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How good is ChatGPT at tax?

Not being paranoid or anything but we were curious about the skills of the latest innovation to take the world by storm, ChatGPT, and its ability to work with the Australian tax system.

Let’s start by saying that we were impressed. Not so much by ChatGPT’s ability to work with the complexities of the tax system, but for its tone and approach. The outcome from our testing, including the example below, is that you might end up with some general comments that are reasonably accurate, but you’re unlikely to get an answer that can be relied on. And with most technical commentary tied up in personal advice rather than on the web where ChatGPT can explore it, it is unlikely that we will get there any time soon.

Here are the results of our test question and our commentary (ChatGPT’s response is in italics).

Question: How much capital gains tax does an Australian resident pay on an investment property with a worked example.

ChatGPT: An Australian resident pays capital gains tax (CGT) on the profit made from selling an investment property. The CGT is calculated by subtracting the cost of the property (purchase price plus any costs associated with acquiring and owning the property) from the sale price.

For example, let’s say an Australian resident purchased an investment property for $500,000 and spent $50,000 on costs associated with acquiring and owning the property (such as legal fees, stamp duty, and repairs). The total cost of the property is $550,000.

The accountant: Let’s stop there and take stock. There are some tricks and traps that need to be considered when working out an asset’s cost base.

While repair costs in some cases can form part of a property’s cost base, this is not always the case. The situation is often different where the asset being sold is an investment property that has been rented to tenants. When a landlord repairs damage that occurs while the property is rented to a tenant, this will often be deductible to the landlord at the time the repair costs are incurred. Because deductions are available for these repair costs, they should not also be included in the property’s cost base.

There are also other adjustments that need to be considered. In the context of investment properties, it will often be necessary to make adjustments to the cost base to take into account capital works deductions. Landlords can often claim capital works deductions when an investment property is used to derive assessable rental income. The property’s cost base should then be reduced by capital works deductions that have been or could be claimed by the landlord (although there is an exception to this if the property was acquired before 13 May 1997 and the cost of improvements was incurred by 30 June 1999).

The longer the period of ownership, the more likely that capital works deductions and repair costs can end up being quite significant and have a material impact on the capital gain calculation.

ChatGPT: After several years, the resident decides to sell the property for $700,000. The profit made from the sale is $700,000 – $550,000 = $150,000.     The CGT rate in Australia is currently at 45% and the resident will pay 45% of the $150,000 profit, which is $67,500.

The accountant: Let’s take a closer look at that calculation. There is no CGT rate of 45% that applies specifically to capital gains. Net capital gains form part of an individual taxpayer’s assessable income. This figure is then used to calculate the individual’s taxable income for the relevant income year. If there is a positive taxable income figure, then we apply the individual’s marginal tax rates.

One way of explaining this is that a higher taxable income normally results in a higher tax bracket and a higher rate of tax. In other words, the tax rate that applies to an individual’s net capital gains is impacted by the individual’s other income or losses (if any).

Also, while the highest marginal tax rate for individuals is currently 45 per cents for each dollar of taxable income above $180,000, Australian residents are also normally subject to the Medicare levy of 2%.  This should be considered and factored in.

ChatGPT: It’s worth noting that there are certain exemptions and reductions that can be applied to the CGT calculation, such as the main residence exemption and the small business CGT concessions.

The accountant: If only tax was that simple! There are certain exemptions and reductions that can apply to capital gains. While the answer mentions the main residence exemption and the small business CGT concessions, these concessions do not normally apply to the sale of an investment property.

For the main residence exemption (or partial main residence exemption) to be available, one of the key conditions is that property would need to have been established and used as the individual’s main residence.  The exemption is unlikely to be available if the property has been used solely as an investment property to derive assessable rental income, although if the property was inherited then the position could be different.

Also, the small business CGT concessions would not normally apply to the sale of an investment property.  This is because the concessions can only apply if the asset passes an active asset test, which requires the property to have been used in qualifying business activities for a minimum period of time.

Assets used in a business carried on by the owner or certain related parties can often be treated as active assets for the purpose of these concessions, but there is a specific exception for assets used mainly to derive rent from unrelated parties.

If the property has been solely used to derive rent (even if used in a rental business) from unrelated parties, the property is likely to fail the active asset test and the small business CGT concessions shouldn’t be available.

Interestingly, the answer didn’t refer to the general CGT discount or indexation, which are the most likely concessions that would apply to a situation like this.

If the seller is an Australian resident (and not a temporary resident) during the period they owned the property and has owned the property for more than 12 months, the 50% CGT general discount would often be available to reduce the capital gain.

If the property was acquired before 21 September 1999, indexation of the cost base could be available instead. It would be necessary to compare both options to see which provides the more favourable result.

ChatGPT: It is advisable to consult with a tax professional to determine the specific tax implications of selling an investment property.

The accountant: Yes, indeed it is. Thank you ChatGPT.

 

 

Full throttle in 2023

In a volatile market, keeping to a strategy, or let’s face it creating one, can be tough.

The downside of not taking time out for your strategy is that there is a tendency to keep a short-term focus at an operational level to try and pick quick wins to generate financial returns. Sometimes in the process, this short-term focus undermines longer term value and returns.

Here are our ‘must dos’:

Know what your position is.

A business health check is an analysis of the current state of your business. It is an analytical review of its operation with view to providing a broad overview of operating performance and identifying potential issues. Understanding your position will reveal your risks and capacity to develop.

Know what to look for.

Once you know your position, the next question is what are the measures that are going to give you the best insight into business performance. In a volatile market, this information will give you what you need to make informed decisions at any one point in time.

Be prepared to make quick decisions.

If you know your position and have the data you need, be prepared to make quick decisions and take the first mover advantage. If you have the two elements above, you have your radar for identifying opportunities and mitigating risk. Most businesses are simply a replication of what they see. While the pandemic and market instability is difficult, we have also seen a wave of innovation as people adapt to find solutions.

Don’t bank on a single opportunity.

If COVID has taught us anything it is that things change, and we need to adapt and change with the circumstances. While one single opportunity might make all the difference, an overreliance on one product, service, or methodology of delivering those products and services, exposes you to risk.

Understand your end game.

What are you aiming for? Family empire? Fast growth and sale? Sustainable growth and sale as a retirement plan? Public listing? Even if you plan on simply running and growing your business for decades to come, that is a decision. Your end game and your progress towards that end game impacts your structure, focus, and decision making.

Document your strategy.

Document your strategy – knowing it in your head is not enough. This does not have to be an onerous War & Peace approach. It is understanding what you are aiming for, and breaking that down into measurable objectives, then into measurable outcomes and timeframes (preferably actionable against rolling 90 day plans). This approach also makes management meetings a lot more meaningful.

 

 

Is ‘downsizing’ worth it?

 

From 1 January 2023, those 55 and over can make a ‘downsizer’ contribution to superannuation.

Downsizer contributions are an excellent way to get money into superannuation quickly. And now that the age limit has reduced to 55 from 60, more people have an opportunity to use this strategy if it suits their needs.

What’s a ‘downsizer’ contribution?

If you are aged 55 years or older, you can contribute $300,000 from the proceeds of the sale of your home to your superannuation fund.

Downsizer contributions are excluded from the existing age test, work test, and the transfer balance threshold (but are limited by your transfer balance cap).

For couples, both members of a couple can take advantage of the concession for the same home. That is, if you and your spouse meet the other criteria, both of you can contribute up to $300,000 ($600,000 per couple). This is the case even if one of you did not have an ownership interest in the property that was sold (assuming they meet the other criteria).

Sale proceeds contributed to superannuation under this measure count towards the Age Pension assets test. Because a downsizer contribution can only be made once in a lifetime, it is important to ensure that this is the right option for you.

