $420.

As already noted, the Government has proposed that eligible taxpayers with income up to $126,000 will receive the additional one-off $420 cost of living tax offset for 2021–2022 on top of their existing LMITO benefit.

Currently, the amount of the LMITO for 2021–2022 is $255 for taxpayers with a taxable income of $37,000 or less. Between $37,000 and $48,000, the value of LMITO increases at a rate of 7.5 cents per dollar to the maximum amount of $1,080. Taxpayers with taxable incomes from $48,000 to $90,000 are eligible for the maximum LMITO of $1,080. From $90,001 to $126,000, LMITO phases out at a rate of 3 cents per dollar.

Low income tax offset (unchanged)

The low income tax offset (LITO) will also continue to apply for the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 income years. The LITO was intended to replace the former low income and low and middle income tax offsets from 2022–2023, but the new LITO was brought forward in the 2020 Budget to apply from the 2020–2021 income year.

The maximum amount of the LITO is $700. The LITO will be withdrawn at a rate of 5 cents per dollar between taxable incomes of $37,500 and $45,000 and then at a rate of 1.5 cents per dollar between taxable incomes of $45,000 and $66,667.

Medicare levy low-income thresholds increased

For the 2021–2022 income year, the Medicare levy low-income threshold for singles will be increased to $23,365 (up from $23,226 for 2020–2021). For couples with no children, the family income threshold will be increased to $39,402 (up from $39,167 for 2020–2021). The additional amount of threshold for each dependent child or student will be increased to $3,619 (up from $3,597).

For single seniors and pensioners eligible for the SAPTO, the Medicare levy low-income threshold will be increased to $36,925 (up from $36,705 for 2020– 2021). The family threshold for seniors and pensioners will be increased to $51,401 (up from $51,094), plus $3,619 for each dependent child or student. Legislation is required to amend these thresholds, and a Bill will be introduced shortly.

COVID-19 test expenses to be deductible

The Budget papers confirm that the costs of taking COVID-19 tests – including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and rapid antigen tests (RATs) – to attend a place of work are tax deductible for individuals from 1 July 2021. In making these costs tax deductible, the Government will also ensure FBT will not be incurred by businesses where COVID-19 tests are provided to employees for this purpose.

This measure was previously announced on 8 February 2022.

COST OF LIVING MEASURES

One-off $250 cost of living payment

The Government will make a $250 one-off cost of living payment in April 2022 to six million eligible pensioners, welfare recipients, veterans and eligible concession card holders.

The $250 payment will be tax-exempt and not count as income support for the purposes of any Government income support. A person can only receive one economic support payment, even if they are eligible under two or more of the eligible categories.

The payment will only be available to Australian residents who are eligible recipients of the following payments, and to concession card holders:

  • Age Pension;
  • Disability Support Pension;
  • Parenting Payment;
  • Carer Payment;
  • Carer Allowance (if not receiving a primary income support payment);
  • Jobseeker Payment;
  • Youth Allowance;
  • Austudy and Abstudy Living Allowance;
  • Double Orphan Pension;
  • Special Benefit;
  • Farm Household Allowance;
  • Pensioner Concession Card (PCC) holders;
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders; and
  • eligible Veterans’ Affairs payment recipients and Veteran Gold card holders.

Temporary reduction in fuel excise

The Government will reduce the excise and excise-equivalent customs duty rate that applies to petrol and diesel by 50% for six months. The excise and excise-equivalent customs duty rates for all other fuel and petroleum-based products, except aviation fuels, will also be reduced by 50% for six months.

The Treasurer said this measure will see excise on petrol and diesel cut from 44.2 cents per litre to 22.1 cents. Mr Frydenberg said a family with two cars who fill up once a week could save around $30 a week, or around $700 over the next six months. The Treasurer made a point of emphasising that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will monitor the price behaviour of retailers to ensure that the lower excise rate is fully passed on.

The measure will commence from 12.01 am on 30 March 2022 and will remain in place for six months, ending at 11.59 pm on 28 September 2022.

BUSINESS TAXATION

Deduction boosts for small business: skills and training, digital adoption

The Government announced two support measures for small businesses (aggregated annual turnover less than $50 million) in the form of a 20% uplift of the amount deductible for expenditure incurred on external training courses and digital technology.

External training courses

An eligible business will be able to deduct an additional 20% of expenditure incurred on external training courses provided to its employees. The training course must be provided to employees in Australia or online, and delivered by entities registered in Australia.

Some exclusions will apply, such as for in-house or on-the-job training.

The boost will apply to eligible expenditure incurred from 7:30 pm (AEDT) on 29 March 2022 until 30 June 2024.

The boost for eligible expenditure incurred by 30 June 2022 will be claimed in tax returns for the following income year. The boost for eligible expenditure incurred between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2024, will be included in the income year in which the expenditure is incurred.

Digital adoption

An eligible business will be able to deduct an additional 20% of the cost incurred on business expenses and depreciating assets that support its digital adoption, such as portable payment devices, cyber security systems or subscriptions to cloud-based services.

An annual cap will apply in each qualifying income year so that expenditure up to $100,000 will be eligible for the boost. The boost will apply to eligible expenditure incurred from 7:30 pm (AEDT) on 29 March 2022 until 30 June 2023.

The boost for eligible expenditure incurred by 30 June 2022 will be claimed in tax returns for the following income year. The boost for eligible expenditure incurred between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023 will be included in the income year in which the expenditure is incurred.

PAYG instalments: option to base on financial performance

The Budget papers confirm the Treasurer’s earlier announcement that companies will be allowed to choose to have their PAYG instalments calculated based on current financial performance, extracted from business accounting software (with some tax adjustments).

The commencement date is “subject to advice from software providers about their capacity to deliver”. It is anticipated that systems will be in place by 31 December 2023, with the measure to commence on 1 January 2024, for application to periods starting on or after that date. There are no details yet as to what tax adjustments will be required (although presumably this will involve a reverse, modified form of tax effect accounting).

PAYG and GST instalment uplift factor

The Budget papers confirm the Treasurer’s earlier announcement that the GDP uplift factor for PAYG and GST instalments will be set at 2% for the 2022–2023 income year. The papers state that this uplift factor is lower than the 10% that would have applied under the statutory formula.

The 2% GDP uplift rate will apply to small to medium enterprises eligible to use the relevant instalment methods (up to $10 million annual aggregated turnover for GST instalments and $50 million annual aggregated turnover for PAYG instalments) in respect of instalments that relate to the 2022–2023 income year and fall due after the enabling legislation receives assent.

More COVID-19 business grants designated NANE income

The Government has extended the measure which enables payments from certain state and territory COVID-19 business support programs to be made non-assessable, non-exempt (NANE) income for income tax purposes until 30 June 2022. This measure was originally announced on 13 September 2020.

Consistent with this, the Government has made the following state and territory grant programs eligible for this treatment since the 2021–2022 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook:

  • New South Wales Accommodation Support Grant
  • New South Wales Commercial Landlord Hardship Grant
  • New South Wales Performing Arts Relaunch Package
  • New South Wales Festival Relaunch Package
  • New South Wales 2022 Small Business Support Program
  • Queensland 2021 COVID-19 Business Support Grant
  • South Australia COVID-19 Tourism and Hospitality Support Grant
  • South Australia COVID-19 Business Hardship Grant.

The changes are part of an ongoing series of announcements which will continue to have effect until 30 June 2022.

TAX COMPLIANCE AND INTEGRITY

Digitalising trust income reporting

The Budget confirms the Government’s previously announced intention to digitalise trust and beneficiary income reporting and processing.

It will allow all trust tax return filers the option to lodge income tax returns electronically, increasing pre-filling and automating ATO assurance processes. There are no other additional details in the Budget papers than in the earlier announcement.

The measure will commence from 1 July 2024 – “subject to advice from software providers about their capacity to deliver”.

The Government advises that it will consult with affected stakeholders, tax practitioners and digital service providers to finalise the policy scope, design and specifications.

