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The ATO has announced it will run a new data-matching program to collect property management data for the 2018–2019 to 2022–2023 financial years, and will extend the existing rental bond data-matching program through to 30 June 2023.

Each year the ATO conducts reviews of a random sample of tax returns to calculate the difference between the amount of tax it has collected and the amount that should have been collected – this is known as a “tax gap”. For the 2017–2018 year the ATO estimated a net tax gap of 5.6% ($8.3 billion) for individual taxpayers, with rentals making up 18% of the gap amount. The new and extended data-matching programs are intended to address this gap, making sure that property owners are reporting their rental income correctly and meeting their related tax obligations.

The information will include property owner identification details, addresses, email addresses, contact numbers, bank account details, and business contact names and ABNs (if applicable).

Rental property details will include addresses, dates that properties were first available for rent, periods and dates of leases, rental bonds details, rent amounts and periods, dwelling types, numbers of bedrooms, rental income categories and amounts, rental expense categories, rental expense amounts and net rent amounts. The programs will also obtain details of the property managers involved.

Tip: If you’re not sure whether you’ve included the right amount of rental income in your return, we can help you get on the front foot with the ATO and lodge an amendment if necessary.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has announced that it will extend the deadline to lodge financial reports for listed and unlisted entities by one month for balance dates from 23 June to 7 July 2021 (inclusive). ASIC said the extension will help alleviate pressure on resources for the audits of smaller entities and provide adequate time for the completion of the audit process, taking into account the challenges presented by COVID-19 conditions. This relief will not apply to registered foreign companies.

ASIC will also extend its “no-action” position for public companies to hold their annual general meetings (AGMs) from within five months to within seven months after the end of financial years that end up to 7 July 2021.

The extensions don’t apply for reporting for balance dates from 8 January 2021 to 22 June 2021, as ASIC doesn’t consider there to be a general lack of resources to meet financial reporting and audit obligations. However, the regulator has said it will consider relief on a case-by-case basis.

The ATO has recently announced it’s keeping an eye out for areas of concern in relation to JobKeeper, including what may constitute “fraudulent behaviour”.

It is paying special attention to situations where employers may have used the JobKeeper scheme in ways that avoided paying employees their full and rightful entitlements.

Businesses are being examined where the ATO is concerned they may have:

  • made claims for employees without a nomination notice or have not paid their employees the correct JobKeeper amount (before tax);
  • made claims for employees where there is no history of an employment relationship;
  • amended their prior business activity statements to increase sales in order to meet the turnover test; or
  • recorded an unexplained decline in turnover, followed by a significant increase.

 

Individuals are also being investigated where the ATO suspects they may have knowingly made multiple claims for themselves as employees or as eligible business participants, or made claims both as an employee and an eligible business participant.

Small employers with closely held payees have been exempt from reporting these payees through single touch payroll (STP) for the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 financial years. However, they must begin STP reporting from 1 July 2021.

Tip: STP is a payday reporting arrangement where employers need to send tax and superannuation information to the ATO directly from their payroll or accounting software each time they pay their employees.

For STP purposes, small employers are those with 19 or fewer employees.

A closely held payee is an individual who is directly related to the entity from which they receive a payment. For example:

  • family members of a family business;
  • directors or shareholders of a company; and
  • beneficiaries of a trust.

Small employers must continue to report information about all of their other employees (known as “arm’s length employees”) via STP on or before each pay day (the statutory due date). Small employers that only have closely held employees are not required to start STP reporting until 1 July 2021, and there’s no requirement to advise the ATO if you’re a small employer that only has closely held payees.

The ATO has now released details of the three options that small employers with closely held payees will have for STP reporting from 1 July 2021:

  • option 1: report actual payments through STP for each pay event;
  • option 2: report actual payments through STP quarterly; or
  • option 3: report a reasonable estimate through STP quarterly – although there are a range of details and steps to consider if you take this option.

Tip: If your business will need to lodge through STP soon, we can help you find an easy and cost-effective STP-enabled solution, or we can lodge on your behalf. Whatever you choose, remember that STP reports can’t be lodged through ATO online services and isn’t a label on your BAS, so early preparation is needed.

The ATO advises that the “shortcut” rate for claiming work-from-home running expenses has been extended again, in recognition that many employees and business owners are still required to work from home due to COVID-19. This shortcut deduction rate was previously extended to 31 December 2020, but will now be available until at least 30 June 2021.

Eligible employees and business owners therefore can choose to claim additional running expenses incurred between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021 at the rate of 80 cents per work hour, provided they keep a record (such as a timesheet or work logbook) of the number of hours worked from home during the period.

The expenses covered by the shortcut rate include lighting, heating, cooling and cleaning costs, electricity for electronic items used for work, the decline in value and repair of home office items such as furniture and furnishings in the area used for work, phone and internet expenses, computer consumables, stationery and the decline in value of a computer, laptop or similar device.

Tip: This shortcut rate will suit many people, but if you choose to use it for your additional work-from-home running expenses, you can’t also claim any further deductions for the same items. We can help you decide whether the shortcut rate is the best option for your situation.

