Tax

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.

If the current prolonged lockdowns and economic conditions have prompted you to sell or close your business, it’s important to be aware of the need to cancel the related GST registration within a certain period, unless your business is in a specific industry or performs a specific role.

TIP: Generally, you must cancel your GST registration within 21 days if you sell or close your business. If you change your business structure, for example from a partnership structure to a company structure, you must still cancel your GST registration within 21 days, unless the old entity carries on another business.

Cancelling a GST registration will also cancel other registrations such as fuel tax credits, luxury car tax and wine equalisation tax, even if the ABN is not cancelled. If you’re registered for PAYG, PAYG instalments or have FBT obligations, you will need to keep lodging business activity statements (BASs) even if you cancel your GST registration.

While you can usually cancel your GST registration from a date you choose (which should be the last day you want your previous business to be registered), you cannot cancel the registration retrospectively if you were still operating on a GST-registered basis after that date. Similarly, if you choose a cancellation date and then continue to operate on a GST-registered basis, you will not be able to cancel the registration.

When you cancel your business’s GST registration, you’ll need to lodge any outstanding BASs and complete a final GST activity statement which should include all sales, purchases and importations made in the final tax period. This should include the sale of the business, sale of any of business assets, adjustments for any assets held after cancellation, and/or any other adjustments. If you operate on a cash basis, all the sales and purchases that still need to be attributed from a previous tax period must be recorded.

If you’re cancelling a GST registration because the business has been restructured, sold or closed, the associated ABN must also be cancelled. If a company was not restructured, sold or closed, but simply no longer carries on a business, the GST registration must still be cancelled but there’s a choice to keep the ABN registration active.

This tax time, the ATO is again closely monitoring claims in relation to rental properties. The ATO has data-matching programs in place that collect detailed information about properties and owners for income years all the way from 2018–2019 to the 2022–2023. These programs expand the rental income data collected directly from third-party sources, including sharing economy platforms, rental bond authorities and property managers.

In the 2019–2020 financial year over 1.8 million taxpayers owned rental properties and claimed $38 billion in deductions. While most taxpayers do the right thing and are able to justify their claims, the ATO notes that over 70% of the 2019–2020 returns selected for review of rental information needed adjustments.

Tip: The ATO guidance makes it clear there’s no intention to penalise property owners whose rental income or property costs have been negatively affected by COVID-19. We can help you report the right information in your return this tax time.

The most common mistake that rental property owners and holiday homeowners make is not declaring all their income, and their capital gains from selling property.

Another area of concern involves claims for interest charges on personal loans. For example, if you take out a loan to buy a rental property and rent it out at market rates, the interest on the loan is deductible. However, if you redraw money from that mortgage for personal use (eg to buy a car or pay off the mortgage of the house you’re living in), then you can’t claim interest on that part of the loan.

You should also be careful when claiming deductions for capital works. While the cost of repairs for wear and tear are immediately deductible if you’re replacing or fixing an existing item (eg a broken toilet), the cost of upgrading the property or areas of the property is considered capital works and any deductions need to be spread over a number of years.

Have you made donations either through workplace giving or salary sacrifice arrangements with your employer? If so, and you want to claim a deduction in your tax return, it’s important to know that the tax treatment differs depending on which method you used to make the donation.

Essentially, workplace giving is a streamlined way for employees to regularly donate to charities and deductible gift recipients (DGRs). Usually a fixed portion of your salary is deducted from your pay each pay cycle and your employer forwards the donation on to the DGR. However, the amount of your gross salary remains the same and, depending on your employer’s payroll systems, the amount of tax you pay each pay period may or may not be reduced to take into account the donation.

On the other hand, under a typical salary sacrificing donation arrangement, you agree to have a portion of your salary donated to a DGR in return for your employer providing you with benefits of a similar value. Your gross salary is reduced by the salary sacrificed amount and the amount of tax you pay each pay period will be reduced. Your employer makes the donation to the DGR.