Let’s look at the eligibility criteria:

  • You are 55 years or older (from 1 January 2023) at the time of making the contribution.
  • The home was owned by you or your spouse for 10 years or more prior to the sale – the ownership period is generally calculated from the date of settlement of purchase to the date of settlement of sale.
  • The home is in Australia and is not a caravan, houseboat, or other mobile home.
  • The proceeds (capital gain or loss) from the sale of the home are either exempt or partially exempt from capital gains tax (CGT) under the main residence exemption, or would be entitled to such an exemption if the home was a post-CGT asset rather than a pre-CGT asset (acquired before 20 September 1985). Check with us if you are uncertain.
  • You provide your super fund with the Downsizer contribution into super form (NAT 75073) either before or at the time of making the downsizer contribution.
  • The downsizer contribution is made within 90 days of receiving the proceeds of sale, which is usually at the date of settlement.
  • You have not previously made a downsizer contribution to super from the sale of another home or from the part sale of your home.

Do I have to buy another smaller home?

The name ‘downsizer’ is a bit of a misnomer. To access this measure you do not have to buy another home once you have sold your existing home, and you are not required to buy a smaller home – you could buy a larger and more expensive one.

 

 

The ATO’s final position on risky trust distributions

 

The ATO has released its final position on how it will apply some integrity rules dealing with trust distributions – changing the goal posts for trusts distributing to adult children, corporate beneficiaries, and entities with losses. As a result, many family groups will pay higher taxes because of the ATO’s more aggressive approach.

Section 100A

The tax legislation contains an integrity rule, section 100A, which is aimed at situations where income of a trust is appointed in favour of a beneficiary, but the economic benefit of the distribution is provided to another individual or entity. For section 100A to apply, there needs to be a ‘reimbursement agreement’ in place at or before the time the income is appointed to the beneficiary. Distributions to minor beneficiaries and other beneficiaries who are under a legal disability are not impacted by these rules.

If trust distributions are caught by section 100A, this generally results in the trustee being taxed on the income at penalty rates rather than the beneficiary being taxed at their own marginal tax rates.

While section 100A has been around since 1979, until recently there has been relatively little guidance on how the ATO approaches section 100A. This is no longer the case and the ATO’s recent guidance indicates that a number of scenarios involving trust distributions could be at risk.

For section 100A to apply:

  • The present entitlement (a person or an entity is or becomes entitled to income from the trust) must relate to a reimbursement agreement;
  • The agreement must provide for a benefit to be provided to a person other than the beneficiary who is presently entitled to the trust income; and
  • A purpose of one or more of the parties to the agreement must be that a person would be liable to pay less income tax for a year of income.

High risk areas

Until recently many people have relied on the exclusions to section 100A which prevent the rules applying when the distribution is to a beneficiary who is under a legal disability (e.g., a minor) or where the arrangement is part of an ordinary family or commercial dealing (the ‘ordinary dealing’ exception). It is the ordinary dealing exception that is currently in the spotlight.

For example, let’s assume that a university student who is over 18 and has no other sources of income is made presently entitled to $100,000 of trust income. The student agrees to pay the funds (less tax they need to pay to the ATO) to their parents to reimburse them for costs that were incurred when the student was a minor. This situation is likely to be considered high risk if the student is on a lower marginal tax rate than the parents because the parents are receiving the real benefit of the income.

The ATO is also concerned with scenarios involving circular distributions. For example, this could occur when a trust distributes income to a company that is owned by the trust. The company then pays dividends back to the trust, which distributes some or all of the dividends back to the company. And so on. The ATO views these arrangements as high risk from a section 100A perspective.

Common scenarios identified as high risk by the ATO include:

  • The beneficiary is a company or trust with losses and the beneficiary is not part of the same family group as the trust making the distribution.
  • A company or trust which is entitled to distributions from the trust returns the funds to the trustee (i.e., circular arrangements).
  • The beneficiary is issued units by the trustee of the trust (or a related trust) with the amount owed for the units being set-off against the entitlement and where the market value of the units is less than the subscription price or the trustee is able to do this without the consent of the beneficiary.
  • Adult children are made presently entitled to income, but the funds are paid to a parent in relation to expenses incurred before the beneficiary turned 18.

Where to from here?

If you have a discretionary trust, it will be important to ensure that all trust distribution arrangements are reviewed in light of the ATO’s guidance to determine the level of risk associated with the arrangements. It is also vital to ensure that appropriate documentation is in place to demonstrate how funds relating to trust distributions are being used or applied for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

The ATO’s new approach applies to entitlements before and after the publication of the new guidance but for entitlements arising before 1 July 2022, the ATO will not generally pursue these if they are either low risk under the new guidance, or if they comply with the ATO’s previous guidance on trust reimbursement agreements.

SMSF reporting changes from 1 July 2023

If you have an SMSF with a total balance of less than $1 million, from 1 July 2023 you will need to report quarterly to the ATO instead of annually. Previously, SMSFs with a balance under $1m reported annually at the same time as lodging the SMSF annual return.

 

Avoiding the FBT Christmas Grinch!

It’s that time of year again – what to do for the Christmas party for the team, customers, gifts of appreciation for your favourite accountant (just kidding), etc. Here are our top tips for a generous and tax effective Christmas season:

Tax & Christmas

For GST registered businesses (not tax exempt) that are not using the 50-50 split method for meal entertainment.

 

For your business

What to do for customers?

The most effective way of sharing the Christmas joy with customers is not necessarily the most tax effective. If, for example, you take your client out or entertain them in any way, it’s not tax deductible and you can’t claim back the GST.  There are specific rules designed to prevent deductions and GST credits from being claimed when the expenses relate to entertainment, regardless of whether there is an expectation of generating goodwill and increased business sales. Restaurants, a show, golf, and corporate race days all fall into the ‘entertainment’ category.

However, if you send your customer a gift, then the gift is tax deductible as long as there is an expectation that the business will benefit (assuming the gift does not amount to entertainment).  Even better, why don’t you deliver the gift yourself for your best customers and personally wish them a Merry Christmas.  It will have a much bigger impact even if they are not available and the receptionist tells them you delivered the gift

From a marketing perspective, if your budget is tight, it’s better to focus on the customers you believe deliver the most value to your business rather than spending a small amount on every customer regardless of value. If you are going to invest in Christmas gifts, then make it something people remember and appropriate to your business.

You could also make a donation on behalf of your customers (where your business takes the tax deduction) or for your customers (where they receive the tax deduction).  Donations to deductible gift recipients (DGRs) above $2 are often tax deductible and can make an active difference to a cause.

What to do for your team?

Christmas is expensive. Some businesses simply can’t afford to do much because cashflow is too tight.  Expectations are high so if you are doing something then it’s best not to exacerbate cashflow problems and take advantage of any tax benefits or concessions you can.

 

Christmas parties

If you really want to avoid tax on your work Christmas party then host it in the office on a workday. This way, Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) is unlikely to apply regardless of how much you spend per person.

Also, taxi travel that starts or finishes at an employee’s place of work is exempt from FBT.  So, if you have a few team members that need to be loaded into a taxi after over indulging in Christmas cheer, the ride home is exempt from FBT.

If your work Christmas party is out of the office, keep the cost of your celebrations below $300 per person if you want to avoid paying FBT.  The downside is that the business cannot claim deductions or GST credits for the expenses if there is no FBT payable in relation to the party.

If the party is held somewhere other than your business premises, then the taxi travel is taken to be a separate benefit from the party itself and any Christmas gifts you have provided. In theory, this means that if the cost of each item per person is below $300 then the gift, party and taxi travel can potentially all be FBT-free. Just remember that the minor benefits exemption requires a number of factors to be considered, including the total value of associated benefits provided across the FBT year.