Taxable payments data reporting: option to link to BAS cycle

The Budget confirms the Treasurer’s earlier announcement that businesses will be provided with the option to report taxable payments reporting system data on the same lodgment cycle as their activity statements, via accounting software. The rules for the taxable payments reporting system are contained in Subdiv 396-B of Sch 1 to the Taxation Administration Act 1953.

The Government will consult with affected stakeholders, tax practitioners and digital service providers to finalise the policy scope, design and specifications of the measure.

Subject to advice from software providers about their capacity to deliver, it is anticipated that systems will be in place by 31 December 2023, with the measure to commence on 1 January 2024.

SUPERANNUATION

Super guarantee: rate rise unchanged

The Budget did not announce any change to the timing of the next super guarantee (SG) rate increase. The SG rate is currently legislated to increase from 10% to 10.5% from 1 July 2022, and by 0.5% per year from 1 July 2023 until it reaches 12% from 1 July 2025.

With the SG rate set to increase to 10.5% for 2022–2023 (up from 10%), employers need to be mindful that they cannot use an employee’s salary-sacrificed contributions to reduce the employer’s extra 0.5% of super guarantee. The ordinary time earnings (OTE) base for super guarantee purposes now specifically includes any sacrificed OTE amounts. This means that contributions made on behalf of an employee under a salary sacrifice arrangement (defined in s 15A of the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992) are not treated as employer contributions which reduce an employer’s charge percentage.

Super Guarantee opt-out for high-income earners

The increase in the SG rate to 10.5% from 1 July 2022 also means that the SG opt-out income threshold will decrease to $261,904 from 1 July 2022 (down from $275,000). High-income earners with multiple employers can opt-out of the SG regime in respect of an employer to avoid unintentionally breaching the concessional contributions cap ($27,500 for 2021–2022 and 2022–2023). Therefore, the SG opt-out threshold from 1 July 2022 will be $261,904 ($27,500 divided by 0.105).

Superannuation pension drawdowns

The temporary 50% reduction in minimum annual payment amounts for superannuation pensions and annuities will be extended by a further year to 30 June 2023.

The 50% reduction in the minimum pension drawdowns, which has applied for the 2019–2020, 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 income years, was due to end on 30 June 2022. However, the Government announced that the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994 (SIS Regulations) will be amended to extend this temporary 50% reduction for minimum annual pension payments to the 2022–2023 income year. Given ongoing volatility, the Government said the extension of this measure to
2022–2023 will allow retirees to avoid selling assets in order to satisfy the minimum drawdown requirements.

Minimum drawdowns reduced 50% for 2022–2023

The reduction in the minimum payment amounts for 2022–2023 is expected to apply to account-based, allocated and market linked pensions. Minimum payments are determined by age of the beneficiary and the value of the account balance as at 1 July each year under Sch 7 of the SIS Regulations.

No maximum annual payments apply, except for transition to retirement pensions which have a maximum annual payment limit of 10% of the account balance at the start of each financial year.

For the purposes of determining the minimum payment amount for an account-based pension or annuity for the financial years commencing 1 July 2019, 1 July 2020, 1 July 2021 (and 1 July 2022 proposed), the minimum payment amount is half the amount worked under the formula in clause 1 of Sch 7 of the SIS Regs. The relevant percentage factor is based on the age of the beneficiary on 1 July in the financial year in which the payment is made (or on the commencement day if the pension commenced in that year).

For market linked income streams (MLIS), the minimum payment amount for the financial years commencing 1 July 2019, 1 July 2020, 1 July 2021 (and 1 July 2022 proposed) must be not less than 45% (and not greater than 110%) of the amount determined under the standard formula in clause 1 of Sch 6 of the SIS Regs.

Note that the 50% reduction in the minimum annual pension payments are not compulsory. That is, a pensioner can continue to draw a pension at the full minimum drawdown rate or above for 2019–2020, 2020–2021, 2021–2022 (and 2022–2023 proposed), subject to the 10% limit for transition to retirement pensions. However, it will generally be inappropriate to take more than the minimum annual drawdowns in the form of a pension payment given the pension transfer balance cap. Rather, it generally makes more sense to access any additional pension amount above the minimum drawdown in the form of a partial commutation of the pension instead of taking more than the minimum annual drawdowns. This is because a commutation will generate a debit for their pension transfer balance account, while an additional pension payment above the minimum will not result in a debit.

Client Alert – April 2022

Support for flood-ravaged areas

The recent devastating flooding in South East Queensland and parts of New South Wales has left many people homeless, caused vast amounts of property damage and has sadly led to loss of life. While the clean-up effort continues in many areas, there is some immediate financial help available for those affected, including the Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance. Flood-impacted small businesses will receive an automatic lodgment deferral and can apply for a refund of previously paid PAYG instalments. Any GST refunds will also be “fast-tracked”.

While these floods have finally been declared a national emergency by the Federal Government, thus allowing it to intervene and deploy resources, details including the scale and type of funding as well as the mechanisms for distribution have been slow in forthcoming.

As with previous disasters, those who need immediate help can apply for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment. This is a one-off financial assistance of $1,000 per eligible adult and $400 for each eligible child under 16. This includes Australian resident individuals in various local government areas who have been seriously injured, lost their homes, have had their homes/major assets directly damaged, or those who have lost immediate family members as a direct result of the floods. This payment is also available to eligible New Zealand visa holders (Subclass 444) who have been affected by the floods.

In addition to the lump sum Disaster Recovery Payment, Australian residents and eligible New Zealand visa holders may be eligible to apply for the Disaster Recovery Allowance. This is a short-term payment for a maximum of 13 weeks. Eligible individuals will need to be 16 years or over, have lost income as a direct result of the storms/floods, and earn less than the average Australian weekly income (currently $1,737.10 per week) in the weeks after the income loss.

Those who earn more than $1,737.10 per week will have their payment reduced to nil and those already receiving income support payments such as the pension, parental leave pay and ABSTUDY will not qualify for the Disaster Recovery Allowance.

Individuals who qualify for the Disaster Recovery Allowance will receive the equivalent of the maximum JobSeeker or Youth Allowance payment depending on their personal circumstances (single, partnered, with children, living at the parental home, or requiring long term support). Both the Disaster Recovery Payment and the Disaster Recovery Allowance can be applied for through MyGov and Services Australia.

Small businesses affected by the floods in parts of Queensland and New South Wales will have more time to lodge their business activity statements (BASs) and instalment notices with an original due date of 28 February 2022 or 21 March 2022. Those taxpayers can lodge relevant returns up until 28 March 2022 without the need for a lodgment deferral. However, taxpayers need to be aware that the payment due date for these lodgments will not change, so general interest charge (GIC) may apply to any payments not made by the original payment date.

To further help flood-impacted small businesses with cash flow, a refund of previously paid PAYG instalments can be claimed and any GST refunds will be “fast-tracked”. Small businesses will also be able to change their GST reporting cycle and vary their PAYG instalments without penalty, provided reasonable care is taken. Any flood-affected small businesses that are unable to meet their lodgment and payment obligations are encouraged to contact the ATO directly for tailored support.

Temporary full expensing of assets extended

Businesses will have another year to utilise the temporary full expensing of depreciating assets measure, now that it has been extended to end on 30 June 2023. The measure was originally introduced to encourage business investment in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed eligible businesses to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciating assets of any value. Building and other capital works, as well as software development pools, do not generally qualify for full expensing. Neither do second-hand goods for certain entities. Special rules also apply to cars.

The temporary full expensing of depreciating assets has been extended for another year until 30 June 2023. The measure was originally introduced in 2020 as a part of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 business rescue package aimed at encouraging business investment by providing a cash flow benefit. As originally introduced, the measure was due to end on 30 June 2022.

Businesses with an aggregated turnover below $5 billion or those that meet an alternative eligibility test can deduct the full cost of eligible depreciating assets of any value that are first held and first used or installed ready for use for a taxable purpose from 6 October 2020 until 30 June 2023.

