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COVID-19 support will roll back as states and territories reach vaccination targets.

 The National Plan, the road map out of COVID-19, does more than provide greater freedoms at 70% and 80% full vaccination rates, it withdraws the steady stream of Commonwealth financial support to individuals and business impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and border closures. We look at the impact and the support that remains in place.

For Individuals

The COVID-19 Disaster payment offered a lifeline to those who lost work because of lockdowns, particularly in the ACT, New South Wales, and Victoria where the Delta strain of the virus and long-term lockdowns had the greatest impact.

In late September, the Treasurer announced that the Disaster Payment will roll back as states and territories reach vaccination hurdles on the National Plan. Over $9 billion has been paid out to date on Disaster Payments and at 70% and 80% full adult vaccination, the disaster, apparently, is over.

At 70% full vaccination in your state or territory

In the first week a state or territory reaches 70% full adult vaccination, the automatic renewal that has been in place will end and individuals will need to reapply each week that a Commonwealth Hotspot remains in place to confirm their eligibility. The COVID-19 Disaster payment will not necessarily end, but anyone currently receiving the payment will need to reconfirm that they meet the eligibility criteria, including living or working in a Commonwealth declared hotspot.

Given that the time gap between 70% and 80% full vaccination might be as little as two weeks in some regions, the impact of the 70% restrictions might be a moot point.

At 80% full vaccination in your state or territory

In the first week a state or territory reaches 80% full adult vaccination, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will phase out over a two week period before ending completely.

 

Those needing financial support will no longer be eligible for the disaster payment, regardless of whether a Commonwealth hotspot is in place, and instead will need to apply for another form of income support such as JobSeeker. Unlike the disaster payments, JobSeeker and most other income support payments are subject to income and assets tests.

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, for those who cannot work because they need to self-isolate or care or quarantine, or care for someone with COVID-19, will remain in place until 30 June 2022.

 

 

 

 

Support for business

Each state and territory manages lockdown and financial support to businesses impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and border closures differently. The way in which support is withdrawn will depend on how support has been provided and the extent of Commonwealth support.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Government has distributed grants to business jointly funded with the Commonwealth. The ACT COVID-19 Business Grant was recently extended with top-up grants of $10,000 for employing businesses and $3,750 for non-employing businesses distributed to previous grant recipients in industries impacted by continued lockdowns. Large businesses $2m to $5m received an additional top-up amount of between $10,000 and $30,000. The Tourism, Accommodation Provider, Arts, Events, Hospitality & Fitness Grants have also been topped up with grants between $5,000 and $25,000 to existing recipients and the grant has been expanded to the fitness/sports sector (more information will be available mid-October).

Lockdowns eased on 1 October and are scheduled to be lifted from 15 October, with a return to normal in early to mid December 2021 (see the pathway forward). While not specified, it is expected that grants will cease at this point and instead, directed into targeted industry specific initiatives (see the recovery plan).

New South Wales

The NSW JobSaver, which provides payments of up to 40% of weekly payroll, is jointly funded by the state and Commonwealth governments. From 13 September, businesses receiving JobSaver have been required to reconfirm their eligibility for the payment each fortnight including a 30% decline in turnover test and headcount test.

At 70% full adult vaccination (10 October 2021), JobSaver will reduce from 40% of weekly payroll to 30%. Then, at 80% full vaccination, the Commonwealth will withdraw funding. The NSW Government announced that it will continue to fund their portion of JobSaver up until 30 November 2021 (15% of payroll).

It is unclear at this stage of what the impact of the withdrawal of Commonwealth funding at 80% vaccination rates will mean to large tourism, hospitality, and recreation businesses.

The $1,500 fortnightly micro-business grant, will reduce to $750 per fortnight from 80% full vaccination and cease on 30 November 2021.

If you are uncertain how the easing of restrictions will impact on you and your workplace, see the roadmap.

Queensland

While not significantly impacted by local lockdowns, Queensland tourism is impacted by national and international border closures. A second round of Tourism and Hospitality Sector Hardship grants have been announced although no further details are currently available.

For businesses on the border with New South Wales, a hardship grant will become available if the closure remains in place until 14 October or longer with grants of $5,000 for employing entities and $1,000 for non-employing entities (see Business Queensland for details). To receive the grant, you must operate in a ‘border business zone’ and have received the COVID-19 Business Support Grant.

Pointedly, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has stated, “Governments must also hold up their end of the bargain and stick to the plan agreed at National Cabinet that will see restrictions ease and our borders open up as we reach our vaccination targets of 70 to 80 per cent.” The Queensland Government will be under significant pressure to open borders once vaccination rates reach 80% in December and prior to the school holiday period.

Victoria

The Victorian Government has distributed grants to business jointly funded with the Commonwealth. For many of these grants, funding has been topped up in line with lockdown extensions.

The small business hardship fund providing one-off grants of $20,000 for businesses that have suffered a 70% or more decline in turnover and were not eligible for other grants or funding, will reopen (see the BusinessVictoria website for details).

The Business Costs Assistance Program will provide automatic top-ups to existing recipients across October and into the first half of November (two fortnightly payments between 1-29 October on a rising scale). Businesses that remain closed or severely restricted between 70% and 80% double dose will receive an automatic payment for the period from 29 October to 13 November.

Licensed hospitality venue fund recipients will also receive weekly top-ups in October of between $5,000 and $20,000, stepped according to venue capacity. Between 70% and 80% double dose, payments for licensed premises in metropolitan Melbourne will be reduced by 25%, and in regional Victoria by 50%.

Victoria is not expected to reach the 70% vaccination target until the end of October, and 80% in early to mid-November. You can find Victoria’s broad road map here.

National

The National Plan stipulates that state and territory borders are to reopen at 80% double vaccination in that state or territory but this will depend on health advice at the time.

Generally, international borders will reopen in states and territories at 80% double vaccination with Australian and permanent residents able to quarantine at home for 7 days. Unvaccinated travellers will need to stay in hotel quarantine for 14 days. Commercial flights will also resume for vaccinated Australians with Australia expected to implement a ‘red light, green light’ system similar to the UK to designate safe countries.

For other regions such as South Australia and the Northern Territory, borders are expected to reopen at 80% double vaccination but with some nuances flagged. The Western Australian Government however has stated that it will announce an easing of border restrictions once an 80% double vaccination has been achieved for those over 12 years of age.

 

SME lending options

While there is likely to be an economic rebound when restrictions ease across the country, for many, a funding gap will remain between the assistance provided by Government grants and viable trading conditions.

The expanded SME recovery loan scheme took effect on 1 October 2021. Under the scheme, the Government will guarantee 80% of loan amounts to businesses that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19.

The lending terms, repayment, and interest rates are set by the lenders but cannot be backed by residential property, that is, if the Government is underwriting the loan, lenders cannot ask business owners to use their home as security. However, Directors guarantees are likely to be required.

Under the scheme, lenders can provide:

  • A repayment holiday of up to 24 months
  • Loans of up to $5m
  • Loan terms of up to 10 years, and
  • Secured and unsecured loans

The recovery loans can be used to refinance existing loans, purchase commercial property, purchase another business, or working capital. But, cannot be used to purchase residential property, financial products, lend to associated entities, or lease, rent, hire or hire purchase existing assets that are more than half way into their effective life.

The loan scheme is generally available to solvent businesses with a turnover of up to $250m, have an ABN, and a tax resident of Australia. Loans remain subject to lending conditions and generally the lenders will look to lend to viable businesses where it is clear that they can trade their way out of the impact of COVID-19 or the assets of the business make the break-up value attractive.

If you default on your loan, you cannot simply walk away from it. The Government is guaranteeing 80% of the lender’s risk not your debt. Director guarantees are still likely to be required and for many loans, it will be secured against a business asset. On the plus side, interest rates are very attractive right now and many of the lenders are providing a repayment holiday of up to 24 months and in some cases, existing debt can be bundled into the loan arrangements.

 

What happens to your superannuation when you die?

Superannuation is not like other assets as it is held in trust by the trustee of the superannuation fund.  When you die, it does not automatically form part of your estate but instead, is paid to your eligible beneficiaries by the fund trustee according to the rules of fund, superannuation law, and the death nomination you made. 

Death nominations

Most people have a death nomination in place to direct their superannuation to their nominated beneficiaries on their death. There are four types of death benefit nominations:

Binding death benefit nomination – Putting in place a binding death nomination will direct your superannuation to whoever you nominate. As long as that person is an eligible beneficiary, the trustee is bound by law to pay your superannuation to that person as soon as practicable after your death. Generally, death benefit nominations lapse after 3 years unless it is a non-lapsing binding death nomination.