If entertainment is provided to employees and an FBT exemption applies, you will not be able to claim tax deductions or GST credits for the expenses.

If your business hosts slightly more extravagant parties and goes above the $300 per person minor benefit limit, you will pay FBT but you can also claim a tax deduction and GST credits for the cost of the event.  Just bear in mind that deductions are only useful to offset against tax. If your business is paying no or limited amounts of tax, a tax deduction is not going to help offset the cost of the party.

Christmas gifts for staff

$300 is the minor benefit threshold for FBT so anything at or above this level will mean that your Christmas generosity will result in a gift to the Tax Office as well at a rate of 47%. To qualify as a minor benefit, gifts also have to be ad hoc – no monthly gym memberships or giving one person multiple gift vouchers amounting to $300 or more.

Gifts of cash from the business are treated as salary and wages – PAYG withholding is triggered and the amount is subject to the superannuation guarantee.

Aside from the tax issues, think about what will be of value to your team. The most appreciated gift is the one that means something to the individual.  Giving a bottle of wine to someone who doesn’t drink, chocolates to a health fanatic, or time off to someone with excess leave, isn’t going to garner much in the way of goodwill.  A sincere personal message will often have a greater impact than a standard gift.

 

 

Missed the director ID deadline? Now what?

If you missed the 30 November 2022 deadline for obtaining a Director ID, the Australian Business Registry Services have stated that they will not take action against directors that apply for their ID by 14 December 2022.

If you are required to but have not yet applied for your ID, you should seek an extension immediately to avoid fines and penalties applying (https://www.abrs.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-10/Application_for_an_extension_of_time_to_apply_for_a_director_ID.pdf), or contact the ABRS on 13 62 50 (+61 2 6216 3440 outside of Australia).

 

 

What do the ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ reforms mean?

The Government’s ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ legislation passed Parliament on
2 December 2022. We explore the issues.

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 passed Parliament on 2 December 2020. The legislation is extensive and brings into effect a series of changes and obligations that will impact on many workplaces.

The Bill also addresses many of the complexities of the enterprise bargaining process by streamlining the initiation and approval process. For example, to initiate bargaining to replace an existing single-employer agreement, unions and representatives no longer need a majority work determination and instead can make the request to initiate bargaining in writing to the employer.

Fact sheets on key elements of the ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ legislation will be available on the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations website. Please seek advice from a professional industrial relations specialist if your business is impacted.

Fixed term contracts limited to 2 years

Employers are prohibited from entering into fixed-term employment contracts with employees for a period of longer than two years (in total across all contracts). The prohibition also prevents a fixed term contract being extended or renewed more than once for roles that are substantially the same or similar. Some exclusions exist such as for casuals, apprentices or trainees, high income workers ($162k pa), work covering peak periods of demand, where the work is performed by a specialist engaged for a specific and identifiable task, or where the modern award or FWA allows for longer fixed term contracts.

Employers will need to provide employees with a Fixed Term Contract Information Statement (to be drafted by the Fair Work Ombudsman) before or as soon as practicable after entering into a fixed term contract.

From 1 January 2023, the maximum penalty for contravening the 2 year limitation is $82,500 for a body corporate and $16,500 for an individual.

If your workplace has existing fixed term contracts in place, it will be important to review the operation of these to ensure compliance with the new laws.

 

Gender equality and addressing the pay gap

The concept of gender equality is now included as an object in the Fair Work Act. Previously, to grant an Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) the Fair Work Commission (FWC) assessed claims utilising a comparable male group (male comparator). The legislation removes this requirement opening the way for historical gender based undervaluation to be taken into account and for the FWC to issue a ERO on that basis. That is, female dominated industries may be undervalued generally not specifically compared to men working in that industry or sector. The FWC is no longer required to find that there is gender-based discrimination in order to establish that work has been undervalued. And, the FWC will be able to initiate an ERO on its own volition without a claim being made.

Pay secrecy banned

Prohibits pay secrecy clauses in contracts or other agreements and renders existing clauses invalid.

Employees are not compelled to disclose their remuneration and conditions but have a positive right to do so.

Flexible work requests strengthened

Provides stronger access to flexible working arrangements by enabling employees to seek arbitration before the FWC to contest employer decisions or where the employer has not responded to a request for flexible work conditions within the required 21 days.

If an employer refuses a request for flexible work conditions, the requirements for refusal have been expanded so that employers must discuss requests with the employee and genuinely try and reach agreement prior to refusing an employee’s request. Now, to refuse a request the employer must have:

  • Discussed the request with the employee; and
  • Genuinely tried to reach an agreement with the employee about making changes to the employee’s working arrangements that would accommodate the employee’s circumstances; and
  • the employer and employee have been unable to reach agreement;
  • the employer has had regard to the consequences of the refusal for the employee; and
  • the refusal is based on reasonable business grounds.

The provisions also expand the circumstances in which an employee may request a flexible working arrangement, for example where they, or a member of their immediate family or household, experiences family or domestic violence.

Accountability for sexual harassment in the workplace

The amendments introduce stronger provisions to prevent sexual harassment and a new dispute resolution framework. Employers may be vicariously liable for acts of their employees or agents unless they can prove they took all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. The amendments build on the Respect@Work report and the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 that passed Parliament in late November 2022.  Broadly, the amendments:

  • Apply to workers, prospective workers and persons conducting businesses or undertakings; and
  • Create a new dispute resolution function for the FWC that enables people who experience sexual harassment in the workplace to initiate civil proceedings if the FWC is unable to resolve the dispute.

Anti-discrimination

Adds special attributes to the FWA to specifically prevent discrimination on the grounds of breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status.

Aligning pay rates in job advertising with the FWA

Prohibits employers covered by the FWA from advertising jobs at a rate of pay that contravenes the FWA or a fair work instrument. For piecework, any periodic rate of pay to which the pieceworker is entitled needs to be included. The measure addresses concerns raised by the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce and the Senate Unlawful Underpayments Inquiry.

Multi-employer enterprise bargaining

The reforms make it easier for unions/applicants to negotiate pay deals across similar workplaces with common interests creating two new pathways for multi-employer agreements, supported bargaining, and single-interest. The FWC will need to authorise the multi-employer bargaining before it commences.

 

Supported bargaining for low paid industries

Applies to low-paid industries and is intended to support those who have difficulty negotiating at a single enterprise level – e.g., aged care, disability care, and early childhood education and care. The Minister will have authority to declare an industry or occupation eligible for supported multi-employer bargaining (MEB) and the FWC will decide if it is appropriate for the parties to bargain together. The employer does not have to give their consent to be included.

Employers cannot negotiate a separate agreement once they are included in supported multi-employer bargaining – they need to apply to the FWC to be removed from the supported bargaining authorisation.

Single interest multi-employer bargaining

Single interest multi-employer bargaining draws together employers with “common interests”. These may include geographical location, regulatory regime, and the nature of the enterprise and the terms and conditions of employment. It’s a very broad test.

Unless the employer consents, the FWC will not authorise multi-employer bargaining where it applies to a business with fewer than 20 employees. For businesses with less than 50 employees, to be excluded, the employer needs to prove that they are not a common interest employer or its operations and business activities are not reasonably comparable with the other employers.

For the FWC to authorise single interest multi-employer bargaining, the applicant will need to prove that they have the majority support of the relevant employees.