For small business entities with an aggregated turnover of less than $10 million, the temporary full expensing of depreciating asset rules has been effectively replaced with simplified depreciation rules for any assets first held and used or installed ready for use for a taxable purpose between 6 October 2020 and 30 June 2023. This means that the full cost of eligible depreciating assets, as well as costs of improvements to existing eligible depreciating assets, can be fully deducted.

While businesses that are not classified as small business entities have the option of choosing to apply the temporary full expensing rules on an asset-by-asset basis, small business entities that use the simplified depreciation rules do not have that choice and are required to deduct the balance of their general small business pool in full. If a small business entity does not use the simplified depreciation rules, it has the choice to opt-out of temporary full expensing rules on an asset-by-asset basis.

A choice to not apply the temporary full expensing rules for a particular asset must be made in an approved form by the day the business lodges its income tax return for the income year to which the choice relates. Once made, the choice is irrevocable.

Not all costs relating to assets qualify for temporary full expensing. For example, building and other capital works, as well as software development pools do not generally qualify. Second-hand assets that would otherwise meet the eligibility conditions also do not qualify for temporary full expensing if the entity that holds them has an aggregated turnover of $50 million or more.

Special rules also apply to cars, where the temporary full expensing is limited to the business portion of the car limit. For example: a business entity purchases a car that costs $70,000 in 2021–2022 that is used for both business purposes (60% of the time) and personal purposes (40% of the time). The car limit for the 2021–2022 year is $60,733. The temporary full expensing amount allowed would be $36,439 (60% of $60,733).

After 30 June 2023, temporary full expensing will cease to apply (unless there is another extension by the government). Any depreciating assets purchased after that date will have their decline in value worked out in accordance with either the uniform capital allowance rules or the simplified depreciation rules, depending on whether the business qualifies as a small business entity.

Record-keeping education in lieu of ATO financial penalties

If you run a small business and are found by the ATO to have made unintentional record-keeping mistakes, you could face an administrative penalty. However, this could soon change under a proposed new law that would give ATO the power to issue a direction to complete an approved record-keeping education course instead of imposing financial penalties. Legislation to implement this measure has been introduced into Parliament but not yet passed.

This proposed change originated as a part of the Black Economy Taskforce’s final report, which found that tax-related record-keeping obligations should be made clearer for businesses, and that the ATO should have a range of administrative sanctions available at its discretion for breaches of the rules.

Currently, in instances where a business is required to keep or retain records under tax law but fails to do so, it will be liable to an administrative penalty. However, this penalty does not apply to record-keeping obligations related to retention of statutory evidentiary documents under fringe benefits tax. Nor does it apply to record-keeping obligations related to keeping and retaining documents required to substantiate expenses. The ATO also has the power to remit all or part of the administrative penalty it imposes.

Under the proposed new law, the ATO may issue a tax-records education direction in appropriate situations which will require the appropriate person within a business to take a specified, approved course of education and provide the ATO with evidence of completion. This would be applied in circumstances where the record-keeping mistakes were unintentional, due to knowledge gaps or variations in levels of digital literacy, or where the ATO reasonably believes that the entity has made a genuine attempt to comply with their obligations.

The tax-records education direction would not be available to those businesses that deliberately avoid record-keeping obligations. In those cases, financial penalties will still be applied, and if there is evidence of serious non-compliance, the ATO may also consider criminal sanctions.

“Appropriate persons” within a business include any individuals who make or participate in making decisions that affect the whole or a substantial part of the business. In the case of sole traders, the individual acting as the sole trader would be the appropriate person to complete any course of education. Businesses issued a written tax-records education direction would be required to either complete or arrange for the completion of an approved course before the end of the period specified in the direction.

Businesses that fail to comply with a tax-records written education direction, either by not completing the course or not completing the course by the set date, would be liable for the original administrative penalty.

It should be noted that since some record-keeping obligations under FBT and substantiation provisions do not give rise to an administrative penalty, the ATO would not be able to issue an education direction in those cases. Similarly, a tax-records education direction could not be issued to an entity that failed to comply with its record-keeping obligations under the Super Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992. This is dealt with separately and covered by the super guarantee education direction. The main difference is that failure to comply with a super guarantee education direction is an absolute liability offence and results in an administrative liability of 5 penalty units, whereas failure to comply with tax-records education direction attracts no additional penalty.

FHSS maximum releasable amount increased

The maximum amount that individuals can take out of their super under the First Home Super Saver Scheme will be increased from $30,000 to $50,000 for any release requests made on or after 1 July 2022. The scheme was originally envisaged as a tax-effective way for first home buyers to save for a deposit, and the increase in the maximum releasable amount presumably reflects the rapidly escalating housing price increases. The scheme is available to both first home buyers and those intending to build their first home subject to certain conditions of occupation.

Cost of living pressures coupled with high house prices mean that many people in Australia are finding it increasingly difficult to get on the property ladder. This is not confined exclusively to young people. Older long-term renters, particularly in regional areas, have also been disproportionately affected due to the great migration to the regions driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of making fundamental changes to investment/tax structures that drive up house prices, the government has sought to solve the housing issue by allowing individuals to take money out of their super under the First Home Super Saver (FHSS) scheme. The scheme allows eligible first home buyers to apply to release voluntary contributions made to their super, along with associated earnings. The maximum releasable amount is currently $30,000, but will increase to $50,000 for any release requests made on or after 1 July 2022.

Individuals planning to use the scheme must be first home buyers who will occupy the property that is being purchased or intend to do so as soon as practicable, for at least six months within the first 12 months of ownership. The FHSS scheme is also available to those intending to build their first home, provided the contract to construct the home is entered into within 12 months from the date of the super release request.

The first step in releasing eligible funds is to obtain a FHSS Determination from the ATO which sets out the maximum amount that an individual can have released under the scheme. More than one FHSS Determination can be applied for, but once a request for release of amounts has been lodged the individual will not be able to seek further FHSS Determinations. So, it is imperative for individuals to ensure that they have finished making all their voluntary contributions under the scheme before applying for a Determination, and of course, to check the accuracy of the Determination issued by the ATO.

There is a limit of $15,000 of eligible contributions that can be released each financial year (up to a total limit of $30,000 currently, or $50,000 from 1 July 2022). Eligible contributions include any voluntary concessional and non-concessional contributions that have been made (ie salary sacrifice contributions and personal after-tax contributions). It does not include super guarantee, other mandated employer contributions, spousal contributions, or co-contributions, among other things.

The most important thing to note for individuals intending to use this scheme is that they must have a FHSS Determination before any contract to purchase is signed. This includes both those purchasing pre-established homes and those intending to build their first home (ie the vacant land must not be purchased before an FHSS Determination application is made). If an individual signs a contract for any property (or interest in a property including land) first, they will not be eligible to request a FHSS Determination and hence not eligible for the scheme.

For those individuals who have a FHSS Determination and subsequently sign a contract to purchase, a valid release request must be given to the ATO within 14 days. After the release of money, if an individual does not sign a contract to purchase or construct a home within 12 months, the ATO will generally grant an extension of time for a further 12 months automatically. Individuals also have the choice to recontribute the amount back into their super funds or to keep the money and pay a flat 20% tax on assessable FHSS released amounts.

Downsizer contributions: age limit change

More people will soon be able to make up to $300,000 in downsizer contributions into their superannuation, with the lowering of the age limit to include those aged 60 years and over from 1 July 2022. Before this date, only those aged 65 and over are able to make downsizer contributions. Essentially, downsizer contributions are super contributions that can be made from the proceeds of the sale of a main residence. This measure was designed to encourage older people to move into smaller, more suitable homes and free up housing stock.