Non-lapsing binding death benefit nomination – Non-lapsing binding death nominations, if permitted by your trust deed, remain in place unless the member cancels or replaces them. When you die, your super is directed to the person you nominate.

Non-binding death nomination – A non-binding death nomination is a guide for trustees as to who should receive your superannuation when you die but the trustee retains control over who the benefits are paid to. This might be the person you nominate but the trustees can use their discretion to pay the superannuation to someone else or to your estate.

Reversionary beneficiary – if you are taking an income stream from your superannuation at the time of your death (pension), the payments can revert to your nominated beneficiary at the time of your death and the pension will be automatically paid to that person. Only certain dependants can receive reversionary pensions, generally a spouse or child under 18 years.

If no death benefit nomination is in place – If you have not made a death benefit nomination, the trustees will decide who to pay your superannuation to according to state or territory laws. This will often be a financial dependant to the legal representative of your estate to then be distributed according to your Will.

Is your death benefit valid?

There have been a number of court cases over the years that have successfully contested the validity of death nominations, particularly within self managed superannuation funds. For a death nomination to be valid it must be in writing, signed and dated by you, and witnessed. The wording of your nomination also needs to be clear and legally binding. If you nominate a person, ensure you use their legal name and if the superannuation is to be directed to your estate, ensure the wording uses the correct legal terminology.

Who can receive your superannuation?

Your superannuation can be paid to a SIS dependant, your legal representative (for example, the executor of your will), or someone who has an interdependency relationship with you.

A dependant is defined in superannuation law as ‘the spouse of the person, any child of the person and any person with whom the person has an interdependency relationship’. An interdependency relationship is where someone depends on you for financial support or care.

Do beneficiaries pay tax on you superannuation?

Whether or not the beneficiaries of your superannuation pay tax depends on who the superannuation was paid to and how. If your superannuation is paid as a lump sum to a tax dependant, the superannuation is tax-free. The tax laws have a different definition of who is a dependant to the superannuation laws. A tax dependant for tax purposes is your spouse or former spouse, your child under the age of 18, or someone you have an interdependency relationship with. Special rules exist if you are a police officer, member of the defence force or protective service officer who died in the line of duty.

If your superannuation is paid to your estate, the tax laws use a ‘look through’ approach when superannuation death benefits are distributed to the deceased’s legal representative. This involves determining whether the final recipient of the superannuation is a dependant or a non-dependant of the deceased.

If the person is not a dependant for tax purposes, for example an adult child, then there might be tax to pay.

Recruiting new employees? The 1 November superannuation rule changes

When your business hires a new employee, the Choice of Fund form is used to identify where they want their superannuation to be directed. If the employee does not identify a fund, generally the employer directs their superannuation into a default fund.

From 1 November 2021, where an employee does not identify a fund, the employer is required to contact the ATO and request details of the employee’s existing superannuation fund or ‘stapled’ fund (the fund stapled to them). The request is made through the ATO’s online services through the ‘Employee Commencement Form’.

If the ATO confirms no other fund exists for the employee, contributions can be directed to the employer’s default fund or a fund specified under a workplace determination or an enterprise agreement (if the determination was made before 1 January 2021).

Reconfirmation process for JobSaver & the Micro-business Grant

If your business currently receives payments under the NSW JobSaver or Micro-business Grant schemes, you will now need to reconfirm your eligibility each fortnight to continue receiving payments.

What needs to be confirmed?

Each fortnight, your business will need to reconfirm that it:

  • Continues to experience a decline in turnover of 30% or more; and
  • Has maintained employee headcount stated in the application. Note that if your headcount changes, you are obliged to notify ServiceNSW.

Measuring decline in turnover

There are two main approaches to validate your decline in turnover depending on whether the business has traded during the relevant fortnight: 

If your business was not trading during the relevant fortnight

There is no requirement to perform a decline in turnover calculation. You can simply select ‘yes’ on the confirmation screen to indicate that your business has continued to experience a decline in turnover of at least 30%.

If your business was trading during the relevant fortnight

You will need to determine if your business continues to meet the 30% or more decline in turnover eligibility criteria. There are three potential methods you can use but whichever method you use, you will need to use the same method for each subsequent fortnight.

 

No further documentation required

ServiceNSW states that you will not need to provide any additional evidence or attach any documentation when reconfirming your eligibility. However, it is essential that you maintain adequate records to show evidence of your eligibility in the event of an audit.

Comparison period FAQs

I had a three week comparison period. How do I do the comparison?

If the comparison period used in your initial application was more than 2 weeks (for example, a 3 week period), the turnover amount for the comparison period must be converted to a fortnightly amount for comparison purposes to the current turnover by dividing by the number of days in the period and multiplying by 14. 

What happens if the business is ineligible one fortnight but eligible the next?

The reconfirmation only tests the relevant fortnight. Becoming ineligible for one fortnight does not disqualify your business from becoming eligible again in a future. Some businesses may be eligible one fortnight and not eligible the next if their decline in turnover decreases again.

Can I delay confirming eligibility?

Yes, but your business will not receive payment until confirmation of eligibility has been received. Some businesses might prefer to wait until month-end accounting records are finalised to confirm eligibility. ServiceNSW states that payments will be made within 5 days of your business reconfirming its eligibility.

Reconfirming headcount

Your employee headcount was noted on your original application. This was the number of people you employed in NSW including full time, part time and long-term casuals that had been employed by the business for more than 12 months at the time of the application.

JobSaver requires your business to maintain this same headcount to qualify to receive payments unless the employee is no longer employed due to circumstances outside of your control, such as resignation, death or where you have fairly terminated the employee because of misconduct.

If your full time, part time or long-term casual employees, have been stood down, they are still included in the headcount. During a stand down the employment relationship remains (their role has not been terminated), the employee is not paid (unless they are taking paid leave), and they continue to accrue annual leave. See the FairWork website to clarify how and when an employer can stand down employees and the documentation requirements.

Payment amounts

How to reconfirm your eligibility

You can reconfirm the eligibility of your business for JobSaver or the Micro-business Grant by logging into your ServiceNSW business profile.

You should also receive reminders from ServiecNSW to confirm the eligibility of your business. For security, it is best to go straight to your business profiles rather than clicking on any email links.

What do I do if I no longer need assistance?

Log into your ServiceNSW business profile and request a withdrawal.

How to contact us

We’re available to assist you with the lockdown support for your business.

Some of the details for the grants are not yet available. We will keep you up to date.

 

What now? Unwinding the Pandemic

Australia’s two largest states and the ACT are in lockdown as the Delta strain of COVID-19 takes its toll while others are standing firm on a policy of eradication. The result is a country at a policy impasse and divided by border restrictions.

And, it is not just businesses in lockdown that are in crisis. Tourism and hospitality businesses that rely on interstate trade are equally impacted but financial assistance is often limited or non-existent if they are not in a hotspot.

At the time of writing, Australia is on track to fully vaccinate the eligible population of 20.62 million adults in December 2021. Based on National Cabinet’s four stage roadmap to normal, Australia should move to phase B of the plan when 70% of the eligible population have received their second dose of the vaccine. At Phase B, it is expected that lockdowns will be “less likely” and special rules will apply to the fully vaccinated. At Phase C, when 80% of the eligible population is vaccinated, the plan is for Australia to return to “baseline restrictions” with no caps on returning visitors, and a gradual opening of inward and outward international travel with safe countries (quarantine requirements will still apply but will be reduced).

The problem for “Team Australia” is that not all players are the same. While some regions remain in an eradication phase, the strategy for opening and returning to normal is necessarily different (assuming these regions remain Delta free).

In NSW and Victoria, hope of defeating Delta has been abandoned with the focus now on bringing the population up to the maximum vaccination level to prevent hospitalisations and death.

In QLD and WA however, the strategy for opening is more complex with the bar being raised well beyond the national plan (Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has demand that children under 12 be included in vaccination targets).

Freedoms for the fully vaccinated and what it means to business

A major concern for many business operators is the expectation of policing vaccination status for both staff and customers.

Identifying vaccinated customers

Both the New South Wales and Victorian Premiers have stated that there will be greater freedoms for those who are double jabbed with new QR code check-in technology expected at the end of September. Instead of having to show a vaccination certificate or medical record, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said that the QR codes, “don’t store that information, but you either get a tick or a cross, and on that basis you are allowed in or not.” This system might also assist those who are medically exempt from vaccination as they would not need to explain their medical history behind their exemption.