‘Zombie’ enterprise agreements

A Productivity Commission report found that 56% of employees covered by an enterprise agreement are on an expired agreement, or ‘zombie agreement’. Prior to the reforms, pre 2009 enterprise agreements could operate past their expiry date unless they were replaced with new agreements or terminated by the FWC. As these ‘zombie agreements’ remained fully enforceable, despite being expired, the terms of the agreement were often out of sync with modern awards. The Government notes one zombie agreement terminated in January 2022 saw employees $5 per hour on Saturdays, $10 per hour on Sundays and $24+ per hour on public holidays, worse off than the relevant modern award. The ‘Secure Pay, Better Pay’ reforms generally sunset these zombie agreements.

Important: This article is for information only. If your workplace is likely to be impacted by the amendments, please ensure you seek professional assistance from an industrial relations specialist. We are not specialists and cannot assist with the application of industrial law, awards, or applicable pay rates.


30 November director ID deadline


The deadline for existing directors of Australian companies to obtain a Director Identification Number is 30 November 2022.

All directors of a company, registered Australian body, registered foreign company or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation (ATSI) will need a director ID. This includes directors of a corporate trustee of a self-managed super fund (SMSF).

A director ID is a 15 digit identification number that, once issued, will remain with that director for life regardless of whether they stop being a director, change companies, change their name, or move overseas.

For those who have been a director since 31 October 2021, the deadline for obtaining a director ID is 30 November 2022 unless you are a director of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation, then the deadline is 30 November 2023.

For overseas directors, the process to obtain a director ID can be onerous as applications cannot be made online. In addition to the paper application form, you will need copies of one primary and one secondary identity document (or primary identity documents) certified by notaries public or at an Australian embassy.

For those who have been invited to become a director but are not a director as yet, if you do not have a director ID, you will need to obtain one prior to being appointed.

You do not need a director ID if you are running a business as a sole trader or partnership, or you are a director in your job title but have not been appointed as a director under the Corporations Act or Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act (CATSI).

Need an extension?

If you need an extension, as soon as possible contact the Australian Business Registry service on 13 62 50 (+61 2 6216 3440 outside of Australia). Your identity will need to be established so have your documentation ready. You can also apply for an extension using the paper form (https://www.abrs.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-10/Application_for_an_extension_of_time_to_apply_for_a_director_ID.pdf)

What happens if I don’t obtain an ID?

If you are required to obtain a director ID but don’t, a criminal penalty of up to $13,200 might apply or a civil penalty of up to $1,100,000. Where an individual has deliberately applied for multiple IDs or misrepresented the director ID, the criminal penalty escalates to $26,640 and up to one year in prison.

 

Can you prevent a hack?


In the wake of the Optus data leak, legislation before Parliament will lift the maximum fine for serious or repeated breaches of the Privacy Act from $2.2m to up to $50m. But there are no guarantees that even the strongest safety measures will prevent an attack. So, what does that mean for business and their customers?

Legislation before Parliament will lift penalties for serious or repeated privacy breaches, provide new powers to the Australian Information Commissioner, require entities to provide detailed data to the Information Commissioner to assess public risk, and give the regulator greater information sharing powers. In a statement, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said, “When Australians are asked to hand over their personal data they have a right to expect it will be protected.” But the question is, can any business claim that customer data will be protected from hackers?

If a customer needs to disclose their personal information to your business to work with you, at the point the data is collected, your business is the custodian of that data. A duty of care exists from the moment the data is collected to the point the information is no longer required and destroyed.

The Privacy Act requires organisations to take “reasonable steps” to protect the data collected. ‘Reasonable’ steps “requires the existence of facts which are sufficient to [persuade] a reasonable person.” That is, in the event of a data breach, the business will need to prove the steps they have taken to protect client data.

Lessons from RI Advice

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v RI Advice Group Pty Ltd was a landmark case. While specific to the obligations of an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL), it demonstrates that ASIC are willing to pursue not just companies that breach their duty of care but the directors and officers involved.

RI advice is a financial services company that, through its AFSL, authorised representatives to provide financial services. As you would expect, as part of providing financial services, the authorised representatives received, stored and accessed confidential and sensitive personal information. Between June 2014 and May 2020, nine cybersecurity incidents occurred at practices of RI Advice’s Authorised Representatives. Enquiries following the incidents revealed:

  • Computer systems which did not have up-to-date antivirus software installed and operating
  • No filtering or quarantining of emails
  • No backup systems or back-ups being performed; and
  • Poor password practices including sharing of passwords between employees, use of default passwords, passwords and other security details being held in easily accessible places or being known by third parties.

RI Advice took steps to manage their cybersecurity introducing a cyber resilience program, controls and risk management measures for its representatives including training, incident reporting, and contractual professional standard terms, but by its own admission, it took too long to implement.

RI Advice was ordered to pay $750,000 towards ASIC’s costs. Handing down the decision Justice Rofe said, “It is not possible to reduce cybersecurity risk to zero, but it is possible to materially reduce cybersecurity risk through adequate cybersecurity documentation and controls to an acceptable level.”

 


Scams and how to avoid them

I got a text the other day “Hi Mum, I have broken my phone and I am using this number.” The “Hi Mum” scam has exploded with more than 1,150 Australians falling victim to the ploy in the first seven months of 2022, with total reported losses of $2.6 million. Once the scammer establishes contact, they start requesting money for an urgent bill or a replacement phone etc. For those with children or dependant family members, it is not that hard to believe. According to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC), two-thirds of family impersonation scams were reported by women over 55 years of age.

Another common scam is the lost or unable to deliver package texts and voicemail. With Christmas just around the corner, we can expect to see another escalation of this scam where tracking links purportedly from Australia Post, Toll, or Amazon etc., are used to instal malware. Once accessed, the malware will access your contacts and spread the malware and potentially access your personal information and bank details.

In July, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) reported a new wave of ‘Tax refund SMSF scams’. The texts purported to be from the ATO stating that the individual had a tax refund and to click on the link and complete the form. Another scam purporting to be from the ATO advised that the recipient was suspected of being involved in cryptocurrency tax evasion and requested that they connect their wallet. At which point the wallet was accessed and any assets stolen.

The ACCC’s Targeting Scams report states that in 2021, nearly $1.8bn in losses were reported but the real figure is likely to be well over $2bn.

The largest combined losses in 2021 were:

  • $701 million lost to investment scams with 2021 figures significantly increased by cryptocurrency scams – more scammers are seeking payment with cryptocurrency and losses to this payment method increased 216% to $84 million.
  • $227 million lost to payment redirection scams.
  • $142 million lost to romance scams.

Protecting yourself from scams

  • Help educate older relatives. The over 55s are the most likely to fall victim to a scam.
  • Always use the primary website or app of your suppliers not a link from a text or email.
  • Don’t click on links from emails or text messages unless you are (absolutely) certain of the source. For email, if the sending email domain is not clear or hidden, hover over the name of the sending account to check if the email is from the company domain.
  • For Government services, use your MyGov account. Any messages to you from the ATO or other Government services need will be published to your MyGov account. Never click on links purporting to be from a bank, ATO or Government department.

Protecting your business from scams

Payment redirection scams, where the email of the business is compromised, caused the highest reported level of loss for business in 2021 at a combined $227 million.

Payment redirection scams involve scammers impersonating a business or its employees via email and requesting an upcoming payment be redirected to a fraudulent account. In some cases, scammers hack into a legitimate email account and pose as the business, intercepting legitimate invoices and amending the bank details before releasing emails to the unsuspecting business. Other times, scammers impersonate people using a registered email address that is very similar to one from a legitimate business.