To help those nearing retirement boost their super balances, those aged 65 and over are able to make downsizer contributions to their super of up to $300,000 from the proceeds of the sale of their home. Downsizer contributions are separate from concessional and non-concessional contributions, which means that amounts contributed do not count towards the contribution caps ($27,500 for concessional and $110,000 for non-concessional contributions). However, downsizer amounts do count towards the transfer balance cap, which applies when super is moved into the retirement phase.

As part of a suite of measures introduced to provide more flexibility for those contributing to super, from 1 July 2022 the age limit for those making downsizer contributions will be decreased to include individuals aged 60 years or over. Optimistically, the government expects this decrease in the age threshold will encourage more older Australians to downsize sooner and “[free] up the stock of larger homes for younger families”.

If you or your spouse are thinking of selling the family home to capture a premium, especially in regional areas, besides the age qualification, other criteria that must be satisfied in order to make a downsizer contribution to your super include the following:

  • the location of the home must be in Australia;
  • the home must have been owned by your or your spouse for at least 10 years;
  • the home must not be a caravan, houseboat or other mobile home;
  • the disposal must be exempt or partially exempt from CGT under the main residence exemption; and
  • a previous downsizer contribution must not have been made from the sale of another home or from the part sale of the current home.

The downsizer contribution must be made within 90 days of receiving the proceeds of sale (i.e. from the date of settlement), and your super fund must be provided with the appropriate downsizer contribution form before or at the time of making the contribution.

Each individual can make the maximum contribution of $300,000, so for a couple a total contribution of $600,000 can be made. However, the total contribution amount cannot be greater than the total proceeds from the sale of the home. In instances where a home is owned only by one spouse and is sold, the spouse who did not have ownership is also able to make a downsizer contribution or have one made on their behalf, provided all other requirements are met.

Example: 

Trevor and Ian are a couple in their late 60s who have lived in their home for 20 years and have decided to downsize. Only Trevor’s name is on the title deed of the home. They meet all the other requirements for the downsizer contribution and sell their home for $500,000. In this scenario, the maximum contribution Trevor and Ian can both make is $500,000. It does not matter that only Trevor’s name is on the title deed. They also have the choice of either equally splitting the amount (putting $250,000 into each of their super accounts) or using another combination (eg contributing $300,000 for Trevor and $200,000 for Ian).

There is no maximum age for downsizer contributions. As long as the individual or couple are aged 60 years or older at 1 July 2022 and satisfy the other conditions, a contribution up to the maximum amount can be made.

Work test scrapped for super contributions: under 75s

Individuals aged between 67 and 75 will be able to make non-concessional and salary-sacrificed contributions to their superannuation without the need to pass the work test or satisfy the work test exemption criteria from 1 July 2022. The removal of the work test from that date also allows individuals aged under 75 to access the bring-forward of non-concessional contributions in some cases. Personal contributions will also be affected, although now instead of having to pass the work test to contribute, the work test only applies if a deduction is sought.

The work test will be scrapped for non-concessional and salary-sacrificed super contributions made by individuals aged between 67 and 75 from 1 July 2022. Currently, those individuals need to either pass the work test or satisfy the work test exemption criteria for each financial year that they make contributions in order for their super funds to accept these contributions. This change is designed to provide older Australians with more flexibility to contribute to their super and add to their comfort in retirement.

Contribution caps will still apply to any contributions made. The concessional contributions cap, which relates to salary-sacrificed contributions, is $27,500 from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022. This cap is indexed every year in line with average weekly ordinary time earnings and may increase year on year. The non-concessional contributions cap from 1 July 2021 is $110,000, and is set at four times the concessional contributions cap. This means that if the concessional contributions cap goes up due to indexing, the non-concessional cap will also increase.

With the removal of the work-test from 1 July 2022, individuals aged under 75 years will also be able to access the bring-forward of non-concessional contributions in any one financial year, which may allow them to access up to three times the annual non-concessional contributions cap in a single year (ie up to $330,000 for the 2021–2022 income year). Exactly how much can be accessed depends on the total super balance of the individual on 30 June of the previous financial year.

In addition to these incoming changes to the work test for non-concessional and salary-sacrificed contributions, a change will also be made to personal contributions made by those aged between 67 and 75 years from 1 July 2022. From that date, these individuals only need to meet the work test if they want to claim a deduction for their personal contribution.

To pass the work test, an individual must be gainfully employed for at least 40 hours during a consecutive 30-day period in each income year in which contributions were made. It is an annual test, which means that once it is met, the individual can make contributions for that entire income year. “Gainfully employed” requires the individual to be employed or self-employed for gain or reward in any business, trade, profession, vocation, calling or occupation.

Unpaid work or generation of passive income (eg interest, dividends, trust distributions, rent) do not satisfy the criterion of being gainfully employed.

If an individual cannot meet the work test, there is also a work test exemption which can be used to obtain a deduction for a personal contribution. To meet the work test exemption an individual must have:

  • satisfied the work test in the financial year before the year in which the contribution was made;
  • a total super balance of less than $300,000 at the end of the previous financial year; and
  • not relied on the work test exemption in a previous financial year.

It should be noted that individuals who are aged 75 and meet the work test can only claim a deduction in relation to a contribution that is made on or before 28 days after the month in which they turn 75.

Client Alert – March 2022

Work-related COVID-19 tests may be deductible

After the recent furore over the non-existent supply of rapid antigen tests (RATs) and the reduced availability of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at many COVID-19 testing sites, the Federal Government is hoping for some good press with the announcement that it will legislate to make both PCR tests and RATs tax-deductible for individuals who buy them for a work-related purpose.

According to the government’s proposal, deductibility of tests will take effect from the beginning of the 2021–2022 tax year (that is, starting 1 July 2021) and will be ongoing. Individuals will also be able to deduct the cost of a test regardless of whether they are required to attend the workplace or have the option to work remotely.

How people will benefit from this proposal depends on their individual tax rate. As a simple example, assuming that there are 249 working days in a year and that each RAT costs $20, if an employee was required to take a RAT every day that they worked, the total cost over the year would be $4,980. If that employee made the minimum wage rate of $20.33 per hour and worked 7.5 hours each day, then their yearly before tax income would be $37,966.

Based on that before-tax income, the individual would usually have to pay around $3,755 in tax. If the deduction for the COVID-19 tests was included, it would reduce the tax paid to $2,809 – a tax saving of $946 to the individual for the year. However, given that the initial test outlay for the entire year could be close to $5,000, the deduction certainly wouldn’t have the same monetary effect as to providing free tests to essential and hospitality workers.

For businesses that are able to obtain enough RATs for their workforce, the government has also proposed to make COVID-19 tests provided by employers to employees exempt from FBT, if they are used for work-related purposes. This essentially means that the tests would be excluded from the definition of a fringe benefit, and employers would not have to pay FBT on the costs of tests given to their employees in a work-related context.

With the Federal election fast creeping up, there doesn’t seem much time for this proposal to be introduced in Parliament and passed into law, especially given the lack of timeframes provided and the myriad of previous election promises also yet to be legislated. A possible change in government may even mean that this proposal remains just that, or we later see different arrangements altogether. There is uncertainty as to whether a Labor government would champion this specific tax-deductibility measure, in particular due to their election pledge of providing free RATs to all Australians through Medicare.

With all this in the background, the ATO has not provided any detailed advice or guidance on the practical aspects of this proposal. In the interim, it recommends that individuals and/or businesses incurring expenses for COVID-19 tests should keep a record of the expenses (receipts or other documentary evidence of purchase), to make the process straightforward should they become deductible in the future.

Natural love and affection: commercial debt forgiveness

The ATO has recently finalised its stance on the issue of commercial debt forgiveness – in particular, the “natural love and affection” exclusion.

A commercial debt is any debt where interest payable is deductible, or would be deductible if interest were payable, but for certain statutory restrictions. Under this definition, investments that are securities and equity for debt swaps could be included.

