Author: Karen Lau

Whether you can deduct a loss all boils down to whether you actually owned an asset. For example, if you actually owned cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin in a digital wallet and due to the collapse of an exchange all the cryptocurrency you owned has disappeared, then it is likely you can claim a capital loss. This is likely to also apply if the cryptocurrency you own is stolen in a scam.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that a deduction can be claimed for people who have been scammed into handing over money for supposed “cryptocurrency investment” in schemes where no actual cryptocurrency ownership occurred. This is because they have not technically lost an asset, as they did not own the cryptocurrency in the first place, and the money invested is not considered a capital gains tax (CGT) asset under Australian tax law.

As investing in cryptocurrency becomes more popular in Australia, there is also a corresponding increase in the number of scams being reported. Due to the unregulated nature of cryptocurrency and the recent failure of two Australian cryptocurrency exchanges, this investment space has become a risky free-for-all, with Scamwatch estimating that around $35 million was lost to cryptocurrency scams in the first half of 2021. If you’re one of the unlucky ones to have been scammed, depending on the circumstances you may be able to claim a capital loss deduction.

Cryptocurrency scams come in a variety of forms, the most common being impersonation, where scammers pretend to be from a reputable trading platform and have legitimate-looking digital assets – like fake trading platforms which look like the real thing and email addresses that impersonate a genuine company – to lure people in. Investors who fall into this trap will usually see the initial money they invested skyrocket on fake trading platforms and may even be allowed to access a small return. Once people are hooked, though, the scammers will typically ask for further investments of large sums of money before cutting off contact and disappearing completely.

Tip: If you think you’ve been scammed, you should contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible. You can also make reports to Scamwatch and to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Finally, you can contact IDCARE, a free, government-funded service, if you suspect identity theft.Contact us for more information and assistance.

Most of Australia has been experiencing a building boom, fuelled by government policy such as the HomeBuilder scheme and a general desire to make our living spaces better as we spend more time working, educating and living at home. However, with global supply chains and transport routes disrupted due to the effects of COVID-19, there have been well publicised material shortages and builder collapses in the sector. If you’re building or substantially renovating your home, any related delays you experience may also end up costing you when you decide to sell.

For most individual Australian tax residents, there’s an automatic exemption from CGT for the capital gain (or loss) that arises when you sell your home, known as the “main residence exemption”. Generally, the home must have been your main residence for the entire ownership period; however, exemptions may apply where you’ve had to move out while building, renovating or repairing.

The related building concession allows you to treat a dwelling as your main residence from the time that the land was acquired for a maximum period of up to four years, applying from either the time you acquire the ownership interest in the land or the time you cease to occupy a dwelling already on the land. If it takes more than four years to construct or repair the residence, you may only be entitled to a partial main residence exemption. This means that if you later sell the residence, the period when you didn’t live there during construction or renovation will be subject to CGT.

If you’re unable to complete your main residence construction or renovation project within the four-year maximum timeframe either due to the builder becoming bankrupt or due to severe illness of a family member, you may be able to apply to the ATO for discretion to extend the four-year period so you don’t get penalised financially.

The ATO has announced the extension of its Medicare exemption statement data-matching program. This program has been conducted for the last 12 years, and has now been extended to collect data for the 2021 through to 2023 financial years. It is estimated that information relating to approximately 100,000 individuals will be obtained each financial year.

If you live in Australia as an Australian citizen, a New Zealand citizen, an Australian permanent resident, an individual applying for permanent residency or a temporary resident covered by a ministerial order, then you are eligible to enrol in Medicare and receive healthcare benefits. However, this also means you need to pay Medicare levy at 2% of your taxable income to partly fund the federal scheme.

The Medicare exemption statement (MES) is a statement that outlines the period during a financial year that an individual was not eligible for Medicare. It can be obtained from Services Australia. Individuals who are not eligible for Medicare will then be exempt from paying the Medicare levy in their tax returns.

The information that will be obtained as part of the ATO’s extended data-matching program includes MES applicants’ identification details, entitlement status and approved entitlement period details.

In previous years of this data-matching program, the ATO was able to verify around 87% of the Medicare exemptions claimed in individual tax returns without needing to contact the taxpayers directly. However, the remaining 13% of taxpayers (around 11,000 individuals) who claimed Medicare exemptions were subjected to ATO review.