  • Educate your team about threats and what to look out for, the importance of passwords and password security, and how to manage customer information. Phishing attacks, if successful, provide direct access into your systems.
  • Ensure staff only have access to the business systems and information they need. Assess what is required and close out access to anything not required. Also assess how customer personal information is accessed and communicated. Personal information should not be emailed. Email is not secure and it is too easy for staff to inadvertently send data to the wrong person.
  • No shared login details or passwords.
  • Complete a risk assessment of your systems and add cybersecurity to your risk management framework.
  • Develop and implement cyber security policies and protocols. Have policies and procedures in place for who is responsible for cybersecurity, the expectations of staff, and what to do in the event of a breach. Your policies should prevent shadow IT systems, where employees download unauthorised software.
  • Understand your organisation’s legal obligations. For example, beyond the Privacy Act some businesses considered critical infrastructure such as some freight and food supply operations are subject to the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018. This might involve small businesses in the supply chain.
  • Use multifactor authentication on your systems and third-party systems.
  • Update software and devices regularly for patches
  • Back-up data and have backup protocols in place. If hackers use ransomware to lock your systems, you can revert to your backup.
  • If customer data is being shared with related or third parties domiciled overseas, ensure your customer is aware of where their data is domiciled and your business has taken all reasonable steps to enforce the Australian Privacy Principles. Your business is responsible for how the overseas recipient utilises your customer’s data.
  • Only collect the customer data you need to provide the goods and services you offer.
  • Ensure protocols are in place for accounts payable.
  • Don’t forget the hardware – laptops, computers, phones.

 

Taxing fame: The ATO’s U-turn


Sportspeople, media personalities, celebrities and ‘insta’ influencers beware. The ATO has taken a U-turn on how fame and image should be taxed.

If you’re famous and make an income from your fame and image, the way the ATO believes you should be taxed on the income you make may change under a new draft determination set to take effect on 1 July 2023.

It is not uncommon for celebrities to attempt to transfer the rights to the use of their name, image, likeness, identity, reputation etc., to a related entity such as a company or trust. This related entity then manages these rights, generating income from exploiting their fame and image. For example, where a media personality’s image is used on product packaging. One of the aims of arrangements like this is to enable the income to taxed in the entity at a lower rate of tax or to be distributed to related parties who might be subject to lower tax rates.

What will change?

The new draft determination (TD 2022/D3) deals specifically with the rights to use a celebrity’s fame and image. The ATO’s argument is that the individual doesn’t have a proprietary right in their fame, which means that attempting to transfer the right relating to their fame to another entity would not be legally effective. That is, you cannot separate the fame from the individual, it vests with the individual regardless of any agreements put in place. As a result, any income relating to an individual’s fame or image that is received by a related entity is treated as if it was simply being collected on behalf of the individual and should be taxed in the hands of that individual.

If the related entity isn’t deriving income in its own right then it would be much more difficult for the entity to claim a deduction for expenses that it incurs.

The ATO’s updated approach doesn’t apply to situations where the individual is engaged by a related party to provide services. For example, if a celebrity is booked by a related entity to attend a product launch or promotional event the fees paid by the third party can potentially be treated as income of the related entity for tax purposes. However, in situations like this it is important to consider the potential application of the personal services income rules and the general anti-avoidance rules in Part IVA. The ATO’s general position is that income relating to the personal services of an individual should ultimately be taxed in the hands of that individual.

While the ATO’s new position will apply retrospectively and to income derived in future, the ATO indicates that a transitional approach will apply if the taxpayer entered into arrangements before 5 October 2022 that were consistent with the safe harbour approach that was set out in PCG 2017/D11. In these cases the ATO’s new approach will apply to income derived from 1 July 2023.

 

 

How high will interest rates go?

Low interest rates have been a mainstay since the global financial crisis of 2008. When the pandemic hit, Governments pushed stimulus measures through the economy and central banks reduced interest rates even further. Coming out of COVID, housing market demand was strong and prices boomed but at the same time, supply chains remained restricted and the problems amplified by geo-political tensions increasing input costs. Supply could not keep up with demand to support the recovery, pushing inflation higher and broader than expected for a longer period of time. To control inflation, central banks have responded by tightening monetary policy and lifting interest rates. But the good news is that inflation is likely to ease.

Inflation in the US has started to decrease from a high of over 9% in June 2022 to 7.7% in October, suggesting that interest rates may not rise as high and as aggressively as expected.

Similarly in Australia, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Board raised the cash rate by 0.25% to 2.60% at its October 2022 meeting, a lower increase than many expected. The lower than expected rise suggests that inflation pressures, particularly wages growth, will be more subdued in Australia than overseas. Comparatively, Australian households are more sensitive to interest rates with more than 60% of mortgages variable rate loans. This is unlike the US where most borrowers are on 30-year fixed loans.

The increase in interest rates is starting to take effect helping to restore price stability. However, in its statement, the RBA said that it will be a challenge to return inflation to 2-3% while at the same time “keeping the economy on an even keel”. It concluded the path to achieving this balance is “a narrow one and it is clouded in uncertainty”.

In housing, the correction in house prices deepened and broadened across Australia, with capital city prices falling by 1.4% in September 2022, rounding out a 4.3% decline over the third quarter. Housing finance approvals also continued to mirror the broader correction to date, with further declines across investor and owner-occupier loans.

So, where does all of this leave us? Inflation will stay higher for longer than originally anticipated. As a result, interest rates are expected to continue to increase, albeit at a slower rate, with the RBA resetting their view along the journey. Economists are predicting that the cash rate will increase to somewhere between 3.10% and 3.85% in the first half of 2023 and then remain stable until early 2024 before RBA policy pivots and interest rates lower in early 2024.

Canstar analysis suggests that a 3.85% cash rate translates to an average variable rate of 6.73%. The difference between a 5.73% variable rate mortgage and 6.73% is $650 per month on a $1 million, 30 year mortgage.

 


To cut or not to cut? Stage three personal tax cuts

In September, amid a climate of startling interest rates, UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced a series of tax cuts, including the reduction of the top personal income tax rate that applies to those earning more than £150,000 from 45% to 40%. Just ten days later, following market turmoil that saw the British Pound drop at one point to a low of $1.035 USD, its lowest level since 1985, the decision was reversed calling the cuts “a massive distraction.” 

Heading into the 2022-23 Federal Budget on 25 October, the question for the Australian Government is different. It is not whether to introduce personal income tax cuts but whether to keep, amend or repeal the cuts legislated to commence on 1 July 2024. 

In Australia, the 2018-19 Budget introduced the Personal Income Tax Plan. The plan implemented three stages of income tax cuts over seven years that will, by 2024-25, simplify the tax brackets and enable taxpayers to earn up to $200,000 before paying a new top marginal tax rate of 45%. Stages of the plan, bringing relief for low and middle income earners, were brought forward in the 2019-20 Budget and again in 2020-21.

Labor’s pre-election Lower Taxes policy states, “An Albanese Labor Government will deliver tax relief for more than 9 million Australians through the legislated tax cuts that benefit everyone with incomes above $45,000.” But this month, the Treasurer has subtly changed the narrative from simply “our policy has not changed on stage three tax cuts” to “We do need to ensure that spending in the Budget, particularly in these uncertain global times, is geared toward what’s affordable and sustainable and responsible and sufficiently targeted. I think that’s one of the lessons from the UK.”

The public appeal of repealing the final stage three tax cuts is understandable. Back in 2018-19 when the plan was first introduced, the economy was in surplus and Australia was yet to feel the effects of a global pandemic, environmental extremities, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The tax cuts forego around $240bn of tax revenue over the next 10 years, and because it is percentage based, favours high income earners. The public policy think tank, the Grattan Institute, previously warned that if the government progressed with the stage three cuts “Australia’s income tax system will be less progressive than it’s been since the 1950s”.