Under the commercial debt forgiveness provisions, if a taxpayer’s obligation to pay the debt is released, waived, or otherwise extinguished (i.e by agreement, parking of debt, repurchase, redemption etc.), the amount forgiven will be deducted from the taxpayer’s current and future tax deductions. Specifically, the amount forgiven will reduce prior-year revenue losses, prior-year net capital losses, undeducted balances of other expenditure being carried forward for deduction, and the CGT cost base of other assets held, in that order.

Given that commercial debts forgiven may mean a business will have to pay more tax, it can be advantageous if debts the business has forgiven are not captured under the commercial debt forgiveness provisions. The exclusions available include forgiveness of a debt that is effected under an Act relating to bankruptcy or by will, and a natural person’s forgiveness of a debt for reasons of natural love and affection for the debtor.

Before 6 February 2019, the natural love and affection exclusion to commercial debt forgiveness didn’t require the creditor who forgave a debt to be a “natural person”. This meant that a company, through its directors, could forgive the debts of an individual, giving the reason of natural love and affection for the individual, and this would not have been considered a commercial debt forgiveness, meaning a lower tax bill for the company.

Then, the ATO released a draft determination on 6 February 2019 which explicitly stated that the exclusion for debts forgiven for reasons of natural love and affection requires the creditor to be a natural person. This view has been confirmed in the finalised determination, which the ATO recently released.

Delving a little deeper into the final determination: while the ATO states that a debt-forgiving creditor must be a natural person and the object of their love and affection must be one or more other natural persons, where the conditions for the exclusion are otherwise satisfied, there is no requirement that the debtor must also be a natural person. For example, this means that the natural love and affection exclusion can apply in circumstances where the debtor is a company, such as where a parent (a natural person) forgives a debt they are owed by a company that is 100% owned by their child or children.

The natural love and affection exclusion to commercial debt forgiveness may also apply in instances where a natural person forgives a debt owed to a trust or partnership, in their capacity as a trustee of the trust or as a partner in the partnership, respectively. The ATO’s determination points out that cases where this could happen would be limited, given limitations that arise under trust and partnership law principles, statute and terms of any trust deed or partnership agreement.

According to the ATO, whether a creditor’s decision to forgive a debt is motivated by natural love and affection for a person needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. In addition, while the ATO will not devote compliance resources in relation to debts forgiven before 6 February 2019, if required to state a view in a private ruling or litigation the Commissioner of Taxation will do so consistently with the views set out in the final determination.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/law/view/document?docid=TXD/TD20221/NAT/ATO/00001

Last chance to claim the loss carry-back

Businesses that need a little more financial help will have one last opportunity to claim the loss carry-back in their 2021–2022 income tax returns. Businesses that have an early balancer substituted account period (SAP) for the 2021-22 income year are eligible to claim the loss carry-back offset before 1 July 2022.

To recap, the loss carry-back is a refundable offset that effectively represents the tax that the business would save if it had been able to deduct the loss in an earlier year using the loss year tax rate. It may result in a cash refund, a reduced tax liability, or reduction of a debt owing to the ATO. Eligible businesses include companies, corporate limited partnerships and public trading trusts.

A company, corporate limited partnership or public trading trust may be eligible if it made a tax loss in 2021, carried on a business with an aggregated turnover of less than $5 billion, had an income tax liability in 2019 or 2020, and has met all of its lodgment obligations for the five prior income years.

Loss carry-back can either be claimed by businesses through their standard business reporting enabled software, where it has the additional loss carry-back labels required, or by using the paper copy of the company tax return 2021 and attaching a schedule of additional information to report the extra aggregated turnover and loss carry-back labels required (because these are not included in the company tax return 2021 itself).

For example, if a business is carrying back a tax loss from the 2021–2022 income year, the additional information needed includes the income year the business is choosing to carry the loss back to, the tax losses incurred, net exempt income, the income tax liability for the prior year, and the aggregated turnover range of the business.

Since there are so many additional labels which may need to be completed, the ATO has developed a loss carry-back tax offset tool which will assist businesses that are claiming the loss carry-back before 1 July 2022 to determine which labels are relevant in their unique situations. Once all of the relevant information is provided, the tool will first determine whether the business is eligible to claim the loss carry-back tax offset, then calculate the maximum amount of tax offset available. It will also provide a printable report of the labels which will need to be completed.

However, to use the tool, businesses will need to have the following information handy:

  • income tax lodgment history;
  • for the 2019–2020 and later income years, details of the loss that was made, including the amount of tax losses, the tax rate and the aggregated turnover for that year and the prior year;
  • for the 2018–2019 and later income years, details of the tax liability, including the amount, and any net exempt income; and
  • opening and closing balances of the franking account for the income year that is being lodged (ie 2021–2022).

If your clients’ businesses have been battered by the latest COVID-19 wave, they may be able to take advantage of this refundable offset one last time. Remember, the offset effectively represents the tax that the business would save if it had been able to deduct the loss in an earlier year using the loss year tax rate. Because the offset is refundable, it may result in a cash refund, a reduced tax liability, or reduction of a debt owing to the ATO, all of which should help with cash flow.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/business/loss-carry-back-tax-offset/

www.ato.gov.au/Calculators-and-tools/Loss-carry-back-tax-offset-tool/

Tax debts may affect business credit scores

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused uncertainty in many parts of the economic and has led to what many experts term a “two-speed economy”: while some businesses are recovering well, others continue to suffer from the effects. If your clients’ businesses have had issues paying debts, or have prioritised trade debts ahead of tax debts, remember that these actions may lead to penalties and have a lasting impact on the business.

The best option is to engage with the ATO to manage business debts. Failure to get in touch with the ATO to come to an arrangement will not only affect the potential penalties imposed, but may also affect a business’s credit score.

Laws were passed in 2019 which allow the ATO to disclose information about overdue business tax debts to credit reporting agencies including Equifax, Experian and Illion. The laws were originally promoted as a way to support businesses in making more informed decisions about dealings with various parties by making overdue tax debts more visible. The flow-on effects from that include reducing unfair financial advantages obtained by businesses that do not pay their tax on time, and encouraging businesses to engage with the ATO to manage their tax debts to avoid having those debts disclosed.

To protect taxpayers, the laws passed contained some safeguards. Not all tax debts can be disclosed by the ATO. The following criteria must be met for a business’s debt to qualify for disclosure:

  • the business has an ABN and is not an excluded entity (excluded entities include deductible gift recipients, complying super funds or self managed super funds, registered charities and government entities);
  • the business has one or more tax debts, of which at least $100,000 is overdue by more than 90 days;
  • the business operators have not engaged with the ATO to manage the debt; and
  • there is no active complaint with the Inspector-General of Taxation and Tax Ombudsman regarding the ATO’s intent to report tax debt information.

Even if a business debt satisfies these criteria, where exceptional circumstances apply to the situation the ATO may still have the discretion to not report the debt information to credit reporting agencies. “Exceptional circumstances” may include, but are not limited to, family tragedy, serious illness and the impact of natural disasters. The ATO will assess claims of exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

It should be noted that the ATO does not consider cash flow issues nor financial hardship to be exceptional circumstances, although it still recommends that taxpayers who are experiencing these issues initiate ATO contact as soon as possible to discuss debt management options. For example, where a business has been affected by COVID-19, the ATO has committed to additional administrative support in the areas of lodgment and payment.

Before any debt is disclosed to credit reporting agencies, the ATO is required to send the business a written notice confirming its intent to report the debt information, and setting out the criteria that the business has met and the debt information that will be disclosed. The letter will also outline the steps which the business can take to avoid having the tax debt reported – and these need to be taken within 28 days of receiving the notice. Business owners who believe that the ATO has made a mistake or who disagree with a disclosure decision are advised to contact the ATO immediately upon receiving a notice.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/General/Paying-the-ATO/If-you-don-t-pay/Disclosure-of-business-tax-debts/

https://moneysmart.gov.au/managing-debt/credit-scores-and-credit-reports

Contributions into SMSFs: minimum standards

There are many compliance obligations for trustees of self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs). One of the simplest but most important is ensuring that contributions from members can be accepted into the fund. This involves reporting the tax file numbers (TFNs) of members to the ATO, ensuring non-mandated contributions are not accepted for members over a certain age, and observing certain restrictions on in specie (asset) contributions. If an SMSF inadvertently accepts a non-allowable contribution in error, it must generally be returned within 30 days of the fund becoming aware, otherwise breaches of the contribution rules may occur.

