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In good news for trustees of self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) and after much community consultation, transfer balance account event-based reporting (TBAR) will soon be streamlined for convenience.

The TBAR allows the ATO to record and track an individual’s balance for both their transfer balance cap and total superannuation balance. That information is not extracted from the SMSF annual return, or any information shared through a rollover. Under the existing framework, an SMSF must report common events that affect a member’s transfer balance account when they happen.

An SMSF may be required to report earlier if a member has exceeded their personal transfer balance cap. For individuals who start their first retirement phase income stream on or after 1 July 2021, their personal transfer balance cap will be $1.7 million.

From 1 July 2023, the TBAR will be streamlined by removing the total super balance threshold and requiring all SMSFs to report 28 days after the end of the quarter in which a reportable event occurred. Some obligations to report earlier will continue.

Under the new streamlined framework, trustees of SMSFs will still be allowed to report transfer account balance events more frequently if they wish. This may be beneficial in instances where members are close to their personal transfer balance cap, and will avoid excess transfer balance determinations.

McGregor West takes care of your TBAR reporting requirements for you as part of our SMSF service offerings.

The self managed superannuation fund (SMSF) space has always been a complex area for trustees, beneficiaries and advisers. In the past few years, the ATO has made many concessions and has put compliance action on hold because of COVID-19. However, for the 2022–2023 year and beyond it’s looking to scale up its compliance program as a reaction to indicators of heightened risk in the sector.

Recent statistics indicate that there are around 600,000 SMSFs, with over 1.1 million members holding an estimated total asset value of $876 billion.

While the ATO’s main compliance focus will always be on any activity that puts retirement savings at risk or inappropriately takes advantage of the concessional tax environment, in the near-term it will focus specifically on illegal early release of super in all forms. This is when individuals access their retirement savings before a condition of release has been met. This type of activity is currently on the rise.

One of the big red flags that the ATO looks out for is when individuals establish their SMSF and initiate a rollover but then fail to lodge a corresponding first annual return. This is a good predictor that an illegal early release has occurred, either as a result of deliberate behaviour or participation in a scheme.

New registrants that do not lodge will now be targeted with a “three strikes and you’re out” compliance campaign. The ATO will first issue a “blue letter” that encourages the SMSF trustees to take immediate action to lodge, offering a pathway for those who need support. If no response is received from the blue letter, the ATO will follow up with an “amber letter” warning trustees of the consequences of failing to lodge their return. Finally, if no response is received from the amber letter, a final warning or “red letter” will be issued advising the trustees that the ATO has commenced the disqualification process and will consider other enforcement action.

The ATO issued its first and second batches of “red letters” to funds in early April and June 2022.

As part of our compliance services, McGregor West will identify compliance issues such as the above, and alert Trustees to potential ‘red flags’.

As a part of the ATO’s extensive information-gathering powers, it can compel taxpayers to furnish or produce certain documents. However, information and documents where the underlying communication is privileged do not have to be provided. Legal professional privilege (LPP) operates as an immunity from any obligation to disclose documents created by these powers.

Recently, the ATO released a protocol which contains its recommended approach for identifying communications covered by LPP and making LPP claims. While it’s voluntary to follow the steps outlined, it’s more likely that the ATO will accept LPP claims without further enquiries if the protocol is followed.

The protocol applies to both legal practitioners and non-legal practitioners and all LPP claims, regardless of the firm or business structure within which the service or engagement is provided.

The protocol itself contains three steps for taxpayers who receive an information-gathering notice and wish to make an LPP claim:

  • assessing the full situation and all of the communications involved;
  • explaining the basis of the LPP claim; and
  • advising the ATO how the LPP claim was approached.

Tip: Legal professional privilege is a highly contested area and whether a document or information is subject to LPP can depend on the facts of your individual case. If you’ve been issued a notice under the ATO’s formal information-gathering powers, we can save you time and help you work out which documents are subject to LPP under the new protocol.

With COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions in the rear-view mirrors of most of the country, the ATO is also beginning to resume ordinary compliance activity levels. One of the many areas it will be paying close attention to this tax time is “asset wash sales”.

Tip: An asset wash sale involves a person or business disposing of assets just before the end of the financial year. After a short period of time, they then reacquire the same or substantially similar assets. The ATO views these transactions as a form of tax avoidance.

Although there may be legitimate reasons for selling and then reacquiring the same or substantially similar assets, a wash sale is different from normal buying and selling as it is usually undertaken for the artificial purpose of generating a tax benefit – such as a capital loss – in the current financial year.

The assets involved in wash sales are not necessarily traditional assets such as shares. Taxpayers could also be disposing of crypto-assets and reacquiring them later as a part of a wash sale. With the price of many crypto-assets at a low ebb, people looking to rid themselves of these assets need to be careful they do not inadvertently attract the attention of the ATO.

To stamp out this behaviour this tax time, the ATO will use analytics to identify wash sales through data from various share registries and crypto-asset exchanges. Where the system identifies a wash sale, the capital loss claimed by the taxpayer in their tax return will be rejected. The Commissioner of Taxation may then make a determination to adjust their tax situation, and compliance action and additional tax, interest and penalties may be applied.

Small businesses are again in the ATO’s sights this tax time, with a focus on stamping out deductions not related to business income, overclaiming of expenses, omission of business income and insufficient records to substantiate claims.

The ATO receives external data from a variety of sources, including the taxable payments reporting system for certain industries. This data can be used to data-match information included in tax returns to ensure completeness and accuracy.

Businesses can only claim what they are entitled to, and the claiming method may differ depending on the type of business structure. For example, sole traders need to claim deductions in their individual tax return in the “Business and professional items” schedule, while partnerships, trusts, and companies need to claim deductions in their respective tax returns.

The end of financial year is fast approaching, and people with excess savings or who have received a bonus since the beginning of the year may want to use the extra cash to grow their super. One of the easiest ways to grow your super and get a tax deduction at the same time is to make a personal superannuation contribution.

If you’re considering making a personal contribution to your super and would like to claim a deduction, it’s important to remember to give the required notice to your super fund before making a claim in your tax return. There have been recent cases of taxpayers being denied deductions for personal super contributions where they didn’t provide the required notice to a super fund in time.

A deduction for a personal contribution can only be claimed if the income earned came from your salary and wages, a personal business, investments, government pensions or allowances, superannuation, partnership or trust distributions, or a foreign source.

If you’re aged between 67 and 74 years, you must also meet the work test or satisfy the work test exemption criteria to be able to claim a deduction for any personal contributions made. There are also contribution deduction rules for people aged 75 years or older.

The ATO provides a standard form for giving the required notice to super funds. Many super funds also have their own online forms which can be lodged easily. Your fund will then send a written acknowledgment to the ATO indicating that it’s received a valid notice from you. Only then can you claim the deduction in your tax return.

From 1 July 2019, new rules were introduced that allow eligible people to claim tax deductions for the unused portion of their super concessional contributions caps from prior years. This brings tax deductions into the current financial year that would have otherwise been in excess of the ordinary annual concessional contribution cap.

A concessional contribution is defined as a contribution to a super fund before tax. This type of contribution is taxed at a flat rate of 15% in your fund.

Concessional contributions can come from several sources: from your employer, from pre-tax salary sacrificed contributions you may elect to make through your employer, and from contributions you make personally and claim a tax deduction. The combined total of these contributions counts towards your concessional contribution cap.

The 2022 financial year concessional contribution cap is $27,500, an increase from the previous financial year’s $25,000.

The new rules give allow you to look back on each financial year from 1 July 2018 to calculate the “unused” portion of your concessional contributions cap in each financial year. You can then “carry forward” and, when desired, “catch up” and claim the unused portion in a later financial year, which can achieve a better tax outcome for that financial year, and maximise the amount you’re able to contribute to super.