The ATO has recently issued an alert warning taxpayers against disguising undeclared foreign income as gifts or loans from related overseas entities, including family and friends. It says it has continued to encounter situations where Australian resident taxpayers have derived amounts of income or capital gains offshore that are assessable, but the taxpayers have failed to declare the amounts in their income tax returns.

TIP: If you’re an Australian resident for tax purposes, your worldwide income (not just money you make from Australian sources) is assessable and should be reported to the ATO in your annual tax return.

The ATO will now be looking closely at arrangements where taxpayers are aware of their residency status and the tax implications that flow from it, but attempt to avoid or evade tax of their foreign assessable income by disguising amounts as either gifts or loans from a related overseas entity.

If family or friends who live overseas have provided a genuine monetary gift or loan to you or your business, you should keep as much supporting documentation as possible about it. This is because if there is any uncertainty about whether particular amounts are genuine gifts or loans, the ATO will form a view based on all of the available evidence.

Contemporaneous and complete records should include detailed financial records, full loan documentation, formal identification of the giver and any declarations they made about the money in their country of residence. A deed of gift or a statutory declaration may not be accepted as conclusive evidence.

Inheritances also count as “gifts”. If you receive an inheritance from overseas, a certified copy of the person’s will or a distribution statement for the estate should be a part of your recordkeeping.

A new data matching program designed to identify and address non-compliance with tax and super obligations is under way in relation to government payments for the 2018–2019 to 2022–2023 income years. It covers most services that the Commonwealth Government pays third-party program providers to deliver.

The ATO will obtain data from Comcare, the Department of Health, the National Disability Insurance Agency, the National Indigenous Australian Agency, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the clean energy regulator. This will add to the information the ATO currently receives from government entities through the taxable payments annual report (TPAR).

This means that contractors, subcontractors and consultants in any type of business structure (sole trader, company, partnership or trust) that receive payments from government under these agencies’ programs may be subject to extra scrutiny.

It is estimated that 36,000 service providers will be captured under this program each financial year. Of that number, approximately 11,000 will be individuals and the rest will be companies, partnerships, trusts and government entities.

TIP: If you’re a service provider under one of the affected government programs, you should ensure you’re meeting all your registration and lodgment obligations. We can help review your records and correct any problems so you don’t get a surprise letter from the ATO.

Due to the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19 on large parts of Australia, the ATO has announced the extension of various COVID-19 relief measures for trustees of self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs). The relief previously only applied to the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 financial years, but will now also be available for the 2021–2022 financial year.

SMSF residency test

To be a complying super fund and receive tax concessions, SMSFs must be an “Australian super fund” at all times during the year. This requires, among other things, for the central management and control of the SMSF (ie individual trustees, or directors of a corporate trustee) to ordinarily be in Australia. Under the relief, a fund will still meet this requirement even if its central management and control is temporarily outside of Australia for up to two years.

Rental relief

If an SMSF or a related party has continued to provide rental relief based on the current market conditions, whether it be a rental reduction, waiver or deferral to a tenant, the ATO will provide relief in the form of not taking any compliance action against the fund. However, this is predicated on the rental relief being offered on commercial terms, and there being proper documentation with regards to the arrangement.

Loan repayment relief

For loan repayment relief provided by an SMSF to a related or unrelated party due to the financial impacts of COVID-19, where the relief is offered on commercial terms and the changes to the loan agreement are properly documented, the ATO will provide relief on similar terms as the interim rental relief – that is, it will not take any compliance action against the fund. This will also apply to limited recourse borrowing arrangements (LRBAs).

In-house assets

Where an SMSF exceeds the 5% in-house asset threshold at 30 June 2021 due to the financial impacts of COVID-19, trustees must still prepare a written plan to reduce the market value of the fund’s in-house assets to below 5% by 30 June 2022. However, the ATO has said it will not take any compliance action where the plan has not been executed by the due date as a result of the market not having recovered, or in some cases the plan may be unnecessary because of market recovery.

