Business Advisory

The ATO has also released an array of new and updated information sheets addressing the changes to JobKeeper. Here is a summary of some main points to consider.

Actual decline in turnover test

The ATO states that the actual decline in turnover test can be satisfied in two ways, using:

  • the basic test; or
  • the alternative test.

The basic test involves the comparison of actual GST turnover for the relevant comparison periods (eg September 2020 to September 2019). Generally, businesses will use the basic test. The option of an alternative test has been made available for some cases where the normal comparison period is not appropriate. There is also a modified basic test for group employer labour entities.

The actual decline test is similar to the “original” decline in turnover test, except that:

  • it must be used for specific quarters only;
  • actual sales made in the relevant quarter must be used, not projected sales, when working out GST turnover; and
  • sales must be allocated to the relevant quarter in the same way a business would report those sales to a particular BAS (if registered for GST).

Decline in turnover tests

The ATO states that existing JobKeeper participants have already satisfied the original decline in turnover test, and do not need to satisfy it again. They do, however, need to satisfy the actual decline in turnover test.

New participants also need to satisfy the actual decline in turnover test. Although they need to satisfy the original decline in turnover test, they will satisfy it if they satisfy the actual decline in turnover test – and they can enrol on that basis.

Employers now unable to claim JobKeeper should notify their eligible employees. Employees should also be advised that the employer is no longer obligated to pay them the amount equivalent to JobKeeper. Those employees will not be eligible to be nominated for JobKeeper by any other entity.

There is no obligation to do monthly reporting during extension period in which an employer is not eligible to receive JobKeeper.

JobKeeper key dates

For the JobKeeper fortnights starting 28 September 2020 and 12 October 2020 only, the ATO is allowing employers until 31 October 2020 to meet the wage condition for all employees included in the JobKeeper scheme. In addition, to claim payment for the September JobKeeper fortnights, employers must have enrolled by 30 September.

80-hour threshold for employees

The ATO states that a full-time employee who has been employed for their full 28-day reference period will usually satisfy the 80-hour threshold.

However, closer examination may be required for eligible employees who are:

  • part-time;
  • long-term casual;
  • not paid on an hourly basis; and/or
  • stood down.

If an employee has been stood down, an alternative reference period may apply to them.

Any overtime performed by an employee in the course of their employment in their 28-day reference period will count towards the 80-hour threshold. It is the actual hours of overtime performed that count; that is, if a penalty rate loading applies, it does not increase the number of hours counted.

Eligible employees

Employers cannot claim for employees who:

  • were first employed after 1 July 2020;
  • left employment before 1 July 2020 (except in limited circumstances);
  • have been, or have agreed to be, nominated by another employer (except in limited circumstances); or
  • are casual employees, unless they were employed by the employer on a regular and systematic basis during the 12-month period that ended 1 July 2020.

If employees have multiple employers, they can usually choose which employer they want to be nominated by. However, if employees are long-term casuals and have other permanent employment, they must choose their permanent employer. They can’t be nominated for the JobKeeper payment by more than one employer.

Employers must also have given a JobKeeper employee nomination notice to any additional employees who first become eligible on or after 3 August 2020 using the 1 July test. This should have been given to any newly eligible employees by 24 August 2020. If not already done, the ATO says it should be done as soon as possible.

The ATO has “clarified” its position on loans put on hold during COVID-19. The ATO will consider a debt to be forgiven for tax purposes if:

  • the debtor is somehow relieved from the legal obligation to repay it; or
  • there is evidence that the creditor won’t insist on repayment or rely on the obligation for repayment.

A debt is not considered to be forgiven if a creditor only postpones an amount payable and the debtor acknowledges the debt – unless there is evidence that the creditor will no longer rely on the obligation for repayment.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced further changes to JobKeeper on 7 August 2020. The changes are intended to ensure that eligibility for the revised JobKeeper scheme – to commence on 28 September 2020 – will be based on a single quarter tax period, rather than multiple quarters as previously announced. Employees hired as at 1 July 2020 will now also be eligible to receive JobKeeper.