But is it discriminatory? The Australian Human Rights Commission (ARC) says, “Vaccine passports are more likely to be consistent with human rights when they are used as a tool to ease existing restrictions and improve public health outcomes. Rather than becoming a further requirement on top of existing restrictions, vaccine passports should generally operate in place of them.”

“…the guiding human rights principles for considering measures taken to advance public health are:

  • They must be reasonable, necessary, and proportionate.
  • They must take into account the potential for discrimination.”

While public health orders are likely to protect business operators from discrimination claims, not all are waiting. Qantas was the first major airline to state that it would require passengers to be vaccinated on international flights when borders open. Several sporting venues have also stated that the price of the return to live events is double vaccination for both staff and patrons.

A business operator has the ability now to refuse entry or service to a customer as long as anti-discrimination rules are not breached. Excluding an individual by vaccination status without a public health order however will be a question of whether the rule is reasonable, necessary, and proportionate.

Staff members and vaccinations

In general, vaccination will remain voluntary and free in Australia but there are some sectors where vaccinations are mandatory (see Legislation and public health orders requiring vaccination against coronavirus). Common sectors include aged care and hotel quarantine. In these sectors, the employer is generally responsible for enforcing the Health Orders.

Outside of a public health order an employer can mandate that employees are vaccinated but only if the direction to be vaccinated is “lawful and reasonable”. In addition to being able to mandate vaccinations under the relevant Award or agreement, employers need to ensure that mandating vaccinations is reasonable for example, because the staff member’s duties put them at increased risk of being infected or they have close contact with vulnerable people (see Can an employer require an employee to be vaccinated? on the FairWork website).

Qantas for example will require all frontline employees to be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021 and all other employees to be vaccinated by 31 March 2022. The announcement followed a company wide survey of staff that revealed 89% planned to be fully vaccinated and only 4% were unwilling or unable to be vaccinated. Qantas is yet to release details of how medical exemptions will be applied.

In workplaces where vaccinations are not mandated, an employer can only collect information on an employee’s vaccination status where it is reasonably necessary for the organisation’s functions or activities or where it is required by law. In these cases, it may be possible for the employer to ask to see evidence of an employee’s vaccination status without breaching privacy laws (see the FairWork website and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner for further information).

Another question is whether an employee can refuse to come to work because their co-workers are not vaccinated. On this, FairWork says “If an employee refuses to attend the workplace because a co-worker isn’t vaccinated, their employer can direct them to attend the workplace if the direction is lawful and reasonable.” But, the Australian Human Rights Commission states that where someone is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, a “blanket rule requiring all employees to attend a particular workplace may constitute indirect discrimination.” Whether it’s reasonable for an employee to attend their workplace is highly dependent on the facts and you should seek legal advice.

 


Divorce, Superannuation and the Gender Divide

New legislation will help prevent superannuation assets from being hidden during divorce proceedings.

From 1 April 2022, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will be able to release details of an individual’s superannuation information to a family law court.

The recently enacted laws are designed to ensure that there is procedural and economic fairness in divorce proceedings to prevent the under-reporting of superannuation assets. While a spouse’s superannuation information can be obtained now through legal action, if it is not provided willingly, it is often expensive and time consuming to obtain factual information through subpoenas or court orders.

From April 2022, when a couple have entered into divorce proceedings, if one of the parties believes the other is not being forthcoming about the value of assets held in superannuation, they can apply to a family law court registry to request their former partner’s superannuation information held by the ATO. They will then be able to seek up-to-date superannuation information from their former partner’s superannuation fund.

What happens to superannuation in a divorce?

In a divorce, superannuation is treated like any other asset and included in the division of assets in a property settlement or financial agreement. Depending on how the total assets of the couple are split, the superannuation balances of each individual may remain intact with each party taking their respective entitlement from the asset pool, or split between the couple.

For superannuation to be split, there must be:

  • An order from the Family Court or Federal Magistrate Court; or
  • A superannuation agreement (a financial agreement that deals with superannuation interests)

If a superannuation account is split, it does not convert into cash unless the receiving spouse is aged 65 or over, or has reached preservation age and has retired. In most cases, the superannuation is immediately rolled over into the receiving spouse’s superannuation account and remains there until they are legally able to access it.

The tax-free and taxable components of the super payment to a receiving spouse will be calculated immediately before the payment is made with the relevant payment retaining the tax components of the account the funds are being transferred from.

For self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs), generally an SMSF cannot acquire assets such as residential property from a related party but there is an exemption when the acquisition is a result of marriage breakdown. Where a property like a residential rental property is involved, the superannuation rules allow an in-specie rollover under a court order or financial agreement rather than forcing the former couple to sell the property. For example, where a couple have an SMSF together, it’s common for one member to step down when they divorce (until that point it’s important to remember that the trustees are legally obliged to act in the best interests of all members). This same member might then set up their own SMSF and utilise the exemption to receive the residential rental property as an in-species rollover.

Capital gains tax relief is also available where property is transferred to a spouse’s superannuation fund as a result of divorce proceedings so that any potential capital gains tax does not apply on transfer. Instead, the spouse or former spouse who receives the asset will effectively ‘inherit’ the transferor’s cost base of the asset for CGT purposes. That is, when the property is transferred, the tax implications are generally the same as if the receiving spouse or their superannuation fund owned the property from the time it was acquired.

If you and your spouse have an SMSF together and a divorce is imminent, it’s important to get advice on the decisions that need to be made about your SMSF and their implications.

The superannuation divide

On average, women earn 14.2% less than men based on full time earnings. If you take overtime into account, the gap is 16.8%. When part-time work is taken into account, this figure blows out to 31.3%. And, the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the pay gap.

Given that 93% of all primary carer leave is taken by women, it’s not surprising that there is a divide between the superannuation balances of men and women on retirement. While the gap is diminishing over time reflecting the positive shifts in work participation and the earning potential of women, it is currently estimated to be around 42%. That is, when a woman retires, she retires with around 42% less superannuation than a man.

While the situation is much better in SMSFs, a gap remains. Over the five years to June 2019, the average member balances of women increased by 28% to $654,000, however the average balance of a male was $784,000.

The Federal Budget proposal to remove the $450 threshold on superannuation guarantee payments (the minimum amount someone needs to earn in a month before an employer is required to pay superannuation guarantee) will help reduce the superannuation divide, but this is not intended to commence until 1 July 2022.

Superannuation equalisation

Where couples have significantly different superannuation account values but are of a similar age, there are practical reasons why they might look at evening out any gap.

Where one spouse is close to or likely to reach their transfer balance cap (between $1.6m and $1.7m), redirecting superannuation contributions to the spouse with the lower balance means that together, they maximise their tax-free income in retirement. Together, the couple can accumulate between $3.2 and $3.4 million tax-free.

You can make a contribution to your spouse’s superannuation fund up to their non-concessional cap (currently up to $110,000 depending on their superannuation balance). If they are under 67 years of age, you might also be able to use the bring-forward rule and contribute up to 3 years’ worth of non-concessional contributions in one year (up to $330,000 depending on their superannuation balance).

If your spouse is not working or a low income earner (assessable income less than $40,000), there is also a tax offset of up to $540 available on contributions you make on their behalf.

If your spouse is under 65 and not retired, you can split your superannuation with them. Up to 85% of your concessional superannuation contributions from your employer or salary sacrifice each year, can be directed to your spouse’s fund.

Actively addressing the value of each spouse’s superannuation account might also help to manage some of the issues that can occur when a spouse dies. While superannuation will pass to the beneficiary nominated in the death benefit nomination or estate, this does not always occur in the most practical or tax effective way.  The superannuation rules in this area are complex, particularly when there have been family breakdowns in the past. It’s important to seek advice to ensure your superannuation is managed in a way that delivers the best possible outcome for your beneficiaries.

 

Did your super fund receive a compensation payment?


Is a financial services compensation payment to your superannuation fund a contribution?

Of late, there have been several compensation payments made by financial services providers to customers that were inappropriately charged or overcharged for insurance premiums or services they did not receive, etc.

New guidance from the ATO helps decipher whether these compensation payments are treated as contributions to your fund. The problem for some people is that where these compensation payments are treated as a contribution to their superannuation fund, they may exceed their contribution cap or attract Division 293 tax (a 15% tax on super contributions imposed on those with combined income and super contributions of $250,000 or more).