PAYG variations

The ATO has confirmed that its penalty and interest relief for excessive PAYG variations applies to SMSFs that continue to be impacted by COVID-19 during 2021–2022. The ATO will not apply penalties or interest for excessive variations of PAYG instalments during the 2021–2022 income year, provided that the taxpayer has taken reasonable care to estimate their end-of-year tax.

Audits

The ATO has also extended to 2021–2022 its existing COVID-19 relief in the Addendum to the Auditor/actuary contravention report (ACR). The ACR relief for 2021–2022 will apply for rental relief (including rental reductions, waivers and deferrals), loan repayment relief (including for LRBAs), and in-house assets.

TIP: If you’re a trustee of an SMSF and you or your fund’s members have been affected by COVID-19, we can help you work out the potential tax implications and relief available, and put the proper documentation in place.

Directors of companies will soon have to enrol in the Director Identification Number regime. This requires current and future directors to apply for director identification numbers (DIN) which will be permanently linked to the individual, even if they are no longer a director. It is hoped the regime will make it easier to trace relationships across companies and reduce instances of phoenixing and other illegal activity. Most existing directors will have until 30 November 2022 to apply for the DIN through the Australian Business Registry Services (ABRS).

Directors can now use the new ABRS online services to register from 1 November 2021. Sign-ins and director identity verification will be conducted using the myGovID app (different from myGov).

The Director Identification Number regime came into force late in 2020 as a tool for the Federal Government to reduce phoenixing and black economy activities.

Tip: Illegal phoenix activity is when a company shuts down to avoid paying its debts. A new company is then started to continue the same business activities, without the debt.

Individuals that operate under the Corporations Act 2001 and became a director on or before 31 October 2021 are required to apply for a DIN before the end of the transitional period, which is between 4 April 2021 and 30 November 2022.

Directors who operate under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 and became a director on or before 31 October 2021 will have even more time to apply for a DIN – until 30 November 2023 (with a transition period between 4 April 2021 and 30 November 2023). Any individuals who are appointed directors between 1 November 2021 and 4 April 2022 will have within 28 days of their appointment to apply for the DIN, and from 5 April 2022 individuals seeking to become directors will need to apply for a DIN before their appointment.

Any conduct that undermines the DIN requirement will be subject to civil and criminal penalties. This includes deliberately providing false identity information, intentionally providing a false DIN or intentionally applying for multiple DINs.

 

Additional financial support for child care providers

The Prime Minister and the Minister for Education and Youth recently announced new support measures for child care providers that are impacted by extended COVID-19 lockdowns.

Child care services in Commonwealth-declared hotspots will be eligible for new fortnightly payments of 25% of their pre-lockdown revenue, and outside school hours care (OSHC) services will be eligible for fortnightly payments of 40% of pre-lockdown revenue.

This measure will apply to services seven days after the hotspot is declared, where state and territory governments have directed families to keep their children at home. Where children are still allowed to attend child care, the supports will kick in four weeks after the hotspot declaration.

The new payments will immediately benefit services in affected areas of Sydney, the ACT and Melbourne. Other services will become eligible after seven days of lockdown, with payments backdated to 23 August. The support will then be available for services that meet the criteria in any future extended lockdowns.

Payments are made available directly to providers. Families in affected areas are not required to do anything.

This year marks the beginning of annual performance tests on MySuper products, run by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). The tests were introduced as part of the Federal government’s Your Future, Your Super reforms, aiming to hold super funds to account for underperformance and enhance industry transparency. The first annual test of 76 MySuper products from various super funds or registrable superannuation entities found that 13 products failed to meet the benchmark. These products will need to notify their members of the failed test and make the improvements needed to ensure they pass next year’s test.

A new interactive online super comparison tool, YourSuper, is also now available on the ATO website and via MyGov. It displays a table of MySuper products ranked by fees and net returns (updated quarterly), and you can compare up to four MySuper products at a time in more detail.

The performance tests conducted by APRA only relate to MySuper products, which are basic super accounts without unnecessary features and fees. Registrable superannuation entities usually offer multiple products in addition to MySuper products, so don’t panic if you see the name of your super fund on the list of underperforming products. However, if you see the name of your specific product or receive a letter indicating that the fund you’re in has failed the APRA performance test, it may be time to investigate the reasons why or switch to a different product.