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The ATO’s key JobKeeper information has been updated to note that payments for childcare providers stop from 20 July 2020.

This follows the Government’s changes to transition certain approved providers of childcare services out of the JobKeeper scheme. The Government has instead decided to extend separate support to this sector by reintroducing the Child Care Subsidy and adding a Transition Payment as part of the Early Childhood Education and Care transition arrangements.

The changes mean that eligibility for JobKeeper payments ends from 20 July for:

  • employees of an approved provider of childcare services where those employees whose ordinary duties are that they are engaged principally in the operation of the childcare centre; and
  • eligible business participants where the business entity is an approved provider of a childcare service.

Childcare providers need to ensure that they do not claim JobKeeper for employees and eligible business participants who are no longer eligible. Likewise, childcare providers will not be reimbursed for payments made after JobKeeper Fortnight 8 (6 to 19 July 2020).

The Government has announced that JobKeeper payments will continue for six months beyond the legislated finish date of 27 September 2020, subject to revamped eligibility rules. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Government will introduce two tiers of payment rates as part of “JobKeeper 2.0” to better reflect the pre-COVID-19 incomes of recipients.

The extension of JobKeeper from 28 September 2020 until 28 March 2021 will also include a requirement for businesses and not-for-profits to demonstrate an actual decline (not merely predict a decline) in turnover under the existing turnover test. The JobKeeper payment will also be stepped down and paid at two rates. Importantly, the existing arrangements for those receiving JobKeeper payments continue until 27 September 2020.

The JobKeeper payment ($1,500 per fortnight until 27 September) is to be reduced and paid at two rates.

Period Rate per fortnight
(full)
Rate per fortnight
(<20 hours worked per week)
28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021 $1,200 $750
4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021 $1,000 $650

Businesses and not-for-profits will be required to nominate which payment rate they are claiming for each of their eligible employees (or business participants) and will have to meet a further decline in turnover test for each of the two periods of extension.

The eligibility rules for employees remain unchanged. Self-employed people will be eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment where they meet the relevant turnover test and are not a permanent employee of another employer.

If you’ve purchased assets for your business, remember that you may be eligible to claim an immediate deduction in your 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 tax returns under the instant asset write-off, which was recently further expanded.

From 12 March to 31 December 2020 inclusive, the instant asset write-off threshold for each asset increased to $150,000 (up from $30,000) for business entities with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million).

To get it right, remember:

  • check if your business is eligible;
  • both new and secondhand assets can be claimed, as long as each asset costs less than $150,000;
  • assets must be first used or installed ready for use between 12 March and 30 June 2020 (to claim for the 2019–2020 year) or from 1 July to 31 December 2020 (to claim for the 2020–2021 year);
  • a car limit applies for passenger vehicles;
  • if the asset is for business and private use, only the business portion can be claimed;
  • you can claim a deduction for the balance of a small business pool if its value is less than $150,000 at the relevant date (before applying depreciation deductions); and
  • different eligibility criteria and thresholds apply to assets first used or installed ready for use before 12 March 2020.

On 23 July 2020, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Economic and Fiscal Update July 2020, outlining the key COVID-19 policy response measures announced by the Government since March 2020. The Treasurer said the Government has provided economic support for workers, households and businesses of around $289 billion (14.6% of gross domestic product) in response to the pandemic.

The economic update incorporated the extension of JobKeeper payments for six months beyond its legislated finish date of 27 September 2020. The total cost of the extended JobKeeper regime is now estimated to be $85.7 billion over 2019–2020 and 2020–2021.

While the update did not include any major new financial support measure announcements, it brought information about a range of other changes, including that:

  • the Government will extend the application period to 31 December 2020 for the early release of superannuation (tax-free) by those dealing with adverse economic effects of COVID-19;
  • the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees (SAT) wage subsidy will be extended for a further six months to 31 March 2021, and expanded to include medium-sized businesses;
  • a full income tax exemption will be provided for Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed on Operation Orenda as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali;
  • the start date for the 2015–2016 Budget measure to allow the ATO to pay lost and unclaimed superannuation amounts directly to New Zealand KiwiSaver accounts has been revised; and
  • the start date of the proposal to prevent super funds from transferring new amounts to eligible rollover funds will be deferred by 12 months.

The Economic and Fiscal Update was never meant to be a “mini budget”, and the Federal Budget will be handed down on 6 October 2020. Mr Frydenberg has previously indicated that the Government is looking at the timing of the legislated personal income tax cuts and may consider bringing them forward as part of the Budget in October.