In general, the treatment of the compensation depends on who engaged the financial services provider. In general:

  • Super fund engaged the financial services provider and compensation paid to the fund – compensation not treated as a contribution.
  • Individual engaged the financial services provider and compensation paid to the fund but not at member’s discretion – compensation is a concessional contribution in the financial year it is received.
  • Individual engaged the financial services provider and compensation paid to the fund at member’s discretion – compensation is a non-concessional contribution in the financial year it is received

Where neither the member of the fund or the financial services provider had a right to seek compensation, the amount will be a concessional contribution in the financial year it is received by the fund.

If you have received a compensation payment from a financial services provider and the payment means you have exceeded your contribution cap, or are liable for Division 293 tax, there is a potential solution to avoid an adverse impact where you did not have control over the payment. In these cases, you can apply to the Tax Commissioner to exercise his discretion to disregard excess contributions or reallocate them to another year.

 

 

Mental Health Support for Business Owners

Running a business can be an isolating experience. And, with COVID-19 lockdowns and disruptions to trade, the pressure can be intense.

NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a free and confidential mental health program developed by Beyond Blue to give small business owners the support they need. Whether you’re just feeling stressed, or completely overwhelmed about everyday life issues, they can help.

Understandably, a lot of small business owners are reporting that COVID-19 has negatively affected their mental health.

NewAccess is designed to appeal to people who might not otherwise seek support for their mental health and to provide support early, preventing symptoms from potentially getting worse.

Coaches of the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program all have a small business background and are trained in Low-intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – a structured, evidence based psychological treatment. Put simply, it allows us to recognise the way we think, act and feel.

The program is open to small business owners (under 20 employees) who are not currently seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. The program starts with an initial assessment, then works with you over five sessions to tackle unhelpful thoughts and behaviours, using an individual plan that you develop with your coach. Together you will develop an understanding of what is causing distress and then work on practical tools and strategies that can be used in day-to-day life.

For more visit: beyond blue

 

Afterpay’s $39bn pay day

Business advisers will tell you that you need to begin a business with the end in mind; a phrase popularised by Michael Gerber in E-Myth. The announcement of the intended sale of Australian born fintech company Afterpay, pioneer of the ‘buy now, pay later’ platform, is a case in point.

Afterpay was founded in 2015 by Nick Molnar and Anthony Eisen, listing on the ASX for $1 per share in May 2016. In 2017, they hit 1 million customers and 7,200 merchants, launched into New Zealand, and merged with Touchcorp Limited. A year later in 2018, they entered the US market. In 2019, it was the UK under the brand name Clearpay. In 2020, Hong Kong listed Chinese tech giant Tecent paid $300m for a 5% equity stake. By then, Afterpay boasted 5 million active US customers, 1 million in the UK. In this same year they took the opportunity to launch into Canada. In 2021, Afterpay announced the purchase of tech group Pagantis by their UK subsidiary in preparation for their launch into Europe.

Afterpay was also exceptionally well placed for the dramatic COVID-19 shift in consumer behaviour that supercharged online retail. As at 30 June 2021, the company had 16.2 million active customers (63% growth on 2020) and over 98,000 merchants (77% growth on 2020). When COVID-19 struck, Afterpay’s share price dipped to a low of $12.44 on 20 March 202 but by 19 February 2021, hit a high of $151.92 ($96.99 at 30 June 2021). At 30 June, (unaudited) group revenue was $925m, growing 78% on the previous period (of which merchant revenue was $822m). However, growth comes at a cost with the 31 December 2020 half year results showing an after-tax loss of over $79m (joining a long list of unprofitable tech companies such as AirBnb, Pinterest, DropBox, Slack and Uber).

The rise of Afterpay has been extraordinary; a combination of a game changing concept delivering consumer flexibility and the ability for merchants to grow their customer base with the potential of increasing per transaction values, all backed by an aggressive expansion plan. They are a brand that became a verb.

On 2 August, the announcement was made that US financial services and digital payments giant Square, had agreed to acquire all of the issued shares in Afterpay for approximately US$29 billion (A$39 billion). The sale is expected to be all in stock and Nick Molnar and Anthony Eisen will join Afterpay as employees in first quarter of 2022.

For many innovative and fast growth companies, sale is the end game – generally to another company in the same or similar market with strong synergies that is willing to pay a premium for the opportunity. Afterpay has achieved that in spectacular style. And, you can see the appeal of a business model that is replicable, utilises unique systems and technology, is adaptable, and has proven its ability to grow and expand globally.

The model

For consumers, Afterpay offers a way of spreading the cost of purchases over four payments across six weeks. No fees are charged unless the payment is late. If a payment is late, an initial $10 late fee is charged, and a further $7 if the payment remains unpaid 7 days after the due date. For each order below $40, a maximum of one $10 late fee may apply per order. For each order of $40 or above, the total of the late fees that may be applied are capped at 25% of the original order value or $68, whichever is less.

While free to consumers (unless they pay late), Afterpay charges merchants a 30 cent fee, plus a commission ranging from 4% to 6% to the merchant. Payments transacted through Afterpay take 48 hours to be delivered in full to the merchant. Afterpay states that their service drives new sales and increases the average order by anything up to 40%.

The fee structure, and the fact that Afterpay makes spending easier for consumers to rationalise, has not been without controversy. A Senate committee and the Payments System Review explored whether more consumer protections, such as customer credit checks, were needed. However, neither review wanted to stifle the growth of financial competition or innovative fintechs, and believed that market forces would appropriately regulate the industry. At present, late fees represent less than 10% of the company’s revenue.

Afterpay store cards are available in the US and other markets. And, in July this year, Money by Afterpay launched in Australia and New Zealand with Afterpay staff trialling the product ahead of a full-scale launch anticipated in October 2021.

What if you have Afterpay shares?

The sale of Afterpay has a number of hurdle points including regulatory approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board and approval of the shareholders of both Afterpay and Square.

If the transaction proceeds then Afterpay shareholders will have two main options. They can either receive NYSE-listed Square shares or they could receive shares in Square that are listed on the ASX. This is because Square will establish a secondary listing on the ASX allowing Afterpay shareholders to trade Square shares via CHESS Depositary Interests (CDIs) on the ASX.

Afterpay state that the transaction is intended to be tax-free for Australian shareholders electing to receive NYSE-listed Square shares or CDIs. Among the conditions precedent is a ruling from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for Australian shareholders to apply scrip-for-scrip capital gains tax (CGT) rollover relief. If the rollover applies, then the cost base and acquisition date of the Square shares will basically remain the same as your Afterpay shares.

 

Lockdown support: Update

The support available to individuals and business has been constantly evolving and changing. Here’s a summary of where support stands around the country.

For individuals

From 2 August 2021, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment has increased to a maximum of $750 per week for those who have lost 20 hours of work or more, and $450 for those who have lost between 8 and 20 hours of work. In most cases, the payment now applies from day 1 of a lockdown. In general, you need to be living in, or impacted by Commonwealth declared lockdown to receive the payment although some States have funded an extension of the payment beyond hotspot areas.

A special separate $200 a week ‘top-up’ payment has been added for those currently receiving an income support payment through social security, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Dad and Partner Pay or Parental Leave Pay in addition to their existing payment, if they can demonstrate they have lost more than 8 hours of work and meet the other eligibility requirements for the COVID-19 Disaster Payment. The payment was put in place because people receiving income support payments are not eligible for the COVID-19 Disaster payment.

New South Wales business

In New South Wales, the following grants and payments are accessible:

  • Up to $100,000 in weekly JobSaver cashflow support payments. Payments are based on 40% of your NSW payroll payments. Eligible businesses without employees that meet the eligibility criteria (such as sole traders with no employees), can access a payment of $1,000 per week.
  • Up to $15,000 through the expanded NSW 2021 COVID-19 business grants program
  • NSW micro-business grants

The decline in turnover test required for the JobSaver, COVID-19 business and micro-business grants has been causing a lot of angst but some additional flexibility has been provided. Businesses and non-profit entities can now pass this test if they can show a decline in turnover of at least 30% due to the Public Health Order over a minimum 2-week period within the relevant test period compared to:

  • The same period in 2019;
  • The same period in 2020; or
  • The 2-week period immediately before the start of the relevant test period.

The test period depends on which payment you are looking at:

  • COVID-19 business grant: 26 June 2021 to 17 July 2021 (this is changed to 27 May 2021 to 17 July 2021 for entities on the NSW border with Victoria);
  • JobSaver and the micro-business grant: 26 June 2021 until the Greater Sydney lockdown ends.

This additional flexibility is helpful for businesses that started after the comparison period in 2019 and for those that have undertaken an acquisition, disposal or restructure.