Conversely, the rationale for reforming the current personal income tax regime where the highest marginal tax rate applies from around 2.5 times average full-time earnings (compared to around 4 times in Canada and 8 times in the US), is also understandable. When it comes to international competitiveness, New Zealand’s top marginal tax rate is 33% (from $180,000) and Singapore’s is 22%, increasing to 24% in 2023-24. If implemented, stage 3 of the income tax plan would see around 95% of taxpayers paying a marginal tax rate of 30% or less. 


The 1 July 2024 tax cuts

Stage three of the Personal Income Tax Plan is legislated to take effect from 1 July 2024.


What the tax stats say

Personal income and withholding tax represents around 48% of the annual Commonwealth tax collections. Company tax, by comparison, is around 16%, and the goods and services tax (GST) just under 15% of total tax revenue collected. 

Australia has a progressive personal tax system. That is, those with higher incomes pay not only a higher amount of tax, but a higher proportion of their income in tax. As a result, the 3.6% of taxpayers with taxable incomes of over $180,000 pay 31.6% of the total. 


Where to from here?

The second 2022-23 Federal Budget will be announced on 25 October 2022. If the Government make no mention of the stage three tax cuts, they have another opportunity to refine their position in the 2023-24 Federal Budget released in May 2023, more than a year before the 1 July 2024 tax cuts come into effect. 

Our best guess? The Government will announce a review of the stage three tax cuts, then open the issue to consultation, locking in the position, whatever it is, in the 2023-24 Federal Budget. 

We’ll keep you posted!  

Look out for our 2022-23 Federal Budget update on 26 October!

 


States move on property based taxes

Queensland backs down on Australia wide land tax assessment

The Queensland Government has backed away from an amendment that would have seen the land tax rate for investment property in Queensland assessed on the value of the investor’s Australia wide land holdings from 1 July 2023, not just the value of their Queensland property. 

The amendment passed the Queensland Parliament and became law on 30 June 2022. The amendment would see the value of all of the landholder’s Australian investment property assessed, the value of Queensland land tax calculated on taxable Australian wide investments, then apportioned to the Queensland portion of the land. The amendment requires the landholder to declare their interstate landholdings and data from other sources to verify the landholdings. The end result is many investors being tipped into a higher land tax rate.

The Bill states, “The land tax reform is intended to make Queensland’s land tax system fairer by addressing an inequity which can result in a landholder with all of their landholdings in Queensland paying more land tax than a landholder with a similar value of landholdings spread across jurisdictions.”

Following the National Cabinet Meeting on 30 September, Premier Palaszczuk rescinded the reform as it relied on the “goodwill of other states, and if we can’t get that additional information, I will put that aside.”

 

Stamp duty or an annual property tax for NSW first home buyers?

First home buyers purchasing property in NSW of up to $1.5m will have a choice of paying stamp duty or an annual property tax from 16 January 2023.

The annual property tax payments will be based on the land value of the purchased property. The property tax rates for 2022-23 are:

  • $400 plus 0.3% of land value for properties whose owners live in them
  • $1,500 plus 1.1% of land value for investment properties.

Property tax assessments will be issued annually to home buyers who take the annual property tax option. As an example, a first buyer purchasing a $1.2m NSW property with a land tax value of $720,000, could pay stamp duty of $50,875 or opt to pay the annual property tax ($2,560 for 2022-23). The property tax rates will be indexed annually. 

Eligible first home buyers who sign a contract of purchase on or after 16 January 2023 will be eligible to opt into the property tax. If the property tax option is selected, first home buyers must move into the property within 12 months of purchase and live in it continuously for at least 6 months. 

The annual property tax is only applicable to the purchaser. If the property is sold, the property tax does not apply to subsequent purchasers. For eligibility details, see First Home Buyer Choice on the NSW Government website.

Legislation enabling the property tax is expected before the NSW Parliament this month. If passed, eligible first home buyers who sign a contract of purchase between the passage of the legislation and 15 January 2023 will be eligible to opt into the property tax. These purchasers will pay land stamp duty but will be able to apply for and receive a refund of that duty if they opt into property tax.

 


COVID downgraded but not gone

National Cabinet agreed to end the mandatory isolation requirements for COVID-19 effective from 14 October 2022. Each state and territory has, or will, implement the end of the isolation rules.

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, the payment to workers who have lost income they needed to self isolate or care for someone with COVID-19, also end on 14 October. The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment was extended beyond its 30 June end date but restricting the number of times claims can be made in a 6 month period.  

While the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment will end, National Cabinet agreed to continue targeted financial support for casual workers, on the same basis as the disaster payment, for workers in aged care, disability care, aboriginal healthcare and hospital care sectors. Final details of this new payment are yet to be released.

 

 


ATO contacts ‘at risk’ professional services firms

New guidelines for professional services firms – lawyers, architects, medical practitioners etc., came into effect on 1 July 2022. The guidance takes a strong stance on structures designed to divert income in a way that results in principal practitioners receiving relatively small amounts of income personally for their work and reducing their taxable income. The ATO is now contacting professionals who they believe might be at risk. Any structural changes that need to be made to reduce risk, should be completed by the end of the 2022-23 financial year.  Where the ATO deems that income has been diverted inappropriately to create a tax benefit, they will remove that benefit and significant penalties may apply


1 October minimum wage increase 

Minimum wages in 10 awards in the aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors increased from 1 October 2022. The increase happens from the first full pay period on or after 1 October 2022. See the Fair Work Ombudsman for more details. 

 

Director ID number deadline looming

If you are a Director of a company or registered foreign company and have not applied for your Director ID Number, the deadline is 30 November 2022. Don’t leave it until the last minute!

 

Australian super funds gorge on cryptocurrency

The value of cryptocurrency assets inside Australian self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) increased by 589.9% ($1.17bn) between June 2019 and June 2022, according to the latest ATO statistics. 

While cryptocurrency is a relatively small asset class at only 0.16% of the $837bn held in SMSFs, it is a growing asset class, larger than collectibles and personal use assets, and overseas property.

Smaller funds, with an asset value below $200,000, are more likely to have a larger proportion of their value in cryptocurrency. 

ASIC warns of SMSF cryptocurrency scams

Earlier this year, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) issued a warning on an increase in marketing encouraging Australians to switch from retail superannuation funds to SMSFs so they can invest in ‘high return’ portfolios. The regulator states that crypto-assets are a high risk and speculative investment and best practice is to seek advice from a licensed financial adviser before agreeing to transfer superannuation out of a regulated fund into an SMSF.

An example of one of these schemes was A One Multi Services Pty Ltd that was shut down by ASIC late last year. The company promoted a scheme encouraging investors to roll their superannuation into an SMSF, then for the SMSF to loan money to A One Multi to generate “returns of between 10% and 20% on the investment and perhaps as high as 26%.” Over 60 SMSFs transferred $25 million into A One Multi’s accounts between January 2019 and June 2021. The money “invested” for the clients, between $7 million to $22 million of Bitcoin, was held in the name of one of the directors. An additional $5.7m was used by the directors to acquire property and luxury cars.

Investing in crypto

Trustees are free to invest in assets that meet the requirements of the fund and comply with the regulatory requirements: 

  • Trust Deed – must allow for cryptocurrency assets. Most SMSF trust deeds are drafted broadly to enable trustees to invest in assets permitted by the superannuation laws and leave the investment strategy to manage the choice of assets and their appropriateness. However, it is important to check.

Investment strategy – With cryptocurrency’s high volatility and risks, there must be clearly articulated information in the Investment Strategy. That is, it must articulate the trustees’ plan for making, holding and realising assets in a in a way that is consistent with the retirement goals of members being mindful of the member’s individual circumstances.