If you’ve made a donation under workplace giving, you can claim a deduction in your tax return. This is regardless of whether or not your employer reduced the amount of tax you paid each pay cycle to account for the amount of the donation. Your employer will give you a letter or email stating the total amount donated to DGRs, and the financial year in which the donations were made. Alternatively, your employer will provide the total amount of donations you made for the year in your tax time payment summary, under the “Workplace giving” section.

If you’ve made a donation to a DGR under a salary sacrifice arrangement, however, you’re not entitled to claim a deduction in your tax return, since it’s your employer that is making the donation to the DGR – not you.

If you make donations outside the workplace, remember that for a donation to be deductible it must be made to a DGR and truly be a gift or donation of $2 or more. You can still claim a deduction if you receive a token item in recognition of your donation (eg a lapel pin, wristband or sticker).

Tip: It’s important to note that many crowdfunding campaigns and sites are not run by DGRs, so any donations made to those causes should be carefully examined before claiming them – it’s likely they won’t be deductible.

If your business is experiencing financial difficulties due to the latest lockdowns, the ATO may be able to help by processing your tax return faster and expediting the release of any refund to you. To be eligible for priority processing, you’ll need to apply to the ATO and provide supporting documents (within four weeks of your submission) outlining your circumstances. “Financial difficulty” may include many situations such as disconnection of an essential service, pending legal action or repossession of a business vehicle.

Tip: Priority processing of a business tax return doesn’t guarantee a refund. If your business has outstanding tax or other debts with Australian government agencies, the credit from a return may be used to pay down those debts.

You can apply for ATO priority processing over the phone or through your tax professional after the lodgment of the tax return in question. Once the initial request for priority processing is received, you’ll be notified and contacted if more information is required. Processing will take more time for businesses that have lodged several years’ worth of income tax returns of amendments at the same time, and those that have unresolved tax debts.

Before lodging any priority processing request, check the progress of your return through online services, over the phone or by contacting us as your tax professional. If the return is in the final stages of processing, you may not need to lodge a priority processing request – the return will be finalised before the ATO has an opportunity to consider the request.

The ATO has a range of year-end tax time options to support taxpayers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters.

Income statements can be accessed in ATO online services through myGov accounts from 14 July.

The ATO also reminds those who may have lost, damaged or destroyed tax records due to natural disasters that some records can be accessed through their myGov account or their registered tax agent. For lost receipts, the ATO can accept “reasonable claims without evidence, so long as it’s not reasonably possible to access the original documents”. A justification may be required on how a claim is calculated.

Tip: Even if you can’t pay, it’s still important to lodge on time. We can help you understand your tax position and find the best support for you.

JobKeeper

Payments received as an employee will be automatically included in the employee’s income statement as either salary and wages or as an allowance. However, sole traders who received JobKeeper payment on behalf of their business will need to include the payment as assessable income for the business.

JobSeeker

Payments received will be automatically included in the tax return at the Government Payments and Allowances question from 14 July.

Stand down payments

Employees receiving one-off or regular payments from their employer after being temporarily stood down due to COVID-19 should expect to see those payments automatically included in their income statement as part of their tax return.

COVID-19 Disaster Payment

The Australian Government (through Services Australia) COVID-19 Disaster Payment for people affected by restrictions is taxable. Taxpayers are advised to ensure they include this income when lodging their returns.

Other assistance

The tax treatment of assistance payments can vary; the ATO website outlines how a range of disaster payments impact tax returns and includes guidance on COVID-19 payments, including the taxable pandemic leave disaster payment.

Early access to superannuation

Early access to superannuation under the special arrangements due to COVID-19 is tax free and does not need to be declared in tax returns.

Businesses that have accessed government economic stimulus measures need to take extra care this tax time. The ATO has announced that it will increase its scrutiny, conducting compliance activity on various economic stimulus measures introduced to help businesses recover from the effects of COVID-19. These stimulus measures include loss carry-back, temporary full expensing and accelerated depreciation.

While the ATO will continue to support businesses, most of whom are doing the right thing, it is looking at behaviour or development of schemes designed to deliberately exploit various stimulus measures. All taxpayers who’ve used the schemes should review their claims to ensure they are eligible, and that the amounts claimed are correct.