Queensland business

$5,000 Business Support Grants are available for those impacted by the lockdown from Saturday, 31 July 2021. Your business does not have to be in the local government areas locked down but needs to be impacted by it. To access the grant, you will need to show a decline in turnover of at least 30%. The grants are available to businesses with a turnover of $75,000 or more and annual Queensland payroll of less than $10 million. Applications open mid-August. See Business Queensland for details.

South Australia

Grants of $3,000 for employing businesses and $1,000 for non-employing businesses are available to businesses that experienced a decline in turnover of at least 30% as a result of the health restrictions from 20 July 2021. The grants are available to those with a turnover of $75,000 or more and Australia wide payroll of less than $10 million. See COVID-19 Business Support Grant – July 2021 for details.

More funding for Victorian SMEs

There are two main streams for grants in Victoria:

  • Those who qualified for the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two or the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021; and
  • Businesses that previously did not access grants

Existing grant beneficiaries

If your business previously received the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two or the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021, additional grants of $2,800 for the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two and up to $20,000 for the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021 have been announced. Your business cannot retrospectively apply for these grants. See Helping Victorian Businesses Who Need It Most.

New grants

For businesses that did not access previous grants, the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two July Extension offers grants of $4,800 for employing and non-employing business depending on your sector. For those in the hospitality sector, a new Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021 July Extension is available offering grants of up to $7,200 for each eligible premises. Applications for both grants close 13 August 2021.

A new Small Business COVID Hardship Fund grant of up to $8,000 has been announced for businesses that are not eligible for existing support funding. To access the grant, your business must be severely impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns with a decline in turnover of 70% or more. No further details are available at present.

Other support

For Alpine businesses, additional grants between $5,000 and $20,000 will be available to 430 Alpine based businesses. See the Alpine Resorts Winter Support Program (closes 20 August 2021).

Rent relief for commercial tenants is also now in place for businesses that have suffered a decline in turnover of at least 30% as a result of COVID-19. Landlords will be required to provide proportional rent relief in line with a business’s reduction in turnover and mediation is available through the Victorian Small Business Commission. A hardship fund will be established for landlords providing rent relief although no details are available as yet.

Please contact us if you would like support to prepare for, or to access, the support you need.

 

 

Growing your business value

Over the next decade, as the baby boomer bubble of small and medium sized business owners roll through the system, Australia will experience one the largest transfers of business wealth in its history. Succession planning is more important than ever. Not just because of the transfer of wealth, but because of the polarising impact of high supply and low demand on the saleable value of a business.

Australia is expected to see the retirement age of baby boomers peak over the coming decade. The basics of the law of supply and demand suggest that as supply increases, prices will be driven downwards. For SMEs however, there is a much greater probability we will see a dramatic polarisation in the price of SMEs for sale. High quality businesses command premium prices while low quality businesses will be highly price sensitive and, in some cases, unsaleable.

If your children are not offering you a retirement strategy, selling your business can be difficult if there are not obvious competitors or complimentary businesses knocking on your door for your market share or unique offering.

Forward planning for succession is a critical issue for SME owners who want to exit their business over the coming decade. This planning, with an adequate timeframe, allows you to actively enhance the value of your business.

Most business owners have a view on what their business might be worth and the factors that influence business value. The key question then is, what do you need to focus on to enhance business value for a potential buyer? There are four key areas: growth, capacity, profitability and risk.

  • Growth – buyers will generally pay a premium for a built-in level of growth. Growth, if well managed, will produce increased profits. So, a potential buyer knows that the revenue stream they are purchasing with the business, comes with a growth increment. Not only does this growth factor offer future profit increments it also insulates the business against the ‘what if’ factor. Any major change in a business causes a disconnect and these disconnect events can impact revenues and profits. Built in growth offers some protection against this.
  • Capacity – provides for both the present and capability to facilitate growth in the future. Areas where capacity needs to exist includes infrastructure, systems capability, and management capability. Systems and management are often the areas given the least amount of focus, yet they are the very areas where value can be leveraged and enhanced the most. One of the reasons why franchises command price premiums is because they offer a level of systems and management. These same factors can be built into any business.
  • Profitability – a history of profits and strong cashflows are normally the two greatest influences on SME business value. When assessing your profitability, you need to compare yourself at two levels. First compare your performance against the top quartile of your industry sector. Top quartile businesses always attract higher valuations. Then, look outside your own business sector. Measure your Return on Investment (ROI). Buyers of your business will not only be comparing you with your industry. They may be looking for investment return more than they are looking for a specific business. So, in a potential sale you may be competing with a business from another industry to secure your buyer. You should be looking for a ROI in excess of 25%.
  • Risk Management – business owners are becoming more sensitive to risk. Strong corporate governance and risk management policies will enhance business value. Buyers will be looking for a history of compliance and a risk management culture. Risk management can include the existence of current employment contracts, operating licences, customer and supplier agreements and OH&S procedures.

These four areas will normally be high on the business value hierarchy and the areas where change can most significantly impact on business value.

If business succession is on your agenda, you need to assess your business under these criteria. Where your performance or position is below what it needs to be, you can identify the issues that you need to focus on to change your business value.

This process may not simply mean the difference between an ordinary sale price and a good price. It may be the difference between a sale that releases your business capital or no sale at all.

 

Are COVID-19 grants and funding tax free?

Most people would think that money provided by the Government to support people and business during a crisis would be tax free? Otherwise, it’s like giving money with one hand and then taking it away with the other, isn’t it?

But, the tax laws don’t work like that. To make a payment tax-free, legislation is required to enable it to be classified as exempt income or non-assessable non-exempt income. In general, any income received will be assessable unless the Government has legislated for it to be tax-free. JobKeeper for example was not tax free and anyone who received it in 2020-21 will need to declare it in their income tax return. Businesses also will need to declare JobKeeper income in their tax return even if the full amount flowed directly to employees.

At the Federal Government level, the Prime Minister recently announced that the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will be tax free and legislation enabling this change is before Parliament. Prior to this, disaster recovery grant payments to primary producers and small businesses for floods between 19 February and 31 March 2021 were also made tax-free. Other payments however, such as Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, are taxable.

The Treasurer has also been granted the power to make COVID-19 relief provided by the States and Territories tax-free but only from 13 September 2020, and only if they request the Commonwealth Government to make it tax free.  If you’re confused, it’s not surprising. The result is a mix of tax treatments depending on what support you received and from whom.

To date, only a series of Victorian business grants are tax-free. The recent business grants in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia have not as yet been declared tax free (but we expect that this will change).

The general rule is that grants are likely to be taxable unless they are specifically excluded from tax. If the grant relates to your continuing business activities, then it is likely to be included in assessable income for income tax purposes. The position can be different in cases where the payment is made so that the entity can commence a new business or cease carrying on a business but there will still often be some tax implications.

 

 

The highly infectious Delta COVID variant is triggering lock-downs across the country. We look at what help is available and how you can get it.

Support for you

COVID-19 disaster payment

The COVID-19 disaster payment is available to eligible workers who can’t attend work or who have lost income because of a lockdown and don’t have access to appropriate paid leave entitlements. And, it only applies from the eighth day of lockdown. That is, there is nothing you can claim for the first week of a lockdown.

The payment amount depends on how many hours of work you have lost in the lockdown period (week).

Applications for the disaster payment need to be made weekly.

 

The payment is available if you are not earning an income or have lost work and you:

  • Are an Australian citizen, permanent resident or temporary visa holder who has the right to work in Australia, and
  • Are aged 17 years or over, and
  • Can’t attend work and lost income on or after day 8 of a COVID-19 lockdown, and
  • Don’t have access to appropriate paid leave entitlements through your employer (other than annual leave), and
  • Are not getting an income support payment, a state or territory pandemic payment, Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment or state small business payment for the same period.

Until recently, a liquid assets test applied that meant that if you had more than $10,000, you could not receive the payment. However, the Prime Minster has stated that this test will be lifted from Thursday, 8 July 2021.

During Victoria’s lockdown, 75,410 claims were made for the disaster payment, 57,730 were granted. In NSW, over 67,000 residents have applied for the payment to date.

The disaster payment is only accessible if the hotspot triggering the lockdown lasts more than 7 days as declared by the Chief Medical Officer (you can find the listing here).

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment of $1,500 for each 14 day period is for those who have been advised by the health authorities to self-isolate or quarantine because:

  • You have coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • You’ve been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19
  • You care for a child, 16 years or under, who has COVID-19
  • You care for a child, 16 years or under, who’s been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19.

