News

ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan has announced the launch of “Better as Usual”, a new ATO program aimed at improving people’s experience with the tax system. The program will include four parts:

  • Whole-of-system experience: looking at the end-to-end experience to address people’s frustration at sometimes feeling like they have to start all over again when dealing with a new ATO area or staff member.
  • Quality of feedback loops: better understanding and documenting people’s past experiences and actions (eg mistakes versus evasion) to make better ATO decisions in the future.
  • Complex cases team: a dedicated team to work on the most complex cases, devoting the time and resources necessary to deal with complicated affairs that fall outside the ATO’s normal processes.
  • Procedural and cultural safeguards: established to reduce (and ultimately eliminate) any cases where ATO mistakes could have a severe impact on taxpayers.

New figures released by the ATO estimate that almost 90% of income tax from small businesses is paid voluntarily or with little intervention from the ATO.

“This shows that the vast majority of small businesses in the tax system are trying to do the right thing”, Deputy Commissioner Deborah Jenkins said. “Considering how much small businesses have on their plate, we’re grateful for the level of work they put in to get their tax right.”

The ATO estimates the 2015–2016 income tax gap for the small business sector to be approximately 12.5%, or $11.1 billion, with over $7 billion attributable to “black economy” behaviour.

Tip: Around 90% of small businesses use a registered tax professional to help them meet their obligations. Get in touch today to see how we can support you.

Lost super

As at July 2019, the ATO held 5.39 million super accounts worth $3.98 billion. It will aim to reunite $473 million with 485,000 fund members using the new Protecting Your Super measures.

Tip: You can find out about your lost or unclaimed super through ATO Online via myGov.

Pension cap indexation

The pension transfer balance cap (TBC) of $1.6 million could increase on 1 July 2020 or 1 July 2021, depending on movement in the consumer price index (CPI). The general TBC is indexed in increments of $100,000 when the indexation rate reaches prescribed figures (calculated using a formula set out in Australian tax law). Once indexation happens, there will no longer be a single TBC that applies to all super members with a retirement phase income stream. Instead, there could be a personal TBC for each member, depending on their individual situation and arrangements.

In its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook in 2016–2017, the government announced it would change the law to let the ATO report business tax debt information to credit reporting bureaus (CRBs) where a business consistently avoids engaging with the ATO to manage a tax debt.

Tip: The ATO can’t currently pass on this sort of information because Australian law contains strict confidentiality requirements for ATO-held taxpayer information.

The ATO has said it “recognises the important role businesses play in the Australian economy [but] when an entity avoids paying its tax debts it can have a significant impact on other businesses, employees, contractors and the wider community.” It has released a consultation paper to facilitate consultation between the ATO, businesses and CRBs.

If passed in its current form, the amended law would allow taxation officers to disclose information about business tax debts when certain conditions are met. A business would need to have debts of at least $100,000 overdue by more than 90 days, and have not effectively engaged with the ATO to manage that debt.

Cross-border recovery of tax debts

The ATO has also reissued Practice Statement Law Administration PS LA 2011/13 Cross border recovery of taxation debts. This statement outlines options available for the ATO to recover a tax debt where the debtor is outside Australia, and sets out how the ATO deals with requests from other countries for assistance in recovering tax debts owing to the other country.

From 1 July 2018, employers with more than 20 employees have been required to provide real-time reports to the ATO of salary and wage payments, super guarantee contributions, ordinary time earnings of employees and PAYG withholding amounts.

From 1 July 2019, this Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting system has extended to all employers.

The ATO is now writing to small employers who haven’t yet started reporting or applied for a deferral, to remind them of their STP obligations.

Tip: Small employers have until 30 September 2019 to start reporting or apply for extra time to get ready.

There will be no penalties for mistakes, or missed or late reports, for the first year, and employers experiencing hardship or who are in areas with intermittent or no internet connection will be able to access exemptions.

Taxation Determination TD 2019/11, issued on 3 July 2019, sets out the amounts the Commissioner treats as reasonable for the 2019-20 income year in relation to employee claims for overtime meal expenses; domestic travel expenses; and overseas travel expenses.

For employee truck drivers who receive a travel allowance and are required to sleep (take their major rest break) away from home, TD 2019/11 provides separate meal expense amounts for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, has announced that older Australians downsizing from their family homes have contributed $1 billion to their superannuation funds. The downsizer measure, which commenced on 1 July 2018, allows older Australians choosing to sell their home and downsize or move from homes that no longer meet their needs, to contribute the proceeds from the sale of their home into superannuation up to $300,000.

The ATO says it has now collected over $250 million in additional GST since the GST on low value goods measure began on 1 July 2018, outstripping forecasts by $180 million.

As businesses do not need to register unless they meet the A$75,000 GST turnover requirements, most small independent operators do not need to register and have not been affected by this measure.

The ATO said it will acquire overseas movement data from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) for  individuals with an existing HELP, VSL or TSL debt. The data matching program will be conducted for the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years.

Those living and working overseas with a Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), Vocational Education and Training Student Loan (VSL) and/or Trade Support Loans (TSL) are required to update their contact details and submit an overseas travel notification if they have an intention to, or already reside overseas, for 183 days or more in any 12 months; and lodge their worldwide income or a non-lodgment advice.