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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.

ATO has refunded $10 billion so far

The ATO says that $10 billion has been refunded to Australian taxpayers so far this tax time, an increase of over $2 billion from the same time last year, with most returns processed in under two weeks. The ATO aims
to process returns as soon as possible, and has announced that over four million refunds have already been sent out, compared to over three million refunds issued this time last year.

TIP: If you haven’t lodged your tax return yet, or you’re waiting on information about a refund or tax debt, we can help – contact us to find out more.

ATO watching for undisclosed foreign income

The ATO has reminded Australians who receive any foreign income from investments, family members or working overseas to make sure they have reported it this tax time.

New international data-sharing agreements allow the ATO to track money across borders and identify people who aren’t meeting their obligations. Under the new Common Reporting Standard (CRS), the ATO has shared data on financial account information with over 65 tax jurisdictions across the globe. This includes information on account holders, balances, interest and dividend payments, proceeds from the sale of assets, and other income.

Tip: If you’re an Australian resident for tax purposes, you are taxed on your worldwide income, so you must declare all of your foreign income no matter how small the amount.

Unusual claims disallowed

The ATO has published information about some of the most unusual claims it has disallowed. Around 700,000 Australians have claimed almost $2 billion of “other” expenses, including non-allowable items such as child care and even Lego sets.

Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat says a systematic review of claims found and disallowed some very unusual expenses. “A couple of taxpayers claimed dental expenses, believing a nice smile was essential to finding a job, and was therefore deductible. It isn’t!”

Tip: The “other” deductions section of your tax return is for expenses incurred in earning income that don’t appear elsewhere on the return – such as income protection and sickness insurance premiums.

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.

For businesses, taxi travel by an employee is an exempt benefit if the travel is a single trip beginning or ending at the employee’s place of work. The ATO says taxi travel can also be an exempt benefit if it is a result of sickness or injury.

For Not-For-Profits, depending on the type of NFP organisation, certain benefits they provide to employees may receive concessional treatment from FBT. However, some benefits may be exempt from FBT altogether.

The ATO has released an employees guide for work expenses to help employees decide whether their expenses are deductible, and what records they need to keep to substantiate them. The Guide says that not all expenses associated with employment are deductible and also debunks some myths about work expense deductions.

The ATO has advised tax agents that it is currently emailing Single Touch Payroll (STP) enabled employers who have either ceased reporting for over 45 days; or have submitted employees under multiple payroll or BMS IDs. Some of these businesses may be tax agent clients. These reporting irregularities may cause their employees to see incorrect, incomplete or multiple entries in their income statements.

The ATO announced on 5 July 2019 that it is implementing the necessary system changes so taxpayers that have already lodged their 2018-19 tax returns will receive any increase to the low and middle income tax offset (LMITO) they are entitled to. Any tax refund will be deposited in the taxpayers nominated bank account.

The amount of the offset taxpayers may be entitled to, and the amount of any refund, will differ for everyone depending on individual circumstances such as income level and how much tax was paid throughout the year.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019 fully implements the personal tax cuts measures announced in this year’s 2019-20 Federal Budget. Starting immediately, low and middle income earners with an income up to $126,000 will receive up to $1,080 in low and middle income tax offset (LMITO), or $2,160 for dual income couples, with the increased tax relief to apply from the 2018-19 income year.

As a result of the amendments, the Treasurer said around 94% of Australian taxpayers are projected to face a marginal tax rate of 30% or less in 2024-25.