News

The ATO says it is reviewing arrangements involving property developers acquiring land from government entities, specifically where the developer provides development works to the government entity as payment for the land.

The ATO is concerned that some developers and government entities are not reporting the value of their supplies under these arrangements in a consistent manner, resulting in GST being underpaid.

The ATO has released an updated version of Practice Statement PS LA 2001/6, its guidance on calculating and substantiating home office running expenses and electronic device expenses that are claimed as tax deductions.

The basic principles have been amended to emphasise that you must actually incur the expenses you claim, and that there must be a real connection between your use of a home office or device and your income-producing work. On the other hand, the requirement that your income-producing use must be substantial – not merely incidental – has been removed.

There is new information on what type of evidence you need to be keep, and the cents per hour rate you can claim for eligible home office running expenses has increased from from 45 cents to 52 cents per hour, effective from 1 July 2018.

The Federal Government has asked the Board of Taxation to undertake a review of the tax treatment of “granny flat” arrangements, recommending potential changes that take into account the interactions between tax laws and the social security rules. This request for review is in response to the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission’s report Elder abuse: a national legal response.

Currently, homeowners may have to pay capital gains tax (CGT) where there is a formal agreement, for example, for an older parent to live with their child, either in the same dwelling or a separate granny flat. This may deter families from establishing a formal and legally enforceable agreement, leaving no protection of the rights of the older person if there is a breakdown in the informal agreement.

To help reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, including the tax burden, the government has allocated $1 million to set up 10 tax clinics across Australia under a trial program based on the Curtin University Tax Clinic.

Each clinic will receive up to $100,000 for 12 months to support unrepresented individual or small business taxpayers by providing general taxation advice and helping them with their tax obligations and reporting requirements. The clinics, through identifying issues and building greater understanding of the tax system in operation, are also designed to improve the interactions that small businesses and individual taxpayers have with the ATO.

The clinics will cover advice, representation, education and advocacy, and will offer students training in the profession the opportunity to work with taxpayers, under the direct supervision of qualified tax professionals.

Superannuation is often the most significant asset in a separated couple’s property pool, particularly for low-income households with few assets. Parties to family law proceedings are already legally required to disclose all of their assets to the court, including superannuation, but in practice parties may forget, or deliberately withhold, information about their super assets.

The Government has announced an electronic information-sharing mechanism to be established between the ATO and the Family Law Courts to allow superannuation assets held by relevant parties during family law proceedings to be identified swiftly and more accurately from 2020. This measure was included as part of a broader financial support package for women announced on in November.

The Government has announced that it will establish a $2 billion Australian Business Securitisation Fund and an Australian Business Growth Fund to provide longer-term equity funding for small businesses.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said some small businesses currently find it difficult to obtain finance on competitive terms unless it is secured against real estate. To overcome this, the proposed Australian Business Securitisation Fund will invest up to $2 billion in the securitisation market, providing additional funding to smaller banks and non-bank lenders to on-lend to small businesses on more competitive terms.

Although tax time 2018 is over, the ATO has warned taxpayers and their agents to remain on high alert for tax scams. Scammers are growing increasingly sophisticated and hope to exploit vulnerable people, often using aggressive tactics to swindle people out of their money or personal information.

Be wary if anyone contacts you demanding payment of a tax debt that you didn’t know about. The ATO will never ask you to make a payment into an ATM or using gift or pre-paid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards, and will never ask you to deposit funds into a personal bank account.

TIP: Scammers have been known to impersonate tax agents as well as ATO staff. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a phone call or other communication, you can call the ATO directly (toll free) on 1800 888 540.

In November 2018, the ATO issued a Super Guidance Note to provide people with general information about how the First Home Super Saver (FHSS) scheme works. The guidance note explains who is eligible to use the scheme, the kind of contributions that can be made and then released from super for buying a first home, how to apply to the ATO for a FHSS determination, and the requirement to purchase a house.

The ATO also issued guidance on the recently enacted downsizer superannuation contribution measures, which allow people aged over 65 to contribute the proceeds from selling certain property into their super.

Taxation Determination TD 2018/15, issued on 31 October 2018, considers the capital gains tax (CGT) consequences of granting an easement, profit à prendre or licence over an asset.

In the ATO’s view, CGT event D1 (creating contractual or other rights) rather than CGT event A1 (disposing of an asset) happens when any of the following rights are granted over an asset:

  • an easement, other than one arising by operation of the law;
  • a right to enter and remove a product or part of the soil from a taxpayer’s land (a profit à prendre); or
  • a licence (which does not confer the exclusive right to possess the land).

The Government has announced it will amend the super tax laws to address some minor but important issues, as part of the ongoing super reforms. The changes include:

  • deferring the start date for the comprehensive income product for retirement (CIPR) framework;
  • adjusting the definition of “life expectancy period” to account for leap years in calculations, and amending the pension transfer balance cap rules to provide credits and debits when these products are paid off in instalments;
  • adjusting the transfer balance cap valuation rules for defined benefit pensions to deal with certain pensions that are permanently reduced after an initial higher payment;
  • correcting a valuation error under the transfer balance cap rules for market-linked pensions where a pension is commuted and rolled over, or involved in a successor fund transfer;

making changes to ensure that death benefit rollovers involving insurance proceeds remain tax-free for dependants.