Broadly, whether a contribution to an SMSF can be accepted depends on the type of contribution, the age of the member making the contribution, certain caps, and whether the fund has the TFN of the member.

When a member joins an SMSF, they need to provide their TFN, which then needs to be passed on to the ATO through the registration process. It should be noted that members are not legally required to provide their TFNs. However, if a TFN is not provided, the fund cannot accept certain member contributions, including personal contributions, eligible spouse contributions and super co-contributions. Employer contributions, including salary sacrifice contributions and other assessable contributions, may also be liable for additional income tax of 32% on top of the 15% tax already paid.

As a trustee, you must ensure that any TFNs reported to the ATO for members are correct. If you do not know a member’s TFN, you cannot report an exemption code such as 444 444 444. According to the ATO, exemption codes like this are intended for use by banks/investment bodies for an exemption from withholding tax on interest and other investment income, and are not for use when an SMSF member has not provided a valid TFN to the trustee.

In circumstances where an SMSF mistakenly accepts a contribution it should not have, the fund must return it within 30 days of becoming aware of the error. The 30-day limit is a grace period allowing the fund to remove the contributions from the super system without breaching the payment or contribution rules. Failure of the SMSF to comply with the time limit does not affect the fund’s legal obligation to return contributions.

Even if a member has provided their TFN, the type of a contribution combined with the age of the member can affect what is acceptable. For example, mandated employer contributions such as super guarantee contributions from a member’s employer can generally be accepted at any time, regardless of the member’s age or the number of hours they work. Non-mandated contributions largely cannot be accepted if a member is aged 75 years or older.

Non-mandated contributions include the following:

  • contributions made by employers over and above super guarantee or award obligations (that is, salary sacrifice contributions); and
  • member contributions, including personal contributions, downsizer contributions, super co-contributions, eligible spouse contributions and contributions made by a third party such as an insurer.

Lastly, there are restrictions on when an SMSF can accept an asset as a contribution from a member. These are referred to as “in specie contributions”, which just means contributions to the fund in the form of a non-monetary asset. Generally, an SMSF must not intentionally acquire assets (including in specie contributions) from related parties to the fund; however, there are exceptions for listed shares and other securities, as well as business real property.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/Super/Self-managed-super-funds/Contributions-and-rollovers/Contributions-you-can-accept/

SMSFs investing in crypto-assets: be informed and keep records

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), there has recently been a surge of promoters encouraging individuals to set up self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) in order to invest in crypto-assets. ASIC warns people to be aware that while crypto-asset investments are allowed for SMSFs, they are high risk and speculative, as well as being an attractive area for scammers targeting uninformed investors.

Seek reliable information

Current record low deposit rates and volatility in stock markets around the world have motivated many retirees to seek alternative asset classes to either protect their investments or get higher returns. In conjunction, there has been a noticeable increase in spruikers encouraging individuals to invest in crypto-assets through SMSFs, with many promotions recommending switching from retail or industry super funds in order to do so.

For example, late last year ASIC moved to shut down an unlicensed financial services business based on the Gold Coast that promised annual investment returns of over 20% by investing in crypto-assets through SMSFs. The money obtained was not invested, but instead allegedly used by the directors of the business for their own personal benefit, including acquiring real property and luxury vehicles in their personal names.

Professional advice should always be sought before deciding on whether an SMSF is appropriate for your circumstances, as there are risks involved in being the trustee of an SMSF, and any SMSF established must meet the “sole-purpose” test. Remember, SMSF trustees bear all the responsibility for the fund and its investment decisions complying with the law, and breaches may lead to administrative or civil and criminal penalties. This is the case even if you (as the trustee) rely on the advice of other people, licensed or otherwise.

SMSFs are not generally prohibited from investing in crypto-assets – if you do decide, after receiving appropriate advice, that investing in crypto-assets through an SMSF is right for your situation, you can do so. Careful consideration must also be given to the following factors:

  • the fund’s governing rules: trustees need to ensure that any investments in crypto-assets are allowed under the particular SMSF’s deed;
  • investment strategy: there should be documentation of how the SMSF’s investments will meet retirement goals, taking into account diversification, liquidity and the ability of the fund to discharge its liabilities; and trustees need to consider the level of risk for the proposed crypto-asset investments, including reviewing/updating the fund’s investment strategy to ensure they are permitted;
  • ownership and separation of assets: crypto-assets must be held and managed separately from any personal or business investments of trustees and members – the SMSF must maintain and be able to provide evidence of a separate crypto-asset “wallet”; and
  • valuation: SMSFs must obtain fair market valuations for their crypto-assets for the purposes of calculating member balances.

Other considerations include restrictions on related-party transactions (that is, if you currently own crypto-assets and want to transfer them to the SMSF for various purposes, you will be unable to do so), and potential CGT consequences when an in specie lump sum payment of crypto-assets occurs upon a condition of release.

Keep your records in order

If you do decide to invest in crypto-assets, whether through an SMSF or as an individual investor, it’s also important to keep accurate records and ensure you report any related income to the ATO.

Each time you transact in crypto, the ATO requires you to keep a record of:

  • the date and value of the cryptocurrency (or digital asset) in Australian dollars at the time of the transaction;
  • what the transaction was for; and
  • who the other party was (a cryptocurrency address is sufficient).

You must keep these records for at least five years after lodging the relevant return or form.

The ATO started its first crypto data-matching program in April 2019, comparing taxpayer self-reported income to cryptocurrency transaction data for the 2015–2020 financial years. This program was expanded mid-last year to cover the 2021–2023 financial years, and the ATO will no doubt continue to gather and compare data into the future under subsequent programs. Records relating to between 400,000 and 600,000 individuals will be obtained each financial year under the current program.

The ATO sources its data from designated service providers (DSPs) or entities providing a designated service under Australia’s anti-money laundering/counterterrorism legislation. It may also obtain data from other sources.

A designated service is any service that exchanges, issues, transacts or deals in digital currency. This includes centralised cryptocurrency exchanges, exchanges that convert fiat currency to cryptocurrency (or vice versa) or other designated or regulated entities.

The ATO’s legal power to gather information is extensive and includes the power to physically enter any place and inspect any document, good or other property – this extends to a physical cryptocurrency wallet. The ATO is also permitted by law to amend a taxpayer’s tax return for an unlimited period where it considers that fraud or evasion has occurred – and deliberate non-reporting of gains made from disposals of crypto-assets would meet this description. Possible penalties and interest are also a consideration.

Source: https://asic.gov.au/about-asic/news-centre/articles/warning-self-managed-super-funds-and-crypto-investments/

https://moneysmart.gov.au/investment-warnings/cryptocurrencies

www.ato.gov.au/super/self-managed-super-funds/in-detail/smsf-investing/smsf-investing-in-cryptocurrencies/

www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/tax-treatment-of-crypto-currencies-in-australia—specifically-bitcoin/

Superannuation and Financial Planning

Need More Money In Retirement?

Retirees that own their own home and need more money in retirement are now able to access the Home Equity Access Scheme run through Services Australia. The scheme was previously known as the Pensions Loans Scheme but along with a new name, the fortnightly interest rate has been lowered to 3.95% per annum. To access the scheme, there is no need for an individual and/or their partner to be on the Aged Pension, although there are certain other requirements which will need to be met. Loan payments under the scheme can be started and stopped at any time.