Tax planning or tax avoidance – do you know the difference? Tax planning is a legitimate and legal way of arranging your financial affairs to keep your tax to a minimum, provided you make the arrangements within the intent of the law. Any tax minimisation schemes that are outside the spirit of the law are referred to as tax avoidance, and could attract the ATO’s attention.

The ATO has outlined some common features of tax avoidance schemes, and we can help you to steer clear of them. While it’s not always easy to identify these schemes, the old adage of “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” is a good rule of thumb.

Tax avoidance schemes range from mass-marketed arrangements advertised to the public, to individualised arrangements offered directly to experienced investors. Other schemes exploit the social/environmental conscience of people or their generosity. As different as these schemes are, the common threads involve promises of reducing taxable income, increasing deductions, increasing rebates or entire avoidance of tax and other obligations.

Schemes may include complex transactions or distort the way funds are used in order to avoid tax or other obligations. They may also incorrectly classify revenue as capital, exploit concessional tax rates, or inappropriately move funds through several entities including trusts to avoid or minimise payable tax.

Currently, the ATO has its eyes on retirement planning schemes, private company profit extraction and certain problematic financial products.

Tip: If you’ve come across something that seems too good to be true, or you’re considering an investment or arrangement, we can help you decipher whether it could constitute a tax avoidance scheme. Don’t risk a penalty – contact us today.

The ATO has advised that it will not apply a penalty for self managed super fund (SMSF) trustees that have difficulty obtaining evidence to support market valuations of assets due to COVID-19.

SMSF trustees are required to provide objective and supportable evidence to their auditor each year to establish that assets of the fund are valued at market value.

During the 2020 and 2021 financial years, the ATO will not apply a penalty if it is satisfied that the difficulty in obtaining valuation evidence is due to COVID-19. Instead, the ATO will send the SMSF trustee a letter advising them to ensure they comply with the ATO’s valuation guidelines and have supporting valuation evidence by the time of their next audit if possible. However, the ATO warns that repeated contraventions of the valuation evidence requirements could lead to future penalties.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has published new guidance on the interaction between JobKeeper payments and satisfying the “work test” for the purpose of voluntary superannuation contributions.

Where an individual is aged 67–74 and is stood down from their employment due to the impacts of COVID-19 but is in receipt of the JobKeeper payment, APRA says a super fund trustee can accept a personal contribution from that individual under the super “work test” rules. APRA’s view is that where an employer is receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy for an individual, registrable superannuation entity (RSE) licensees should consider the individual to be “gainfully employed” for the purposes of the “work test”, even if that individual has been fully stood down and is not actually performing work. In APRA’s view, this is appropriate because the individual is still employed and is obtaining a valuable benefit from their employer.

The ATO has reminded businesses impacted by COVID-19 that they have a range of tax options to consider, including claiming a deduction for any losses. And for businesses finding it difficult to estimate income for the purposes of PAYG instalments, the ATO will not apply penalties or interest for excessive variations where businesses make a “best attempt” to estimate their end-of-year tax.

Tip: If you need additional time or support to get your tax return in order or work out what’s next for your business, we can help. Contact us, or phone the ATO on 1800 806 218.

Tax losses

Sole traders and individual partners in a partnership who meet certain conditions can offset current year losses against other assessable income (such as salary or investment income) in the same income year. Otherwise, the loss can be deferred or carried forward and offset in a future year when the business next makes a profit. Businesses set up under a company structure that have made a tax loss in a current year can generally carry forward that loss for as long as they want. Of course, it’s crucial to keep proper records when claiming a deduction for losses.

Closing a small business

The ATO has acknowledged that some businesses may need to close their doors – either temporarily or permanently – due to COVID-19, particularly in Victoria. It calls on such businesses to “do their best to keep up with tax and super obligations”.

If a business is forced to close permanently as a result of COVID-19, or for any other reason, it must still lodge any outstanding activity statements and instalment notices, make GST adjustments on the final activity statement and lodge final tax returns. This will enable the ATO to finalise the tax account and issue any refunds that might be owed.

An additional category for alternative “decline in turnover” tests is now available for the purposes of the revised JobKeeper payment system (which commenced on 28 September 2020) for entities that temporarily ceased trading for some or all of the relevant comparative period.

Under the revised system, an entity must have had an actual decline in its turnover for the applicable quarter relative to the same quarter in 2019. This generally involves making a one-to-one comparison of the 2020 numbers to those in the corresponding period in 2019, to see if it exceeds the 15%, 30% or 50% decline threshold (depending the type of entity).

Alternative tests can only be used if there is not an “appropriate relevant comparison period” in 2019, and four requirements must be satisfied for an entity to use the alternative tests for the new “temporary cessation of business” category. That is, in the comparison period:

  • the entity’s business had temporarily ceased trading due to an event or circumstance outside the ordinary course of the entity’s business;
  • trading temporarily ceased for a week or more;
  • some or all of the relevant comparison period occurred during the time in which the entity’s business had temporarily ceased trading; and
  • the entity’s business resumed trading before 28 September 2020.

Tip: If your business doesn’t meet the requirements for the temporary cessation category, you may still be eligible to apply alternative tests under other categories. Contact us to find out more.