  • Separation of assets – cryptocurrency assets must be held in a wallet in the name of the SMSF and the IP address is provided to the SMSF auditors to verify the transactions (against the fund bank account). Problems often arise when a wallet (in the name of the SMSF) is connected to a personal credit card to acquire cryptocurrency. In these cases, the payment may be considered as either a contribution or a loan to the SMSF.
  • Sole purpose test – Your SMSF needs to meet the sole purpose test to be eligible for the tax concessions normally available to super funds. This means your fund needs to be maintained for the sole purpose of providing retirement benefits to your members, or to their dependants if a member dies before retirement.

 

 


Lessons from a data breach

The Optus data breach is top of mind for a lot of Australians, particularly those who have had their data breached.

For business, the breach is a timely warning on the importance of understanding what data is held on your customers (and should you hold it?), how it is secured, how your systems work and the process to identify gaps and deficiencies, the appropriate actions if and when a breach occurs, and the impact on your relationship to your customer. This is not something that can be outsourced to IT but a whole of business issue.

The obligations on business

We all know that no system is 100% secure. For Optus, this is not the first time. In 2015, Optus agreed to an enforceable undertaking for breaching the Privacy Act in 2015. 

A data breach happens when personal information is accessed or disclosed without authorisation or is lost. If the Privacy Act 1988 covers your business, you must notify affected individuals and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner when a data breach involving personal information is likely to result in serious harm. The notification must be as soon as practicable but is expected to be no later than 30 days. Every day counts.

A business must take all reasonable steps to comply with its obligations to prevent data breaches occurring. These obligations are not limited to preventing cyber attacks. Malicious or criminal attacks represent 55% of all reported data breaches. But, human error is responsible for 41% and 4% through system faults. Where human error was involved, 43% was where personal information was emailed to the wrong recipient and 21% the unintended release or publication of personal information.

How to apologise

Your relationship with your client is about trust. Beyond the breach notification requirements, the other issue is the client relationship.

So, how should a business apologise? University of Chicago economist John List, Professor Benjamin Ho from Vassar College along with other academics studied this issue for Uber ride sharing – the experiment came about after John List, who was at the time Uber’s Chief Economist, had a bad ride sharing experience. The bottom line? The apology must come at a cost to be effective. That cost can be reputational, a commitment to do better in the future (the cost is the higher standard), or a monetary cost. The paper states: First, apologies are not a panacea – the efficacy of an apology and whether it may backfire depend on how the apology is made. Second, across treatments, money speaks louder than words – the best form of apology is to include a coupon for a future trip. Third, in some cases sending an apology is worse than sending nothing at all, particularly for repeated apologies and apologies that promise to do better.

Helping to protect against data breaches

  • Understand your Privacy Act obligations. Specific industries and businesses that hold specific types of data often have advanced requirements. 
  • Review the personal information held on customers. Is their full date of birth a necessary part of what your business does? If you need to verify identify, do those identification documents really need to be stored once they have been validated? Or is positive confirmation enough? Is the data held securely and is access limited to only those who require access?
  • Ensuring systems have multifactor authentication
  • Improving staff awareness of not only cyber threats and how to prevent them – phishing, fraudulent messages etc, but reviewing how personal data is managed and accessed.
  • Understanding your systems and how they work together to prevent security gaps or ‘backdoor’ systems access.

 

 

 

 

Register your .au domain!

23:59 UTC on 20 September 2022 is the cut-off to register for your .au direct domain. The .au domain is the new, general purpose, shorter Australian domain name option.

If you do not register the direct match of your existing domain for the direct .au domain, you risk your brand equity being consumed by someone else, rivals redirecting your clients to their products and services, squatters holding the domain, or cybercriminals impersonating your business. The opening of the new .au domain is the single biggest shift in Australian cyber real estate in decades and the risks for business are high.

If you are registering:

  • an exact match of your existing domain name, for example .com.au or net.au; and
  • you held your domain name prior to 24 March 2022

then you have priority access but only up until 23:59 UTC on 20 September 2022 (9:59am AEST on 21 September). Once this deadline has passed, the .au direct domain name will be available to anyone with a connection to Australia to register from 21:00 UTC 3 October 2022 (8:00am AEDT 4 Oct).

While you can register for the .au domain through any number of providers, the most efficient method is to utilise your existing provider. To do this, you will need your domain’s access information. If these details cannot be found, for example, the details were held by a former staff member, it can take some time to recover them so do not leave the registration process until the last minute.

Once you have applied for your matching .au domain, if your application is uncontested, you will be able to use the .au direct name soon after applying for priority status.

What happens if .com.au and .net.au both apply for the .au name?

If you share a domain name with another entity, for example, one entity owns .com.au and the other .net.au, the right to register the .au domain will cascade according to priority. Category 1 are those that secured the domain on or before 4 February 2018. Category 1 applicants have priority over Category 2 applicants who registered their domain after 4 February 2018. If the name is contested by a Category 1 and a Category 2 applicant, the Category 1 applicant will secure the name. If two Category 2 applicants apply for the name, the name is allocated to the applicant with the earlier domain license creation date. But, it gets tricky when two Category 1 applicants apply for the name. In these circumstances, both parties must agree on the allocation or the name remains unallocated.

 

 

How to sell your business

We’re often asked the best way to sell a business.

There are two key components at play in the sale of a business: structuring the transaction; and positioning the business to the market. Both elements are important and can significantly impact your result.

Structuring the transaction covers areas such as pricing the business, the terms and conditions attaching to the sale, key terms in the contract, and ensuring the transaction structure is as tax effective as possible. Much of the structuring is about ensuring the vendors secure the most efficient and effective outcome from the sale. It is about maximising the vendor’s position.

Positioning the business for sale is all about ensuring that you achieve a sale and maximise your price. It covers areas such as ensuring there are no hurdles within the business that will limit its saleability, identifying the competitive position of the business within its market segment, ensuring that operating performance is as good as it can be, and that the business benchmarks well in its market. Positioning also includes identifying the best time to take the business to the market, how to take it to the market, and who the most likely buyers will be.

Positioning is about doing everything needed to maximise the probability of a sale occurring, whereas structuring is about getting the best outcome from a transaction once it has occurred. A lot of people make the mistake of spending most of their energy on the structuring of the transaction. It is important but only becomes important if the sale is achieved.

Structuring should be addressed first to help identify any key decisions that need to be made but put most of your effort into positioning the business for sale. To do this, you need an objective assessment of how the business compares in its market, its competitive position, and what if any impediments to sale exist – all the things a buyer will look at and look for when they assess your business. Most buyers believe that we are currently in a buyer’s market and will try to drive down price expectations.  Whether or not you are in a buyer’s market depends on your industry segment but regardless of this, you are in a competitive market. Buyers may be comparing your business to similar businesses but also opportunities in other industry segments. Securing a sale at the best possible price is about having your business positioned for sale. Preparation time is needed to achieve this well in advance of putting your business on the market.

 

120% deduction for skills training and technology costs

The Government has reinvigorated the 120% skills training and technology costs deduction for small and medium business.

An election ago, the 2022-23 Budget proposed a 120% tax deduction for expenditure by small and medium businesses on technology, or skills and training for their staff. This proposal has now been adopted by the current Government and details released in recent exposure draft by Treasury.

Timing

Two investment ‘boosts’ will be available to small and medium businesses with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $50 million:

  • Skills & Training Boost
  • Technology Investment Boost

The Skills and Training Boost is intended to apply to expenditure from 7.30pm ACT time on Budget night, 29 March 2022 until 30 June 2024. The business, however, will not be able to start claiming the bonus deduction until the 2023 tax return. That is, for expenditure incurred between 29 March 2022 and 30 June 2022, the additional 20% ‘boost’ deduction will not be claimable until the 2022-23 tax return (assuming the announced start dates are maintained if and when the legislation passes Parliament).