You can only claim unused super contributions from previous years if your total super balance is less than $500,000 at 30 June in the financial year before the year when you make catch-up contributions, and unused concessional cap amounts can only be carried forward for a maximum of five years.

What are the benefits?

Making a catch-up contribution is an easy way to boost your super balance at a time when you have the financial resources to do so, while offering significant tax benefits. For example:

  • Your work patterns and income may fluctuate from year to year. A tax deduction for super contributions may not be needed in a low income year, but may be useful the following financial year if your income is significantly higher.
  • Restricted cash flow may prevent you from making super contributions, but you can make catch-up contributions when your situation improves.
  • Your usual income may mean there’s no real tax advantage in making super contributions, but if you sell a large capital asset like shares or a rental property, you could have a significant capital gain. You could then make a catch-up super contribution to reduce your taxable income in the year of that sale.

TIP: Concessional superannuation contributions can be a complex area. It’s best to seek professional advice so you can implement the right strategies for your circumstances and maximise your super savings.

One of the new Federal Government’s policies, announced as part of its election platform, is to make certain electric vehicles exempt from import tariffs, and from the fringe benefits tax (FBT) imposed on electric cars that are provided through work for private use. These exemptions would apply to vehicles valued below the threshold for the luxury car tax for low-emission vehicles.

Under the current statutory formula for valuing car fringe benefits, electric cars are arguably at a disadvantage compared to fossil fuel-consuming cars, but the FBT exemption proposal would tilt the balance very much back in favour of the electric car.

For example, an employee on a salary of $150,000 who salary-packages a $60,000 electric car with annual running costs (including lease payments) of $17,000 net of GST could expect to be around $4,500 better off annually after tax, due to the change in FBT treatment.

The exemption from the 5% import tariff should also make certain electric vehicles cheaper for Australian consumers and businesses.

The government has indicated that the electric car discount policy would be reviewed after three years, taking account of developments in the adoption of electric cars by that time.

Tax-related debts are sometimes ignored by those of us struggling with inflationary pressures and sky-high energy prices. However, this may not be the wisest course of action, since these disregarded debts are likely to continue to accumulate general interest charges.

Generally, the ATO won’t pursue a debt if it’s satisfied that the debt is uneconomic or irrecoverable at law. However, in certain instances, such as where a taxpayer has a significant history of non-compliance or where there are public interest considerations, the ATO may pursue a debt even though it is uneconomical.

A simpler way of dealing with a tax debt, particularly if you’re experiencing hardship, is to apply to the ATO to be released from it.

You can make a formal application and may be released from a tax debt if you’re experiencing “serious hardship”. For the ATO, this means judging that the payment of your tax liability would result in you being left without the means to afford basics such as food, clothing, medical supplies, accommodation or reasonable education.

To decide whether serious hardship exists, the ATO will use an income/outgoings test and an assets/liabilities test.

The income/outgoings test assesses your capacity to meet your tax liabilities from your current income, taking into account your household income and expenditure. The assets/liabilities test looks at what equity or assets you may have access to, as an indication of whether you can pay – for example, your residential property, motor vehicles, life insurance or annuity entitlements, collections, furniture and household goods, or tools of trade.

The ATO will also consider a range of other relevant factors, depending on your particular circumstances.

As the end of another tax year approaches, the ATO is reminding businesses that it’s time to:

  • see if there are tax-deductible items your business needs before 30 June;
  • check if there are any concessions your business can access before 30 June;
  • think about your recordkeeping habits this past year – should anything be done differently in future?

If your business has employees, the Single Touch Payroll (STP) information for 2021–2022 must be finalised by 14 July. Remember to let your employees know when the information’s finalised, so they can lodge their income tax returns.

Deductions

Increasing your business’s tax deductions will lead to a lower tax bill. For example, you may be able to bring forward expenditure from the next tax year to the current tax year, or to deduct the full cost of a depreciating asset under the temporary full expensing rules. An immediate deduction is also available for start-up costs and certain prepaid expenses.