Treasury has updated its JobKeeper factsheets as at 7 August 2020 to incorporate the PM’s announcements.

The JobKeeper rules implemented in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were due to finish on 27 September 2020. The Government then announced on 21 July 2020 that the scheme would be extended for six months (until 28 March 2021), in an amended form.

The key highlights of JobKeeper Version 2 – to start on 28 September – are that:

  • the extended scheme will apply at a top rate of $1,200 per employee (down from the current $1,500) per JobKeeper fortnight from 28 September 2020 until 3 January 2021, then drop to $1,000 until 28 March 2021;
  • lower rates will apply for part-time and casual employees; and
  • businesses will be required to re-test their eligibility for the payment scheme to access the extension.

Changes to turnover test

The latest changes relate to the eligibility test announced in JobKeeper Version 2.

JobKeeper Version 2 originally required that, from 28 September 2020, businesses and not-for-profits seeking to claim JobKeeper payments would have to meet a further decline in turnover test for each of the two periods of extension, as well as meeting the other existing eligibility requirements. That is, at that time businesses would have been required to reassess their eligibility for the JobKeeper extension with reference to their actual turnover in the June and September quarters 2020.

The PM has eased the proposed changes to turnover tests for businesses Australia-wide.

The changes mean that businesses will now only be required to show the requisite actual decline in turnover for the September quarter, rather than for both the June and September quarters. Similarly, businesses will only need to demonstrate a decline in turnover for the December 2020 quarter, rather than each of the June, September and December 2020 quarters.

The ATO is on the look-out for fraudulent schemes designed to take advantage of the Government’s COVID-19 stimulus measures. This includes JobKeeper, early release of superannuation, and boosting cash flow for employers.

The ATO will be using its wide array of data sources to assess and identify inappropriate behaviour. It has also established a confidential tip-off line for the public to raise concerns of any wrongdoing.

“We’ve received intelligence about a number of dodgy schemes, including the withdrawal of money from superannuation and re-contributing it to get a tax deduction. Not only is this not in the spirit of the measure (which is designed to assist those experiencing hardship), severe penalties can be applied to tax avoidance schemes or those found to be breaking the law. If someone recommends something like this that seems too good to be true, well, it probably is”, ATO Deputy Commissioner Will Day said.

Mr Day said the ATO will be conducting checks, “so if you’ve received a benefit as part of the COVID-19 stimulus measures and we discover you are ineligible, you can expect to hear from us. If you think this may apply to you, you should contact us or speak to your tax professional”. Penalties for fraud can include financial penalties and prosecution, and even imprisonment for the most serious cases.

The ATO’s key JobKeeper information has been updated to note that payments for childcare providers stop from 20 July 2020.

This follows the Government’s changes to transition certain approved providers of childcare services out of the JobKeeper scheme. The Government has instead decided to extend separate support to this sector by reintroducing the Child Care Subsidy and adding a Transition Payment as part of the Early Childhood Education and Care transition arrangements.

The changes mean that eligibility for JobKeeper payments ends from 20 July for:

  • employees of an approved provider of childcare services where those employees whose ordinary duties are that they are engaged principally in the operation of the childcare centre; and
  • eligible business participants where the business entity is an approved provider of a childcare service.

Childcare providers need to ensure that they do not claim JobKeeper for employees and eligible business participants who are no longer eligible. Likewise, childcare providers will not be reimbursed for payments made after JobKeeper Fortnight 8 (6 to 19 July 2020).

If you’ve purchased assets for your business, remember that you may be eligible to claim an immediate deduction in your 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 tax returns under the instant asset write-off, which was recently further expanded.

From 12 March to 31 December 2020 inclusive, the instant asset write-off threshold for each asset increased to $150,000 (up from $30,000) for business entities with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million).

