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Div.7A benchmark interest rate

The benchmark interest rate for 2017/18, for the purposes of the deemed dividend provisions of Div.7A, is 5.30% (down from 5.40% for 2016/17).

Car depreciation limit for 2017/18

The car limit for the 2017/18 income year is $57,581 (the same as the previous year).  This amount limits depreciation deductions and GST input tax credits.

Example

In July 2017, Laura buys a car to which the car limit applies for $60,000 to use in carrying on her business.  As Laura started to hold the car in the 2017/18 financial year, in working out the car's depreciation for the 2017/18 income year, the cost of the car is reduced to $57,581.

Change to travel expenses for truck drivers

Editor: The ATO has released its latest taxation determination on reasonable travel expenses, and it includes a big change for employee truck drivers.

For the 2017/18 income year, the reasonable amount for travel expenses (excluding accommodation expenses, which must be substantiated with written evidence) of employee truck drivers who have received a travel allowance and who are required to sleep away from home is $55.30 per day (formerly a total of $97.40 per day for the 2016/17 year).

If an employee truck driver wants to claim more than the reasonable amount, the whole claim must be substantiated with written evidence, not just the amount in excess of the reasonable amount.

Editor: The determination includes an example of a truck driver who receives a travel allowance of $40 per day in 2017/18 ($8,000 over the full year for 100 2-day trips), but who spent $14,000 on meals on these trips. 

In terms of claiming deductions for these expenses, he can either claim $14,000 as a travel expense (if he kept all of his receipts for the food and drink he purchased and consumed when travelling), or just rely on the reasonable amount and claim $11,060 ($55.30 x 200 days) as a travel expense (in which case he will need to be able to show (amongst other things) that he typically spent $55 or more a day on food and drink when making a trip (for example, by reference to diary entries, bank records and receipts that he kept for some of the trips)).

Action to address super guarantee non-compliance

The Government will seek to legislate to close a loophole that could be used by unscrupulous employers to short-change employees who choose to make salary sacrificed contributions into their superannuation accounts.

The Government will introduce a Bill into Parliament this year that will ensure an individual's salary sacrificed contributions do not reduce their employer's superannuation guarantee obligation.

New threshold for capital gains withholding

From 1 July 2017, where a foreign resident disposes of Australian real property with a market value of $750,000 or above, the purchaser will be required to withhold 12.5% of the purchase price and pay it to the ATO unless the seller provides a variation (this is referred to as 'foreign resident capital gains withholding').

However, Australian resident vendors who dispose of Australian real property with a market value of $750,000 or above will need to apply for a clearance certificate from the ATO to ensure amounts are not withheld from their sale proceeds.

Therefore, all transactions involving real property with a market value of $750,000 or above will need the vendor and purchaser to consider if a clearance certificate is required.

Imposition of GST on 'low-value' foreign supplies

Parliament has passed legislation which applies GST to goods costing $1,000 or less supplied from offshore to Australian consumers from 1 July 2018.

Using a 'vendor collection model', the law will require overseas suppliers and online marketplaces (such as Amazon and eBay) with an Australian GST turnover of $75,000 or more to account for GST on sales of low value goods to consumers in Australia.

The deferred start date gives industry participants additional time to make system changes to implement the measure.

Editor: It should be noted that this is a separate measure to that which applies GST to digital goods and services purchased from offshore websites, as outlined above.

From 1 July 2017, GST applies to imported services and digital products from overseas, including: 

  • digital products such as streaming or downloading of movies, music, apps, games and e-books; and
  • services such as architectural, educational and legal.

Australian GST registered businesses will not be charged GST on their purchases from a non-resident supplier if they:

  • provide their ABN to the non-resident supplier; and
  • state they are registered for GST.

However, if Australians purchase imported services and digital products only for personal use, they should not provide their ABN.

The ATO is increasing attention, scrutiny and education on work-related expenses (WREs) this tax time.

Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said: "We have seen claims for clothing and laundry expenses increase around 20% over the last five years.  While this increase isn't a sign that all of these taxpayers are doing the wrong thing, it is giving us a reason to pay extra attention."

Ms Anderson said common mistakes the ATO has seen include people claiming ineligible clothing, claiming for something without having spent the money, and not being able to explain the basis for how the claim was calculated.

"I heard a story recently about a taxpayer purchasing everyday clothes who was told by the sales assistant that they could claim a deduction for the clothing if they also wore them to work," Ms Anderson said.

"This is not the case.  You can't claim a deduction for everyday clothing you bought to wear to work, even if your employer tells you to wear a certain colour or you have a dress code."

Ms Anderson said it is a myth that taxpayers can claim a standard deduction of $150 without spending money on appropriate clothing or laundry.  While record keeping requirements for laundry expenses are "relaxed" for claims up to this threshold, taxpayers do need to be able to show how they calculated their deduction.

The main message from the ATO was for taxpayers to remember to:

  • Declare all income;
  • Do not claim a deduction unless the money has actually been spent;
  • Do not claim a deduction for private expenses; and
  • Make sure that the appropriate records are kept to prove any claims.