 

Business Tax

ATO Concerns On Luxury Car Tax

The ATO has issued an alert warning taxpayers that it is investigating certain arrangements where entities on-sell luxury cars without remitting the requisite luxury car tax amount. This applies to those selling luxury cars in the ordinary course of business in any structure (ie company or sole trader), as well as those that sell a luxury car to an employee, an associate, or an employee of an associate as a one off transaction. Remember, for the 2021-22 financial year, all non-fuel efficient vehicles over $69,152 are considered to be luxury cars.

 

Timely Opportunities

COVID-19 Vaccination Rewards: Tax Implications

Amidst the current Omicron wave, and the government shortening booster dose intervals, many businesses are encouraging their employees to get either vaccinated or the booster dose by offering rewards or incentives. While this is an effective way to help the employees stay safe and businesses to stay open, there may be some tax consequences involved depending on how the reward or incentive offered. Ordinarily, non-cash benefits provided to the general public are not subject to FBT, while non-cash benefits provided exclusively to employees may be.

 

Explanatory Memorandum – February 2022

COVID-19 vaccination rewards: tax implications

Amidst the Omicron COVID-19 wave and with our governments shortening booster dose intervals, many businesses are encouraging their employees and customers to get either vaccinated or get their booster dose by offering rewards or incentives. While this is an effective way to help employees and customers stay safe and businesses to stay open, it’s important to consider that there may be some tax consequences involved. Ordinarily, non-cash benefits provided to the general public are not subject to FBT, while non-cash benefits provided exclusively to employees may be, and cash payments to employees need to be reported through Single Touch Payroll (STP).

Non-cash benefits provided to the general public

Where businesses provide free or discounted goods, services, vouchers, gift cards, rewards points or other non-cash benefits (for example, entries into a draw to win prizes) to everyone who has had their COVID-19 vaccinations, those benefits will not be subject to FBT, even if employees take part in the program. This is because the benefit is not provided in respect of the employee’s employment. “Public” in this case denotes both members of the public in general, and those who make up a more specific section of the public (for example, all members of a particular club).

Non-cash benefits provided to employees

Providing non-cash benefits specifically to employees, such as goods and services, vouchers and gift cards or points in a rewards scheme may be subject to FBT. However, a benefit that has a value of less than $300 may qualify for a minor benefits exemption provided that:

  • the benefit is provided infrequently and irregularly;
  • the value and total value of the minor benefit and other similar or identical benefits are low;
  • it is difficult to calculate the taxable value of the benefit and any associated benefits; and
  • the benefit is provided as a result of an unexpected event.

In the event that the non-cash benefit provided to employees does not qualify for the minor benefit exemption, the business may be entitled to a reduction in taxable value of FBT if the benefit is an in-house benefit. Generally, an in-house benefit is one that is identical or similar to the benefits provided to customers in the ordinary course of business (for example, clothes provided by a clothing retailer, or electronics provided by an electronic retailer). Businesses can reduce the aggregate taxable value of these benefits by $1,000 if the benefits are not provided under a salary packaging arrangement.

Where a business provides transport or pays for an employee’s transport to get their COVID-19 vaccination or booster, the travel would be considered work-related preventative health care, and is therefore exempt from FBT.

For businesses that offer their employees entry into a draw to win prizes as a reward for vaccination, there will be no FBT consequences when the entry to the draw is given to the employee; however, FBT may apply when the winner receives their prize, unless an exemption or reduction applies.

Cash payments

Where a business gives its employees a cash payment for getting vaccinated, the business will need to report the payment via Single Touch Payroll (STP) as part of each employee’s salary or wages, withhold tax from the amount under PAYG withholding, and include the amount in each employee’s ordinary time earnings for the purposes of determining super contributions for the employees.

Businesses that have already made cash payments to their employees and have inadvertently failed to withhold tax should make contact with the ATO as soon as practicable to facilitate the possible remission of any failure-to-withhold penalties. In addition, the ATO reminds businesses that super contributions on cash payments should be made no later than 28 days after the end of the quarter in which the payment was made, otherwise the super guarantee charge may apply.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/law/view/document?DocID=AFS/VACC_INC-COVID-19

www.ato.gov.au/General/COVID-19/Support-for-businesses-and-employers/COVID-19-and-fringe-benefits-tax/

www.ato.gov.au/General/COVID-19/Support-for-individuals-and-employees/COVID-19-vaccination-incentives-and-rewards-for-employees/

Free mental health support for small business

The Federal Government has announced additional funding to extend the availability of free mental health support to small business owners dealing with the current pandemic and recent natural disasters.

Funding of $4.6 million will go to Beyond Blue to boost its successful and innovative mental health program, NewAccess for Small Business Owners, and $2.1 million will go to Financial Counselling Australia to extend the Small Business Debt Helpline for 2022.

NewAccess for Small Business Owners

The NewAccess for Small Business Owners Program provides free, confidential, one-on-one mental health support by phone or video call to small business owners, including sole traders. The coaches are former small business owners themselves, so they understand the unique challenges that small businesses face, including family and financial pressures.

The program, developed and provided by Beyond Blue, starts with an initial assessment that allows the coach to develop a program tailored to each business owner’s individual needs. The sessions then use Low-intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (LiCBT) work to help participants in recognising the ways they think, act and feel, and in separating from unhelpful thoughts. The program provides practical skills to manage stress and get back to feeling like yourself.

The recently announced additional funding will allow for six more coaches from 1 April 2022, meaning the program will have a team of 18 specialised support coaches available to help 4,680 small business owners through the series of six one-on-one coaching sessions.

Business owners who’ve participated in the program say it’s helped them feel better able to address the challenges they’re facing, and they feel well supported by people who understand them. Participants also say they value being able to get support almost immediately using the free service.

More information about the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program is available by calling 1300 945 301 or on the Beyond Blue website at www.beyondblue.org.au/newaccess-sbo.

Small Business Debt Helpline

The Small Business Debt Helpline was set up in 2020 by Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) with Federal Government funding. It’s a service for small business owners in financial difficulty, and supports small business owners to navigate issues including avoiding bankruptcy, negotiating payment plans, debt waivers, grant applications and insolvency.

The helpline is free to use, and the services provided are independent, confidential and impartial. Its professional financial counsellors offer a listening ear and practical business advice. They don’t sell anything or work on commission.

Small business owners can contact the Small Business Debt Helpline by calling 1800 413 828 (9 am to 5.30 pm AEDT, Monday to Friday) or on the Small Business Debt website at https://sbdh.org.au/.

ATO support options

The ATO also reminds business owners whose mental wellbeing may be affecting their ability to pay tax or super that it has support options available, including help with setting up payment plans and deferring lodgements or payments. Information is available on the ATO website at www.ato.gov.au/General/Support-in-difficult-times/.

Source: www.ato.gov.au/general/covid-19/

https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/stuart-robert-2021/media-releases/more-funding-free-mental-health-counselling-small

Changes to recovery loan scheme for small and medium enterprises

As a part of an economic package to help businesses recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government provided low-cost credit to qualifying small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the form of the SME Recovery Loan Scheme. When it was first introduced, and until 31 December 2021, the government essentially guaranteed 80% of the loan amount.

However, from 1 January 2022, as restrictions have eased, the government guarantee has been reduced from 80% of the loan amount to 50% of the loan amount. The eligibility conditions have also been slightly fine-tuned, with the scheme now due to end on 30 June 2022.

To recap, the scheme is available to eligible small and medium businesses with up to $250 million turnover, including sole traders and non-profits. Previously, the scheme was also open to recipients of JobKeeper payments between 4 January 2021 and 28 March 2021, and those businesses affected by floods in eligible local government areas in March 2021. Now, only those businesses that have been adversely economically affected by COVID-19 are eligible.

Eligible small and medium businesses can access up to $5 million in total from participating lenders. This is in addition to the loan limits for Phase 1 (unsecured capital loans of up to $250,000 for terms of up to three years) and Phase 2 (unsecured loans of up to $1 million for terms of up to five years with a cap on interest rates) of the scheme.