If your business is in an industry that requires physical contact with customers, you can claim deductions for expenses related to COVID-19 safety. This includes hand sanitiser, sneeze or cough guards, other personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

Charitable donations are another good way to increase your deductions. Don’t forget to keep donation receipts!

The ATO has three golden rules for a valid business deduction:

  • The expense must have been for business, not private, use.
  • If the expense is for a mix of business and private use, only the business portion can be claimed as a deduction.
  • You must have records to prove your business incurred the expense.

For example, if you buy a laptop and only use it for your business, you can claim a deduction for the full purchase price. However, if the laptop is used 50% of the time for your business and 50% of the time for private use, only 50% of the purchase price can be claimed as a business deduction.

Recordkeeping

Records explain the tax and super-related transactions conducted by a business. Businesses are legally required to keep records of all transactions relating to their tax and superannuation affairs as they start, run, sell, change or close the business, specifically:

  • any documents related to the business’s income and expenses;
  • any documents containing details of any election, choice, estimate, determination or calculation made for the business’s tax and super affairs, including how any estimate, determination or calculation was made.

Tip: Make sure you understand what records are needed for your business, and aim to make accurate and complete recordkeeping practices a part of your daily business activities. Talk to us about what records your business needs to keep, for how long, and what we can do to help!

With the election campaign finally over and a new government sworn in, many Australians will be wondering what a Labor government is likely to tackle over the next term. A helpful starting point is Labor’s election promises, which provide a useful indication of possible areas that will be targeted over the next few years.

One of the big tax policies that Labor took to the election was the party’s commitment to ensuring that multinationals pay their fair share of tax in Australia.

During the election campaign, Labor also promised to reduce the cost of child care by lifting the maximum child care subsidy rate to 90% for those with a first child in care and retaining the higher child care subsidy rates for second and additional children in care. For those with school-aged children, the promise of the increased child care subsidy will be extended to outside school hours care.

Labor also made announcements which will affect individuals and businesses, both big and small. These include more security for gig economy workers, making wage theft illegal, and training more apprentices.

Employers should take note that the ATO is now back to its pre-COVID-19 setting in relation to late or unpaid superannuation guarantee (SG) amounts. Firmer SG-related related recovery actions that were suspended during the pandemic have now recommenced, and the ATO will prioritise engaging with taxpayers that have SG debts, irrespective of the debt value.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) recently issued a report on the results of an audit on the effectiveness of ATO activities in addressing SG non-compliance. While the ANAO notes that the SG system operates largely without regulatory intervention, because employers make contributions directly to super funds or through clearing houses, the ATO does have a role as the regulator to encourage voluntary compliance and enforce penalties for non-compliance.

Overall, the ANAO report found that the ATO activities have been only partly effective. The report notes that while there is some evidence that the ATO’s compliance activities have improved employer compliance, the extent of improvement couldn’t be reliably assessed.

Among other things, the ANAO recommends that the ATO maximise the benefit to employees’ super funds by making more use of its enforcement and debt recovery powers, and consider the merits of incorporating debtors that hold the majority of debt into its prioritisation of debt recovery actions.

The ATO has responded to say that while it paused many of its firmer SG related recovery actions through the COVID-19 pandemic, those have now recommenced, and its focus will generally be on taxpayers with higher debts, although it will be prioritising taxpayers with SG debts overall, irrespective of the debt value.

The ATO says it’s already begun implementing a preventative compliance strategy using data sources such as Single Touch Payroll (STP) and regular reporting from super funds. It will continue to investigate every complaint in relation to unpaid SG amounts, and take action where non-payment is identified. The actions available include imposing tax and super penalties, as well as recovering and back-paying unpaid super to employees. The ATO will also be increasing transparency of compliance activities and employer payment plans, so that affected employees can be aware when to expect super back-payments.

TIP: If you have issues with making super guarantee payments to your employees or would like to make a voluntary disclosure before a potential ATO audit, we can help. Contact us today.