The Tax Commissioner’s hit list

Every so often the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) sends a 'shot across the bow' warning taxpayers where their gaze is focussed. Last month in a speech to the National Press Club, Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan did exactly that. Part of the reason for this public outing is the gap between the amount of tax the ATO collects and the amount they think should be collected – a gap of well over 6% according to the Commissioner.

"The risks of non-compliance highlighted by our gap research so far in this market are mainly around deductions, particularly work related expenses. The results of our random audits and risk-based audits are showing many errors and over-claiming for work related expenses – from legitimate mistakes and carelessness through to recklessness and fraud. In 2014-15, more than $22 billion was claimed for work-related expenses. While each of the individual amounts over-claimed is relatively small, the sum and overall revenue impact for the population involved could be significant," the Commissioner stated.

Individuals – the hit list

·         Claims for work-related expenses that are unusually high relative to others across comparable industries and occupations;

·         Excessive rental property expenses;

·         Non-commercial rental income received for holiday homes;

·         Interest deductions claimed for the private proportion of loans; and

·         People who have registered for GST but are not actively carrying on a business.

While small in value, the ATO are also concerned about the amount of people who appear to be claiming deductions by default for items such as clothing expenses. In 2014–15, around 6.3 million people made a claim for $150 for work related clothing - the level you can claim without having to fully substantiate your expenses.  Those 6.3 million claims amounted to $1.8 billion in deductions.

Small business – the hit list

·         Those deliberately hiding income or avoiding their obligations by failing to register, keep records and/or lodge accurately;

·         Businesses that report outside of the small business benchmarks for their industry;

·         Employers not deducting and/or not sending PAYG withholding amounts from employee wages;

·         Employers not meeting their superannuation guarantee obligations;

·         Businesses registered for GST but not actively carrying on a business;

·         Failure to lodge activity statements; and

·         Incorrect and under reporting of sales.

If your business is outside of the ATO's benchmarks, it's important to be prepared to defend why this is the case. This does not mean that your business is doing anything wrong, but it increases the possibility that the ATO will look more closely at your business and seek an explanation.

Private groups – the hit list

·         Tax or economic performance not comparable to similar businesses;

·         A lack of transparency in tax affairs;

·         Large, one-off or unusual transactions, including transfer or shifting of wealth;

·         A history of aggressive tax planning;

·         Choosing not to comply or regularly taking controversial interpretations of the law;

·         Lifestyle not supported by after-tax income;

·         Treating private assets as business assets; and

·         Poor governance and risk-management systems.

Property developers – the hit list

·         Developers using their SMSF to undertake or fund the development and subdivision of properties leading to sale;

·         Where there has been sale or disposal of property shortly after the completion of a subdivision and the amount is returned as a capital gain;

·         Where there is a history in the wider economic group of property development or renovation sales, yet a current sale is returned as a capital gain;

·         How profit is recognised where related entities undertake a development (i.e., on the development fees as well as sales of the completed development);

·         Whether inflated deductions are being claimed for property developments;

·         Multi-purpose developments - where units are retained for rent in a multi-unit apartment, to ensure that the costs are appropriately applied to the properties produced.

These are just a small sample of the ATO's area of focus.  Other areas include tax and travel related expenses and self-education expenses. 

Every vendor selling a property needs to prove that they are a resident of Australia for tax purposes unless they are happy for the purchaser to withhold a 12.5% withholding tax. From 1 July 2017, every individual selling a property with a sale value of $750,000 or more is affected.

To prove you are a resident, you can apply online to the Tax Commissioner for a clearance certificate, which will remain valid for 12 months.

While these rules have been in place since 1 July 2016, on 1 July 2017 the threshold for properties reduced from $2 million to $750,000 and the withholding tax level increased from 10% to 12.5%.

The intent of the foreign resident CGT withholding rules is to ensure that tax is collected on the sale of taxable Australian property by foreign residents. But, the mechanism for collecting the tax affects everyone regardless of their residency status.

Properties under $750,000 are excluded from the rules. This exclusion can apply to residential dwellings, commercial premises, vacant land, strata title units, easements and leasehold interests as long as they have a market value of less than $750,000. If the parties are dealing at arm's length, the actual purchase price is assumed to be the market value unless the purchase price is artificially contrived.

If required, the Tax Commissioner has the power to vary the amount that is payable under these rules, including varying the amounts to nil. Either a vendor or purchaser may apply to the Commissioner to vary the amount to be paid to the ATO. This might be appropriate in cases where: 

  • The foreign resident will not make a capital gain as a result of the transaction (e.g., they will make a capital loss on the sale of the asset);
  • The foreign resident will not have a tax liability for that income year (e.g., where they have carried forward capital losses or tax losses etc.,); or
  • Where they are multiple vendors, but they are not all foreign residents.

If the Commissioner agrees to vary the amount, it is only effective if it is provided to the purchaser.

The withholding rules are only intended to apply when one or more of the vendors is a non-resident. However, the rules are more complicated than this and the way they apply depends on whether the asset being purchased is taxable Australian real property or a company title interest relating to real property in Australia.

Pindari Financial Services

Pindari Financial Services procures property for small medium family enterprises. We are independant and can procure finance for full documented facilties.

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