Tax time 2020 is here, but it’s likely to be anything but routine. Many individuals on reduced income or have increased deductions may be eager to lodge their income tax returns early to get their hands on a refund. However, the ATO has issued a warning against lodging too early, before all your income information becomes available. It’s important to remember that employers have until the end of July to electronically finalise your income statement, and the same timeframe applies for other information from banks, health funds and government agencies.

For most people, income statements have replaced payment summaries. So, instead of receiving a payment summary from each employer, your income statements will be finalised electronically and the information provided directly to the ATO. Your income statements can be accessed through myGov and the information is automatically included in your tax return if you use myTax.

Tip: Tax agents can also access this information, and we’re here to help you get your return right this year.

Although you may be eager to lodge as soon as possible, the ATO has warned against lodging too early, as much of the information on your income may not be confirmed until later. It’s generally important to wait until income statements are finalised before lodging a tax return to avoid either delays in processing or a tax bill later on. Your income statement will be marked “tax ready” on myGov when it’s finalised, and other information from banks, health funds and government agencies will be automatically inserted into your tax return when it’s ready towards the end of July.

If you still choose to lodge early, the ATO advises carefully reviewing any information that’s pre-filled so you can confirm it’s correct. When lodging early you’ll
also have to formally acknowledge that your employer(s) may later finalise income statements with different amounts, meaning you may need to amend your tax return and additional tax may apply.

Tax return tips

With the great disruptors of the Australian bushfires and the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the associated government economic stimulus measures, there are some key tax-related matters for everyone to be aware of this year.

The ATO has a range of approaches to support taxpayers through tax time 2020, especially where new circumstances mean you might be receiving a different type of income or be able to claim new deductions. The ATO’s Tax Time Essentials page (www.ato.gov.au/taxessentials) provides a one-stop-shop for the things that are a little different this year and how they impact tax returns.

People accessing super early as a part of the COVID-19 early release scheme can rest assured that this money will not form a part of their assessable income. To date, 1.98 million people have withdrawn an average of $7,475 from their super under the scheme.

Another key difference this year is the introduction of the optional simplified method for claiming work from home expense deductions. This method allows you to claim 80 cents for each hour you worked from home from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, to cover all deductible expenses. However, if you were working from home before 1 March 2020 or have documented actual expenses that work out to be more than 80 cents per hour you can still use the usual method to claim expenses related to working from home.

If you were unable to work from home and had to take leave or were temporarily stood down, if your employer made any kind of payment, either regular or one-off, those amounts will need to be declared as wages and salary on your return and tax will apply at your usual marginal rates. This applies regardless of whether the payments are funded by the government JobKeeper scheme.

If you’ve been made redundant or had your employment terminated, any payment you receive may consist of a tax-free portion and a concessionally taxed portion, which means that you could potentially pay less tax.

If you’ve purchased assets for your business, remember that you may be eligible to claim an immediate deduction under the instant asset write-off, which was recently expanded.

From 12 March to 30 June 2020 inclusive, the instant asset write-off threshold for each asset increased to $150,000 (up from $30,000) for business entities with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million).

To get it right, remember:

  • check if your business is eligible;
  • both new and secondhand assets can be claimed, as long as each asset costs less than $150,000;
  • assets must be first used or installed ready for use between 12 March and 30 June 2020;
  • a car limit applies for passenger vehicles;
  • if the asset is for business and private use, only the business portion can be claimed;
  • you can claim a deduction for the balance of a small business pool if its value is less than $150,000 at 30 June 2020 (before applying depreciation deductions); and
  • different eligibility criteria and thresholds apply to assets first used or installed ready for use before 12 March 2020.

If your business is one of many that received the initial cash flow boosts as a part of the government’s COVID-19 economic stimulus measures, prepare for more help coming your way. When you lodge your monthly or quarterly activity statements for June to September 2020, your business will receive additional cash flow boosts.

Generally, the additional amount will be equal to the total amount that you initially received and will be split evenly between the lodged activity statements. Quarterly payers will generally receive 50% of their total initial cash flow boost for each activity statement, while monthly payers will generally receive 25% of their total initial cash flow boost for each activity statement.

 

However, if you’ve made adjustments or revised your activity statements after lodgment, the amount of additional cash flow boost payments you receive may be different.

Remember, if you haven’t made payments to employees subject to withholding, you need to report zero for PAYG withholding when lodging your activity statements to ensure you receive the additional cash flow boost payments. It’s important that you don’t cancel PAYG withholding registration until you have received the additional cash flow boosts.