The payment might also be accessible if you are a carer for someone impacted.

Eligibility for this disaster payment is very similar except that you need to use any appropriate leave entitlements if it is available to you (for example, pandemic sick leave, personal leave or carer leave).

 

Support for Business

 

New South Wales

The NSW Government has announced new grants of up to $10,000 for businesses adversely impacted by the recent COVID-19 lockdowns. Eligibility for the grant is streamed into general business, and hospitality and tourism.

The value of the grant is determined by the impact of the lockdown on your turnover. Your business will need to prove a decline in turnover across a minimum 2 week period after the commencement of the major restrictions.

The grant is limited to businesses (including sole traders) with:

  • A NSW registered ABN or able to demonstrate they are physically located and primarily operating in NSW; and
  • Annual turnover of more than $75,000 for the year ending 30 June 2020; but
  • Below the NSW Government 2020-21 payroll tax threshold of $1.2m as at 1 July 2020; with
  • Fewer than 20 full time equivalent employees

The Hospitality & Tourism COVID-19 Support grant is limited to tourism or hospitality businesses with:

  • A NSW registered ABN or able to demonstrate they are physically located and primarily operating in NSW; and
  • Annual turnover of more than $75,000 for the year ending 30 June 2020; and
  • An annual Australian wages bill below $10m as at 1 July 2020.

Applications for the grant open in late July.

Northern Territory

The Territory Business Lockdown Payment Program provides a payment of $1,000 to eligible Territory enterprises with less than 20 full time equivalent staff.  Applications close on 16 July 2021.

Queensland

A Small Business COVID-19 Adaption Grant of between $2,000 and $10,000 is available to eligible regional Queensland businesses. The grant requires your business to have suffered a decline in turnover of at least 30% because of COVID-19 for at least one month since 23 March 2020. The grant is accessible to businesses with less than 20 staff.

 

Victoria

Grants and other business support programs are available targeting specific industries such as live events, hospitality, and the employment of priority jobseekers. See Business Victoria.

Western Australia

A second round of Small Business Lockdown Assistance Grants of $3,000 are available to eligible businesses in Perth, Peel and regional WA impacted by recent lockdowns. Applications are not yet open but you can register for updates. Specific industry assistance is also available.

Direct grants and funding to South Australian and ACT businesses are applicable when extended lock-downs are imposed.

 

Business in a post pandemic environment

Countries that have experienced the worst of the pandemic give Australian businesses an insight into what to expect in a post-lockdown environment.

Australia, like New Zealand, has managed COVID-19 on an elimination basis. That is, lockdowns and border closures to keep the virus out. And, it has worked comparatively well with New Zealand suffering 26 deaths (0.5 per 100,000 people) and Australia 910 (3.7 per 100,000), compared to the UK with over 128,000 deaths (191 per 100,000), India over 400,000 (29.8 per 100,000), Brazil over 500,000 (250.4 per 100,000), and the United States over 600,000 (184.3 per 100,000).

But the flip side of a COVID-19 elimination strategy is a slow vaccine rollout – not only are global vaccine supplies predominantly directed to first world nations with higher mortality rates but vaccination reticence has taken hold (the “I’ll wait and see what happens” mentality). Deciding whether to get a vaccination (and making the appointment) is easy to put off when your life, and the well-being of those around you, is not in danger. We saw this psychology at play in Sydney and Melbourne when vaccination rates increased in response to the spread of the Delta variant.

While all of this might not have a direct impact on businesses, it does impact on the timing of the recently announced National Plan to transition Australia’s COVID response, and this plan will determine what the business environment will be like over the coming year.

The National Plan has signalled a policy shift from our current focus on COVID infection rates, to two new key determinants – vaccination and hospitalisation rates.

At present, Australia has administered 33 vaccination doses per 100 people. New Zealand is just over 26 doses per 100 utilising Pfizer and the recently approved Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, and Japan over 42 doses per 100.

Australia will pursue an elimination (or ‘double doughnut’) strategy until vaccination rates rise to a level where the risk of hospitalisation and death from the virus is relatively low. However, we don’t know what these thresholds look like at present with the Government and COVID-19 Task Force yet to make its recommendations.

Australia cannot move from an elimination strategy to ‘living with COVID’ in a few months without unacceptable hospitalisation and death rates – for example, the UK is moving to no restrictions despite over 160 people dying of COVID and just under 2,500 hospitalised in the last 7 days.

The National Plan identifies four stages and the actions of each of those stages. In brief:

  1. Phase 1 – Current strategy
  2. Phase 2 – Post vaccination phase – eased restrictions for those who have been vaccinated and lock-downs only when hospitalisation rates spike
  3. Phase 3 – Consolidation phase – no lockdowns and pursuit of a ‘vaccination passport’ concept where those who are vaccinated can travel freely domestically, and travel bubbles extended to more countries.
  4. Final phase – the living with the virus stage with uncapped inbound arrivals including accepting non-vaccinated international travellers if they pass a pre and post arrival COVID test.

Data is only just emerging on the impact of vaccination rates on hospitalisations and death rates, but only a small number of countries have enough of their populations vaccinated to provide a reliable sample – Israel (120 doses per 100 people), the UK (119 per 100) and the US (100 per 100). Even when the Australian vaccination targets are confirmed, we should expect these phases to move over time if hospitalisations increase beyond acceptable levels and if new and deeper data suggests a change in tack (like with the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine). In addition, it is likely that the States and Territories will continue to have the final say on what is acceptable. All of this means that while we will have a National Plan, business should remain vigilant and prepare for a potentially longer transition period than what is announced.

The National Plan’s impact on business

The economic impact of COVID-19 is unlike any other, with some businesses suffering a fatal blow while others have benefited. COVID’s impact varies sector by sector and region by region as we bounce from one set of operating conditions to another depending on the Government’s response to outbreaks.

Cashflow is a dominant concern with ABS data showing a decline in the number of businesses expecting an increase in revenue between February (27%) and July 2021 (18%).

The National Plan will impact differently on different sectors and it will be important for business operators to understand the potential impact on them at each phase.

  • Phase 1 – Be prepared for further ad-hoc lockdowns and restrictions
  • Map the impact of restrictions on your business, your cashflow and your team and what you will need to survive. Understand whether it is worth trading, the cost of trading and the potential of hibernating.
  • Model contingency scenarios and understand the best available action.
  • Phase 2 – taking advantage of eased restrictions
  • Lock-in any COVID gains – this might be keeping or adapting any new services, building on new technologies, or nurturing a database of new customers (while protecting your relationship with your existing customers). Business has changed, understand what has changed and how you can benefit from these changes.
  • Phase 3 – no lockdowns and returning travel
  • Understand what your customer base will look like when restrictions ease? If your business benefited from COVID, is there a potential to be detrimentally impacted when your customers have greater choice. If eased restrictions open new or returning opportunities, what can you do to drive this business to you?

COVID impacts differently depending on the business, the sector, and geographic location. There is no one size fits all approach to surviving and thriving. If you would like us to review your businesses circumstances and ensure you have the depth of information you need to make the right decisions, please contact us.

 

6 Member SMSFs – the issues and opportunities

 

 

From 1 July 2021, the maximum number of members a Self Managed Super Fund can have increased from four to six. Why would you have a fund with six members and what are the implications?

Recently enacted laws increased the maximum number of allowable members in an SMSF and small APRA fund from four to six.

Currently, over 70% of SMSFs have just two members and those with four members represent only 4% of the SMSF population. The use of six member funds is likely to be small but adds additional choice and flexibility.

Family groups

Six member funds provide family groups with a vehicle for controlling superannuation savings and investment strategies. For families with more than four members, previously the only real option was to create two SMSFs (incurring extra costs) or place their superannuation in a large fund.

A larger fund also offers a level of protection if a fund member is travelling overseas for a prolonged period of time. The residency rules require, amongst other things, 50% of members measured by market value to be in Australia.

Estate planning

Estate planning is a benefit of the new laws particularly tax-effective intergenerational wealth transfer as the assets of a fund generally are not part of the estate.  Take the example of a family business that holds the commercial property of the business in their family SMSF. If the parents die, the children might keep running the business and maintain the commercial property within the SMSF as an asset. Holding assets within the SMSF also provides a level of asst protection from creditors.

The problem areas

  • Investment decisions within a fund – Problems can occur when members have different investment needs, for example parents might be closer to retirement while the children are focussed on the longer term. The investment strategy of the fund may not meet everyone’s requirements.
  • Disputes – the more members in a fund the greater the potential for disputes. For those with legal capacity to be a trustee (18 or over), the rules relating to the appointment and dismissal of trustees, voting rights and meetings need to be clear.
  • What happens when a member dies – steps need to be taken to ensure that when a member of the fund dies, their wishes are respected. For example, appointing a legal personal representative as trustee, reversionary pensions or binding death nominations.