Loans can now be unsecured or secured and will generally be for terms of up to 10 years, with an optional repayment holiday period of up to 24 months. The amounts can be used for a range of business purposes, including investment support or refinancing the pre-existing debt of an eligible borrower. For example, the loans can be used to purchase non-residential real property, including commercial property, or for the acquisition of another business.

While the exact interest rate will be determined by participating lenders, under the scheme, the maximum rate will be capped at around 7.5% with flexibility for interest rates on variable rate loans to increase if market interest rates rise over time.

Participating lenders can offer any suitable product to eligible businesses except for credit cards, charge cards, debit cards or business cards.

Loans issued under the scheme to refinance existing loans cannot be used for the purposes of:

  • purchasing residential property;
  • purchasing financial products;
  • lending to an associated entity; or
  • leasing, renting, hiring or hire-purchasing existing assets that are more than halfway into their effective life.

Further, there will also be some restrictions on refinancing loans, including not allowing loans more than 30 days in arrears to be refinanced, and not allowing borrowers who have entered into external administration or are insolvent to refinance debts. Participating lenders include the “Big 4” banks, plus a host of other smaller financial institutions and mutual societies.

Source: https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/sme-recovery-loan-scheme

https://business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/sme-recovery-loan-scheme

Need more money in retirement?

Retirees who own their own home and need more money in retirement are now able to access the Home Equity Access Scheme, run through Services Australia. The scheme was previously known as the Pensions Loans Scheme but along with a new name, the fortnightly interest rate has been lowered to 3.95% per annum. To access the scheme, there is no need for an individual and/or their partner to be on the Age Pension, although certain other requirements need to be met. Loan payments under the scheme can be started and stopped at any time.

The Home Equity Access Scheme allows older Australian to get a voluntary non-taxable fortnightly loan at an interest rate of 3.95% per annum, which is a much lower rate than personal loans from various providers, which typically start from around 5% per annum. To access the loan, a retiree or their partner needs to meet the following requirements:

  • be at Age Pension age or older;
  • be receiving or be eligible to receive a qualifying pension (the Age Pension, Carer Payment or Disability Support Pension);
  • own real estate in Australia that can be used as security for the loan;
  • have adequate and appropriate insurance covering the real estate offered as security; and
  • not be bankrupt or subject to a personal insolvency agreement.

It should be noted that retirees can get a loan even if their income and assets mean that they wouldn’t normally get one of the qualifying pensions – they just need to be able to meet the eligibility rules. People who are on either the Pension Bonus Scheme or an Asset Hardship Payment may have affected eligibility for the scheme affected.

There are costs associated with starting and stopping the scheme – for example, Services Australia will place a charge or caveat on the property offered as security for the loan, and the retiree will need to pay the costs involved with registering and removing the charge or caveat. These costs will not need to be paid upfront and can be added to the loan balance, which can then be paid at any time.

When qualifying for the scheme, people can choose to get their loan payment each fortnight at either the maximum amount (which is 150% of the person’s maximum pension rate), a smaller percentage, or a fixed loan amount of their choosing. The loan amount will be automatically adjusted whenever the pension amount changes.

For individuals who do not receive the pension, the maximum amount under the Home Equity Access Scheme, $1,665.45 per fortnight, can be accessed.

Payments under the scheme will continue until the holder reaches their maximum loan amount (including interests and costs). This maximum loan amount depends on the person’s age, the age of their partner (if any), and the market value of the property offered as security. For example, for a single person aged 70 who has a home with a market value of $800,000, the maximum loan amount available under the scheme is $246,400.

The scheme is flexible, which means it’s possible to stop loan payments at any time and to make repayments at any time, but regular repayments are not required. Rather, recipients of the loan have the choice to wait to pay the loan, legal costs and accrued interest in full when they sell the property they’ve used as security. However, it should be noted that the longer the loan is held, the more interest will accrue.

Source: https://ministers.dss.gov.au/media-releases/7851 

www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/home-equity-access-scheme

www.dva.gov.au/financial-support/income-support/support-when-you-cannot-work/pensions/home-equity-access-scheme

Income protection insurance in super: beware of offsets

In Australia, around seven of the 20 largest MySuper products provide default income protection insurance on an opt-out basis. While income protection insurance has the advantage of providing a regular income for a specified period of time if a person cannot work due to temporary disability or illness, a recent ASIC review into this type of cover in super has raised concerns around the amount of information given to members – in particular communication about “offset clauses”, which are often described in technical and legalistic language.

Insurance within super is usually the most cost-effective way for an individual to cover themselves in the event of a mishap. Most super funds typically offer three types of insurance for their members: life cover, total and permanent disability (TPD) and income protection insurance (or salary continuance cover).

Life cover (death cover) pays a lump sum or income stream to beneficiaries upon the insurance holder’s death, or in the event of a terminal illness. TPD insurance pays the holder a benefit if they become seriously disabled and are unlikely to work again. Income protection insurance pays a regular income for a specified period, ranging from two years to five years, or up to a certain age, if the holder can’t work due to temporary disability or illness. It is estimated that seven out of the 20 largest MySuper products provide default income protection insurance on an opt-out basis, and approximately 3.4 million MySuper accounts have income protection insurance.

Recently, ASIC reviewed the practices of five large super funds that provide default income protection insurance on an opt-out basis to their members, accounting for around 2 million MySuper member accounts as at June 2021. From that review, the regulator has raised various concerns around the amount of information received by members on these policies and whether funds should be doing more to communicate clearly about insurance.

Overall, the review found that most income protection insurance policies contain “offset” clauses, which mean that the insurance benefit is reduced or “offset” if the individual receives other kinds of income support. This is used as a way to reduce incentives for individuals to delay their return to work as a result of receiving more income while disabled than when working. In addition, the review found there were large variations between super funds in the types of income that were offset against income protection benefits.

For example, different funds will offset different combinations of alternative income such as paid leave (annual or long service), employer super contributions, social security benefits, TPD benefits, workers compensation, and other insurance settlement or benefits.

ASIC found that trustees were not proactively giving their members clear explanations about when insurance benefits would or would not be paid as a result of offsets. This information is obviously relevant to members considering whether they should opt out of default income protection insurance, and to those making insurance claims.

ASIC’s concern is not that these offset clauses exist, but rather that relevant information to explain the clauses was not available in website communications or in welcome packs, and the clauses were only described in technical and legalistic language in insurance guides.

The regulator is also concerned that super fund trustees were unable to demonstrate that they had sought reliable data on offsets and used it to review the appropriateness of their default income protection insurance offering. This could cause unnecessary erosion of super benefits of members if offsets mean that particular groups of members get little value from their default insurance if they need to claim.

Super fund members can get more information on ASIC’s MoneySmart website about what to look for when considering income protection insurance through super, at https://moneysmart.gov.au/how-life-insurance-works/income-protection-insurance.

Source: https://asic.gov.au/about-asic/news-centre/find-a-media-release/2021-releases/21-343mr-super-trustees-offering-default-income-protection-insurance-urged-to-check-on-member-outcomes/

Client Alert – February 2022

COVID-19 vaccination rewards: tax implications

While offering rewards or incentives for being vaccinated can be an effective way to help employees and customers to stay safe and businesses to stay open, it’s important to consider that there may be some tax consequences involved for your business.

Free mental health support for small business

The Federal Government has announced additional funding to extend the availability of free mental health support to small business owners dealing with the current pandemic and recent natural disasters.

Changes to recovery loan scheme for small and medium enterprises

The SME Recovery Loan Scheme is available to eligible small and medium businesses with up to $250 million turnover, including sole traders and non-profits, but some of its conditions have now been fine-tuned.

Need more money in retirement?

Retirees who own their own home and need more money in retirement can now access a voluntary non-taxable fortnightly loan payment through the Home Equity Access Scheme.

Income protection insurance in super: beware of offsets

While income protection insurance through super has the advantage of providing a regular income for a period if you can’t work due to temporary disability or illness, ASIC has raised concerns about the lack of information given to super members, particularly about “offset” clauses.