The loss carry-back measure allows eligible corporate entities to claim a refundable tax offset in their 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 company tax returns. In essence, companies get to “carry back” losses to earlier years in which there were income tax liabilities, which may result in a cash refund or a reduced tax liability.

The temporary full expensing measure allows immediately deducting the business portion of the cost of eligible new depreciating assets or improvements. Eligible businesses also have access to the accelerated depreciation measure for the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 income years, in which the cost of new depreciating assets can be deducted at an accelerated rate.

The ATO will review claims as part of its tax time compliance activities as well as actively identifying tax schemes and arrangements seeking to exploit those schemes. The ATO will actively pursue concerning or fraudulent behaviours, including imposing financial penalties, prosecution and imprisonment for the most serious of cases.

Tip: If your business used the various stimulus measures, we can help you confirm your eligibility and the amount of deduction claimed to avoid potentially costly compliance activity from the ATO down the line.

Over 600,000 Australian taxpayers have invested in crypto-assets in recent years. The ATO has recently issued a reminder that although many people may believe that gains made through cryptocurrency trading are tax-free, or only taxable when the holdings are cashed back into “real” Australian dollars, this is not the case – capital gains tax (CGT) does apply to crypto-asset gains or losses.

While it may appear that cryptocurrencies operate in an anonymous digital world, the ATO does closely track where these assets interact with the “real” financial world through data from banks, financial institutions and cryptocurrency online exchanges, following the money back to the taxpayer.

This year the ATO will write to around 100,000 people with cryptocurrency assets explaining their tax obligations and urging them to review their previously lodged returns. It also expects to prompt 300,000 taxpayers to report their cryptocurrency capital gains or losses as they lodge their 2021 tax returns.

Alongside these communications, the ATO is beginning a new data-matching program focused on crypto-asset transactions. It will acquire account identification and transaction data from cryptocurrency designated service providers for the 2021 financial year through to the 2023 financial year inclusively. The ATO estimates that the records relating to approximately 400,000 to 600,000 individuals will be obtained each financial year.

Is your private health insurance getting more expensive every year? Part of the reason could be that the government has once again introduced legislation to freeze the related income thresholds, which were originally meant to be indexed with inflation on 1 April each year.

While the government likes to blame the funds for hikes adding to the cost of living, the reality is that the income thresholds for the private health insurance incentive have also not been indexed to keep pace with inflation since the 2014–2015 income year, and the rebate percentage is staying the same this year as for the 2019–2020 income year.

Most people with private health insurance take the private health insurance incentive in the form of reduced premiums on their cover, although it can also be taken as a tax offset.

For individuals and families with private health insurance, the rebate adjustment factor remaining the same as in the 2019–2020 income year will translate into a real-life cut in the rebated amount.

For example, private health insurance for basic (Bronze) hospital cover plus extras for two adults and two young children ranges from $300 to $600 per month. At an average figure of $450 per month, the annual cost of the insurance would equate to roughly $5,400. Assuming the adults are under 65 and earning less than $180,000 as a family, the total rebate on the yearly premium would be $1,354.

If the family applies the rebate to reduce the premiums for their cover, instead of paying $450 per month they would pay $337 per month. However, because indexation is now frozen until 1 July 2023, if private health insurance prices increase next year in line with previous average increases, the same family earning the same amount of money will end up paying more for their private health insurance, because the rebate percentage will stay the same.

The average 2021 price increase for health insurance premiums was 2.74%, the lowest increase since 2001. However, most large insurers increased their prices more, with the maximum increase by a fund listed as 5.47%. According to some figures, health insurance premiums have increased by 57% in the last decade, while the consumer price index (CPI, or inflation) has only grown by 20%.

Extending from our example, if the average price of $450 per month increases by 5% for 2022, the family will pay $22 extra per month before the rebate is applied. The total annual premium would be $5,670 and the total rebate on the yearly premium would be $1,420.

Again, if the family applies the rebate to reduce their premiums, they will end up paying $354 per month in 2022, which equates to $17 a month extra for the same policy with the same benefits, while they are earning substantially the same amount due to stagnant wages growth.

 

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.