Who cannot have a six member fund?

Not all SMSFs will have the option to allow six members because in some instances, the number of individual trustees that a trust can have is limited to less than five or six trustees by State legislation (Queensland for example). In these cases, fund members might opt to use a corporate trustee.

Administrative impact on an SMSF

The change from four to six members updates the definition of an SMSF, and as a result, has a practical impacts across other Acts and Regulations.

Sign-off requirements for an SMSF’s accounts and financial statements will change. Currently, if an SMSF has more than one director member, its accounts and statements must be signed by at least two members in their capacity as individual trustee or as a director of a corporate trustee. As there cannot be more than four members of an SMSF under the current rules, these requirements ensure that all members sign the accounts and statements of SMSFs with one or two members. For SMSFs with three or four members, at least half of the members must sign its accounts and statements for an income year. Under the updated requirements, an SMSF with one or two directors or individual trustees must have its accounts and statements signed by all of those directors or trustees. For all other SMSFs (that is, those with between three and six directors or trustees), the accounts and statements of the SMSF must be signed by at least half of the directors or individual trustees.

New laws target sharing economy platforms

In an attempt to reign in undeclared income, proposed new laws will require platform providers in the sharing economy to report all transactions through their platforms.

Traditional employment models have shifted in favour of more flexible options including contracting, self-employment and use of labour hire. Consumers are increasingly paying to ‘use’ rather than ‘own’ assets, creating new income opportunities for the owners of assets – like AirBNB. And, the Government believes they are missing out on tax revenues from these payments – income tax from income earned, GST on ride sharing (because the ATO considers all ride sharing a taxi service and as a result GST applies), and capital gains tax on the sale of property used to earn income, etc.

While data matching programs have targeted sharing platforms previously, the proposed laws provide a structured and consistent framework to recognise all revenue earned in Australia through these platforms.

The laws target electronic platforms capturing those that act as intermediaries between buyers and sellers, to more complex arrangements where the platform operator assumes much of the inherent risk in the transaction between the buyer and the seller, play a quality assurance role, and ensure a seamless experience for the buyer and seller. The laws do not rely on the platform processing payments and will reach to those who use third party payment providers.

If implemented, the laws will apply to ride sharing and accommodation services from 1 July 2022, and all other services from 1 July 2023.

If you can’t work because you or someone in your household is impacted by COVID-19, there is support available, but it comes with fairly strict eligibility criteria. There are two payments accessible to individuals: The COVID -19 Disaster Payment; and the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment. Both payments are accessible through Services Australia and applications can be made through your MyGov account if you have created and linked a Centrelink account.

 

 

COVID-19 Disaster payments

Contrary to news reports, the COVID-19 disaster payment is not accessible to “everyone” in lockdown – strict eligibility rules apply.

The COVID-19 disaster payment is available to eligible workers who can’t attend work or who have lost income because of a lockdown and don’t have access to paid leave entitlements.  And, it only applies from the eighth day of lockdown. That is, there is nothing you can claim for the first week of a lockdown.

What’s a hotspot?

The disaster payment is only accessible if the hotspot triggering the lockdown lasts more than 7 days as declared by the Chief Medical Officer (you can find the listing here). In Sydney’s case, the City of Sydney, Waverley, Woollahra, Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick were Commonwealth declared hotspots from 23 June 2021 with the hotspot extended until 2 July 2021 – meaning that the COVID-19 disaster payment is available to eligible workers in those areas from 1 July 2021. Greater Sydney was declared a hotspot from 26 June 2021.

You need to be living or working in a hotspot for it to apply to you.

Claim periods apply. For Melbourne’s lockdown for example, the disaster payment was accessible from 4 June until 10 June 2021, and those impacted have until 2 July 2021 to claim the disaster payment for the applicable lockdown period.

How much is the payment?

The COVID-19 disaster payment depends on how many hours of work you have lost in the lockdown period.

The payment applies to each relevant period of lockdown and is taxable (you will need to declare it in your income tax return).

Are you eligible for the COVID-19 disaster payment?

The COVID-19 disaster payment is emergency relief. It is available if you:

  • Are an Australian citizen, permanent resident or temporary visa holder who has the right to work in Australia, and
  • Are aged 17 years or over, and
  • Can’t attend work and lost income on or after day 8 of a COVID-19 lockdown, and
  • Don’t have access to appropriate paid leave entitlements through your employer, and
  • Are not getting an income support payment, a state or territory pandemic payment, Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment or state small business payment for the same period.

In addition, you need to declare that you do not have liquid assets of more than $10,000.

Legislation passed Parliament last week retrospectively enabling the disaster payments to people who lost work because of COVID-19 lockdowns in Melbourne and enabling future payments to 30 June 2022.

 

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is for those who have been advised by their relevant health authority to self-isolate or quarantine because:

  • you have coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you’ve been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19
  • you care for a child, 16 years or under, who has COVID-19
  • you care for a child, 16 years or under, who’s been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19.

The payment might also be accessible if you are a carer for someone impacted.

How much is the payment?

The payment is $1,500 for each 14 day period you are advised to self-isolate or quarantine. If you are a couple, you both can claim this payment if you meet the eligibility criteria.

Are you eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment?

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is emergency relief. It is available if you:

  • Are an Australian citizen, permanent resident or temporary visa holder who has the right to work in Australia, and
  • Are aged 17 years or over, and
  • Are unable to go to work and earn an income, and
  • Do not have appropriate leave entitlements, including pandemic sick leave, personal leave or carers leave, and
  • Are not getting any income support payment, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Paid parental leave or Dad and Partner Pay.

The payment is taxable and you will need to declare it in your income tax return.

If you are uncertain of your eligibility, talk to Services Australia. If you are concerned about the impact of disaster relief payments on you, talk to your adviser.

The material and contents provided in this publication are informative in nature only.  It is not intended to be advice and you should not act specifically on the basis of this information alone.  If expert assistance is required, professional advice should be obtained.

 

Work from home expenses under scrutiny & the perils of browsing Facebook

If you worked from home during lockdown and spent money on work related items that were not reimbursed by your business, you might be able to claim some of these expenses as a deduction – but not everything you purchase can be claimed.

The ATO has stated that it is looking very closely at work related deductions that are being claimed. If you are claiming your expenses, there are three methods you can use:

  • An 80 cents per hour short cut method (you will need to have evidence of hours worked like a timesheet or diary)
  • The 52 cents per hour method (which excludes phone, internet, or the decline in value of equipment which are all claimed separately), or
  • The actual expenses method.

The ATO is particularly interested in those using the ‘actual expenses’ method. To be able to claim a work related expense, it needs to be directly related to the work you do and how you earn your income. The ATO has highlighted four ineligible expenses that are being claimed:

  • Personal expenses such as coffee, tea and toilet paper
  • Expenses related to a child’s education, such as online learning courses or laptops
  • Claiming large expenses up-front (instead of claiming depreciation for assets), and
  • Occupancy expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, property insurance, and land taxes and rates, that cannot generally be claimed by employees working from home.

A recent case before the AAT shows how determined the ATO is to crackdown on work related deductions being claimed where there is not a satisfactory nexus between the expense being claimed and the taxpayer’s work. In this case, the taxpayer had claimed car and clothing expenses, and home internet and mobile phone costs. The ATO conceded the car costs but on a reduced deduction. When it came to clothing expenses the ATO conceded that a deduction could be claimed for gloves and a beanie on the basis that the taxpayer worked in cold conditions and that these were protective clothing needed for the job. However, the AAT refused to allow a deduction for the cost of a pair of socks on the basis that they were not protective in nature in their own right – yes, it really does get this detailed.

The taxpayer had also claimed 100% of his home internet expenses but the ATO reviewed this claim and reduced the deductible amount to $50 – a record of the family’s home internet usage demonstrated the internet was used to browse Facebook amongst other non-work related sites.

One of the other issues to come out of this case was the importance of record keeping. If you are going to claim work related expenses, then ensure you have the records to prove your claim.

 

 

Am I taxed on an insurance payout?

Australia has had its fair share of disasters over the last few years – drought, bushfires and floods – that have ramped up the volume of insurance claims. Most people would assume that if and when they need to claim on their insurance, the insurance payout covers the damage and is not income assessed for tax purposes – but this is not always the case.