 

Last year, some 107,000 ATO impersonation scam calls were reported to the authorities. The real number is likely to be much higher, given that most of these type of calls go unreported. Scammers are increasingly using technological advances to appear more legitimate and nab unsuspecting victims.

One technique commonly used is “spoofing”, where scammers use software to mislead the caller ID technology on mobile phones and modern fixed line phones. Rather than transmitting the actual, typically overseas, phone number the call is coming from, the software “overstamps” it with another phone number. Commonly, the numbers used are widely publicised, such as the legitimate numbers used by the ATO.

Tip: The ATO has recently alerted the community to an SMS scam which claims that you’re due to receive a tax refund and asks you to click on a link. The ATO will never send an email or SMS asking people to access online services via a hyperlink.

Due to the prevalence of these scams and the large amount of money lost by individuals, Australian telcos, the ATO and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently collaborated on a three-month trial of technology to block scam calls appearing to originate from legitimate ATO phone numbers. Under the Scam Technology Project, participating telcos used software to identify calls which had been “overstamped” with specified ATO phone numbers and blocked them.

According to the government, the trial has been “highly successful” in blocking spoof calls from specified ATO numbers. While this blocking technology will not stop scammers randomly ringing Australians pretending to be from the ATO, it will stop specific ATO numbers appearing in the caller ID on the recipient’s phone, making the scam seem less convincing.

Tip: If you receive a call from someone who says they are from a government department, such as the ATO, but you’re not sure whether the call’s legitimate, the best course of action is to hang up and phone back on a widely publicised number from an official website or source.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has reminded companies, directors and officers faced with COVID-19 challenges to reflect on their fundamental duties to act with due care, skill and diligence, and to act in the best interests of the company.

ASIC Commissioner John Price has said the impacts of COVID-19 will require many companies to focus on and, most likely, recalibrate aspects of their corporate strategy, risk-management framework, and funding and capital management, among other things. This will require directors to reflect on which stakeholders’ interests need to be factored into decisions – including employees, investors and creditors. This is still the case even in areas where temporary relief has been provided from specific obligations under the law.

ASIC will maintain its enforcement activities and continue to investigate and take action where the public interest warrants it. Whether action is taken depends on the assessment of all relevant circumstances, including what a director or officer could reasonably have foreseen at the time of taking relevant decisions or incurring debts.

Processing of COVID-19 early release of superannuation applications has now resumed, with the ATO adding extra risk filters for all files that are delivered to super funds. These release requests had been temporarily paused between 8 May and 11 May 2020 so that the ATO could consider enhancements to its systems to help protect individuals’ personal data.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar recently reported that the ATO had identified a small number of third parties who could be susceptible to new techniques that criminals are using to try to steal personal data. The ATO has now worked with these third parties to help them make security enhancements, Mr Sukkar said, and the resulting additional risk filters will be applied on all files before they are delivered to super funds.

Tip: You should always be vigilant about how you store and share your personal information. Your myGov login details should never be shared with anyone, and you should be wary of phone calls, emails or text messages that request personal information. The ATO will never send you a direct link to log on to MyGov or other ATO online services.

Businesses (including sole traders and charities) must have suffered a “substantial decline” in turnover to qualify for the JobKeeper Payment of $1,500 per eligible employee. The basic decline in turnover test requires an entity to measure its projected GST turnover for a turnover test period in 2020 and compare this to the current GST turnover for a relevant comparison period in 2019. In particular, the entity needs to allocate supplies made, or likely to be made, to a turnover test period or relevant comparison period based on when the supply is made or is likely to be made, and to then determine the value of those supplies. Any shortfall is to be expressed as a percentage. If this equals or exceeds specified thresholds, the entity satisfies the decline in turnover test.

The ATO has recently issued Law Companion Ruling LCR 2020/1, a non-binding ruling that explains various aspects of the test and sets out practical compliance approaches for calculating turnover.

The ATO has extended the Single Touch Payroll (STP) exemption for small employers in relation to closely held payees from 1 July 2020 to 1 July 2021 in response to COVID-19.

tip: A “small employer” is one that has 19 or fewer employees, and a “closely held payee” is someone who is directly related to the business, company or trust that pays them, such as family members of a family business, directors or shareholders of a company or beneficiaries of a trust.

This STP exemption for closely held payees applies automatically and small employers do not need to apply to the ATO to access it. However, employers should keep records to support their decision to apply the concession.