To get it right, remember:

  • check if your business is eligible;
  • both new and secondhand assets can be claimed, as long as each asset costs less than $150,000;
  • assets must be first used or installed ready for use between 12 March and 30 June 2020 (to claim for the 2019–2020 year) or from 1 July to 31 December 2020 (to claim for the 2020–2021 year);
  • a car limit applies for passenger vehicles;
  • if the asset is for business and private use, only the business portion can be claimed;
  • you can claim a deduction for the balance of a small business pool if its value is less than $150,000 at the relevant date (before applying depreciation deductions); and
  • different eligibility criteria and thresholds apply to assets first used or installed ready for use before 12 March 2020.

If you’ve purchased assets for your business, remember that you may be eligible to claim an immediate deduction under the instant asset write-off, which was recently expanded.

From 12 March to 30 June 2020 inclusive, the instant asset write-off threshold for each asset increased to $150,000 (up from $30,000) for business entities with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million).

To get it right, remember:

  • check if your business is eligible;
  • both new and secondhand assets can be claimed, as long as each asset costs less than $150,000;
  • assets must be first used or installed ready for use between 12 March and 30 June 2020;
  • a car limit applies for passenger vehicles;
  • if the asset is for business and private use, only the business portion can be claimed;
  • you can claim a deduction for the balance of a small business pool if its value is less than $150,000 at 30 June 2020 (before applying depreciation deductions); and
  • different eligibility criteria and thresholds apply to assets first used or installed ready for use before 12 March 2020.

The proposed $10,000 economy-wide cash payment limit has understandably elicited some confusion. While the proposal is not yet law, once enacted it will be a criminal offence for certain entities to make or accept cash payments of $10,000 or more. This is intended to combat the use of cash in black economy activities.

Chief among the questions is to what extent personal transactions will be included in the limit. The government has now released information outlining the circumstances in which the limit would not apply in relation to personal or private transactions.

Among other categories, payments relating to personal or private transactions (excluding transactions involving real property) would not be subject to the limit. Cash gifts to family members (as long as they are not donations to regulated entities such as charities) and inheritances are likely to be exempt. In other words, it is unlikely you will be prosecuted if you give your family members a lavish cash wedding gift or help your kids with a house deposit that happens to be over $10,000.

However, if you occasionally sell private assets (eg a used car) you may need to be careful and take reasonable steps to ascertain whether the other party is acting in the course of an enterprise.

The ATO has recently expanded its Tax Avoidance Taskforce activity to include top 500 private groups, high wealth private groups, and medium and emerging private groups.

The Tax Avoidance Taskforce was originally conceived in 2016 to ensure that multinational enterprises, large public and private business pay the right amount of tax. The Taskforce’s main role is to investigate what the ATO considers aggressive tax avoidance arrangements, including profit shifting.

As a part of the expansion, the ATO now has three “programs” for private groups under the Taskforce’s umbrella: top 500 private groups, high wealth private groups, and medium and emerging private groups. The expansion that will perhaps affect the most taxpayers will be the program covering medium and emerging private groups. This program includes private groups linked to Australian resident individuals who, together with their associates, control wealth between $5 million and $50 million, and businesses with an annual turnover of more than $10 million that are not public or foreign owned and are not linked to a high wealth private group. The ATO estimates this will cover around 97% of the total private group population.

CGT concessions allow you to reduce – or in some cases, completely eliminate – the capital gain from the sale of a business asset, whether it’s held directly by your business entity or in another related structure.

What’s more, the concessions also allow you to make extra super contributions – sometimes up to $1,515,000 – in connection with the sale of business assets. This is an attractive opportunity for many small business owners heading for retirement, especially given the restrictive annual contributions caps that usually apply.

There are various concessions available, each with their own eligibility rules. There are two basic conditions you must meet before you can access any of the concessions. The first requirement tests whether your business is “small” enough to qualify. There are two alternative tests: a turnover test and a net assets test. The second major requirement is that the capital gain must arise from the sale (or other CGT event) of an “active” asset.