Insurance payouts for damaged or destroyed personal items are generally not taxed. For example, any insurance payout you receive for your family home won’t necessarily be taxed. But, the rules are different if you have used your home to produce an income, for example, you have used part of your home as a home business or you have rented out part of your home.

The rules are also different if the item is a personal asset costing more than $10,000 or if the asset is a collectible that cost more than $500. Where the insurance proceeds exceed the original cost of the asset, that is, the asset appreciated in value, then capital gains tax might apply.

And, if the asset damaged is related to a business or an income producing asset like a rental property, the rules are also different.

Business premises, trading stock and depreciating assets

For businesses that have had trading stock damaged or destroyed, any insurance payout is taxable. For example, the payouts on claims coming through from the enforced lockdowns for spoiled perishable stock would need to be included in the business’s tax return. This is because the insurance premiums would have been claimed by the business as an expense. It is just a question of how the insurance is taxed.

If your business premises are damaged and the insurance covers repairs, then the amount you receive is generally taxed as income if you can claim a deduction for the repair costs. Where the premises are damaged or destroyed, then we’ll need to work with you to identify if you have made a taxable gain or loss.

When it comes to depreciating assets like machinery, then it starts getting more complex. In general, if the insurance payout exceeds the written down value, then the payout is included in the business’s assessable income, and if less, you can claim a deduction for the difference. However, there are also special rules for work cars, small businesses, and where a replacement item is purchased.

Rental properties

A rental property is an income producing asset and, in most cases, the cost of insurance policies relating to the property would have been claimed as an expense. For example, if you receive a payout for your rental property as a result of a disaster, generally, you will need to include at least part of this amount as income in your tax return. This could include insurance payouts for loss of rental income, repairs, replacements of destroyed assets, or money received from a relief fund.

The treatment of the insurance proceeds depends on what the payout is for, how the insurance is used, and whether the rental property was vacant or in use.

A recent case before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) shows how tricky this area of the tax rules can be. In this case, the taxpayer initially received insurance proceeds of $24,000 for lost rental income after their property sustained storm and flood damage. The taxpayer had declared this amount as income.  All good so far.

Then, the taxpayer received an additional $250,000 from the insurer with the payment described as “in consideration of the taxpayer releasing the insurer from all liability past, present and future under the insurance policy”. The taxpayer did not believe this money was for him to repair his property so did not claim it in his tax return. But, he did claim a deduction for repair costs totalling $130,000 in two income years.

The ATO subsequently audited the taxpayer and issued an assessment for the full $250,000. The AAT agreed with the ATO even though the taxpayer had only claimed $130,000 in repairs. It’s possible this case will go to appeal but it serves as a warning that any lump sum payouts need to be very carefully assessed and dealt with.

If you have been impacted by a disaster and are uncertain of how any insurance proceeds will be taxed, please talk to us and we can work with you to help you understand your position.

 

 

What changes on 1 July 2021?

Super guarantee rate increase to 10%

On 1 July 2021, the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) rate will rise from 9.5% to 10% – the first rise since 2014. It will then steadily increase each year until it reaches 12% on 1 July 2025.

The 0.5% increase does not mean that everyone gets an automatic pay increase, this will depend on your employment agreement. If your employment agreement states you are paid on a ‘total remuneration’ basis (base plus SG and any other allowances), then your take home pay might be reduced by 0.5%. That is, a greater percentage of your total remuneration will be directed to your superannuation fund. For those paid a rate plus superannuation, then your take home pay will remain the same, but your superannuation fund will benefit from the increase. If you are used to annual increases, the 0.5% increase might simply be absorbed into your remuneration review.

Employers will need to ensure that they pay the correct SG amount in the new financial year to avoid the superannuation guarantee charge. Where employee salaries are paid at a point other than the first day of the month, ensure the calculations are correct across the month (i.e., for staff paid on the 15th of the month they are paid the correct SG rate for June and July in their pay and not just the June rate).

Superannuation salary packaging arrangements will also need to be reviewed – employers should ensure that the calculations are correct and the SG rate increase flows through.

New stapled superannuation employer obligations for new staff

Currently, when an employer hires a new staff member, the employee is provided with a Choice of Fund form to identify where they want their superannuation to be directed. If the employee does not identify a fund, the employer directs their superannuation into a default fund.

When someone has multiple funds, it often erodes their balance through unnecessary fees and often insurance. And, as at 30 June 2020, there was $13.8 billion of lost and unclaimed superannuation in accounts across Australia.

From 1 July 2021, where an employee does not identify a fund, legislation before Parliament will require the employer to link the employee to an existing superannuation fund. That is, an employee’s superannuation fund will become ‘stapled’ to them. An employer will not simply be able to set up a default fund, but instead will be required to request that the ATO identify the employee’s stapled fund. If the ATO confirms no other fund exists for the employee, contributions can be directed to the employer’s default fund or a fund specified under a workplace determination or an enterprise agreement (if the determination was made before 1 January 2021).

Legislation enabling this measure is currently before the Senate.

Indexation increases contribution caps and the transfer balance cap

Indexation ensures that the caps on superannuation that limit how much you can transfer into super and how much you hold in a tax-free retirement account, remain relevant by making pre-determined increases in line with inflation. To trigger indexation, the consumer price index (CPI) needed to reach 116.9. Australia reached 117.2 in December 2020 triggering increases to the contribution and transfer balance caps from 1 July 2021. The next increase will occur when a December quarter CPI reaches 123.75.

Concessional and non-concessional contribution caps

From 1 July 2021, the superannuation contribution caps will increase enabling you to contribute more to your superannuation fund (assuming you have not already reached your transfer balance cap).

The concessional contribution cap will increase from $25,000 to $27,500. Concessional contributions are contributions made into your super fund before tax such as superannuation guarantee or salary packaging.

The non-concessional cap will increase from $100,000 to $110,000. Non-concessional contributions are after tax contributions made into your super fund.

The bring forward rule enables those under the age of 65 to contribute three years’ worth of non-concessional contributions to your super in one year. From 1 July 2021, you will be able to contribute up to $330,000 in one year. Total superannuation balance rules will continue to apply. However, if you have utilised the bring forward rule in 2018-19 or 2019-20, then your contribution cap will not increase until the three year period has passed.

Transfer balance cap – why you will have a personal cap

The transfer balance cap (TBC), as the name suggests, limits how much money you can transfer into a tax-free retirement account. From 1 July 2021, the general TBC will increase from $1.6m to $1.7m but not everyone will benefit from the increase.

From 1 July 2021, there will not be a single cap that applies to everyone. Instead, every individual will have their own personal TBC of between $1.6 and $1.7 million, depending on their circumstances.

If your superannuation is in accumulation phase before 1 July 2021, that is, you have not started taking an income stream (pension), then your cap will be the fully indexed amount of $1.7m.

However, if you have started taking an income stream – you have retired or are transitioning to retirement – then your indexed TBC will be calculated proportionately based on the highest ever balance of your account between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2021. The closer your account is to the $1.6m cap, the less impact indexation will have. For anyone who reached the $1.6m cap at any time between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2021, indexation will not apply and your cap will continue to be $1.6m. For example, if you are transitioning to retirement and drawing a pension, and your highest ever balance in your retirement account was $1.2m, then indexation only applies to $400,000 (the $1.6m cap less your highest very balance). In this case, your new personal TBC will be $1,625,000 after indexation.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will calculate your personal TBC based on the information lodged with them (this will be available from your myGov account linked to the ATO). If your superannuation is in retirement phase, it will be very important to ensure that your Transfer Balance Account compliance obligations are up to date. For Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs), it is essential that you let us know about any changes that impact on your transfer balance account, for example if a member of your fund retires.

The total super balance caps to utilise the spouse contribution offset and the government co-contribution will also be lifted to $1.7m in line with indexation.

Minimum superannuation drawdown rates

The Government has announced an extension of the temporary reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown rates for a further year until 30 June 2022.

Single touch payroll reporting

Single touch payroll will apply to most businesses from 1 July 2021, this will include small businesses (those with 19 or fewer staff) and businesses with closely held employees (e.g., directors of family companies, salary and wages for family employees of businesses). No further extensions will be granted.

For employers with closely held employees, there are some concessions on how reporting is managed with the option to report one of three ways: reporting actual payments in real time, reporting actual payments quarterly or reporting a reasonable estimate quarterly. These concessions allow a level of flexibility in relation to determining and making payments to closely-held payees. However, if your business is impacted, it will be important to plan throughout the year to prevent problems occurring at year end.