The Technology Investment Boost is intended to apply to expenditure from 7.30pm ACT time on Budget night, 29 March 2022 until 30 June 2023. As with the Skills and Training Boost, the additional 20% deduction for eligible expenditure incurred by 30 June 2022 will be claimed in the 2023 tax return.

The boost for eligible expenditure incurred on or after 1 July 2022 will be included in the income year in which the expenditure is incurred.

When it comes to expenditure on depreciating assets, the bonus deduction is equal to 20% of the cost of the asset that is used for a taxable purpose. This means that, regardless of the method of deduction that the entity takes (i.e., whether immediate or over time), the bonus deduction in respect of a depreciating asset is calculated based on the asset’s cost.

Technology Investment Boost

The Technology Investment Boost is a 120% tax deduction for expenditure incurred on business expenses and depreciating assets that support digital adoption, such as portable payment devices, cyber security systems, or subscriptions to cloud-based services.

The boost is capped at $100,000 per income year with a maximum deduction of $20,000.

To be eligible for the bonus deduction:

  • The expenditure must be eligible for deduction (salary and wage costs are excluded for the purpose of these rules)
  • The expenditure must have been incurred between 7.30pm (AEST), 29 March 2022 and 30 June 2023
  • If the expenditure is on a depreciating asset, the asset must be first used or installed ready for use by 30 June 2023.

To be eligible, the expenditure must be wholly or substantially for the entity’s digital operations or digitising its operations. For example:

  • digital enabling items – computer and telecommunications hardware and equipment, software, systems and services that form and facilitate the use of computer networks;
  • digital media and marketing – audio and visual content that can be created, accessed, stored or viewed on digital devices; and
  • e-commerce – supporting digitally ordered or platform enabled online

Repair and maintenance costs can be claimed as long as the expenses meet the eligibility criteria.

Where the expenditure has mixed use (i.e., partly private), the bonus deduction applies to the proportion of the expenditure that is for an assessable income producing purpose.

The bonus deduction is not intended to cover general operating costs relating to employing staff, raising capital, the construction of the business premises, and the cost of goods and services the business sells. The boost will not apply to:

  • Assets that are sold while the boost is available
  • Capital works costs (for example, improvements to a building used as business premises)
  • Financing costs such as interest expenses
  • Salary or wage costs
  • Training or education costs
  • Trading stock or the cost of trading stock

For example:

A Co Pty Ltd (A Co) is a small business entity. On 15 July 2022, A Co purchased multiple laptops to allow its employees to work from home. The total cost was $100,000 (GST-exclusive). The laptops were delivered on 19 July 2022 and immediately issued to staff entirely for business use. As the holder of the assets, A Co is entitled to claim a deduction for the depreciation of a capital expense.

A Co can claim the full purchase price of the laptops ($100,000) as a deduction under temporary full expensing in its 2022-23 income tax return. It can also claim the maximum $20,000 bonus deduction in its 2022-23 income tax return.

The $20,000 bonus deduction is not paid to the business in cash but is used to offset against A Co’s assessable income. If the company is in a loss position, then the bonus deduction would increase the tax loss. The cash value to the business of the bonus deduction will depend on whether it generates a taxable profit or loss during the relevant year and the rate of tax that applies.

Skills and Training Boost

The Skills and Training boost is a 120% tax deduction for expenditure incurred on external training courses provided to employees.

External training courses will need to be provided to employees in Australia or online, and delivered by training organisations registered in Australia.

To be eligible for the bonus deduction:

  • The expenditure must be for training employees, either in-person in Australia, or online
  • The expenditure must be charged, directly or indirectly, by a registered training provider and be for training within the scope (if any) of the provider’s registration
  • The registered training provider must not be the small business or an associate of the small business
  • The expenditure must be deductible
  • Enrolment for the training must be on or after 7.30pm, 29 March 2022.

The training must be necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for the purpose of gaining or producing income. That is, there needs to be a nexus between the training provided and how the business produces its income.

Only the amount charged by the training organisation is deductible. In some circumstances, this might include incidental costs such as manuals and books, but only if charged by the training organisation.

Some exclusions will apply, such as for in-house or on-the-job training and expenditure on external training courses for persons other than employees. The training boost is not available to:

  • Sole traders, partners in a partnership, or independent contractors (who are not employees)
  • Associates of the business such as a relative, spouse or partner of an entity or person, a trustee of a trust that benefits an entity or person and a company that is sufficiently influenced by an entity or person.

For example:

Cockablue Pets Pty Ltd is a small business entity that operates a veterinary centre. The business recently took on a new employee to assist with jobs across the centre. The employee has some prior experience in animal studies and is keen to upskill to become a veterinary nurse. The business pays $3,500 (GST exclusive) for the

employee to undertake external training in veterinary nursing. The training is delivered by a registered training provider, whose scope of registration includes veterinary nursing.

The bonus deduction is calculated as 20% of 100% of the amount of expenditure that can be deducted under another provision of the taxation law. In this case, the full $3,500 is deductible under section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997 as a business operating expense. Assuming the other eligibility criteria for the bonus deduction are satisfied, the bonus deduction is calculated as 20% of $3,500. That is, $700.

In this example, the bonus deduction available is $700. That does not mean the business receives $700 back from the ATO in cash, it means that the business is able to reduce its taxable income by $700. If the company has a positive amount of taxable income for the year and is subject to a 25% tax rate, then the net impact is a reduction in the company’s tax liability of $175. This also means that the company will generate fewer franking credits, which could mean more top-up tax needs to be paid when the company pays out its profits as dividends to the shareholders.

 

 

Tax reprieve for double taxation of Indian technical support

The tax system currently allows Australia to tax payments made by an Australian customer in relation to technical services provided by an Indian firm, even when the services are provided remotely. This is due to the wording contained in the double tax agreement between Australia and India.

Under an agreement reached in connection with the Australia‑India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA), these payments will no longer be taxed in Australia. The typical categories of services intended to be covered by the amendments include:

  • engineering services;
  • architectural services; and
  • computer software development.

The amendment to the tax rules is in consultation phase and not yet law. If enacted, it will apply once the amendments receive Royal Assent, assuming the AI-ECTA has been entered into force.

 

Acquiring collectibles inside your SMSF

Clients with self managed superannuation funds (SMSF) often ask what assets the SMSF can acquire.

‘Why’?

The golden rule for acquiring assets inside your SMSF is why? To be compliant, your fund must be maintained for the sole purpose of providing retirement benefits to members, or to their dependants if a member dies before retirement. The sole purpose test (section 62 of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993), is your starting point. If the collectible you are looking to acquire does not fulfil this purpose, then you have an immediate problem.

Let’s assume you are looking to acquire vintage cars. The question to ask is, is the acquisition a viable investment or simply a desire of the members to own vintage cars. Does the investment ‘stack up’ relative to other forms of investment to build/protect the retirement savings of members?

The sole purpose test extends to how the collectible is managed once acquired. Given the asset is for the sole purpose of the member’s retirement benefits, the members (or their associates) cannot use or enjoy the asset in any way. This means:

  • Storage of the collectible cannot be at the trustee’s residence or displayed at their office. The ATO says, “You can store (but not display) collectables and personal use assets in premises owned by a related party provided it is not their private residence. They can’t be displayed because this means they are being used by the related party. For example, if your SMSF invests in artwork it can’t be hung in the business premises of a related party where it is visible to clients and employees.”
  • Leasing or use of the collectible can only be undertaken with an unrelated party.
  • The collectible must have its own insurance policy owned by the SMSF (multiple items can be listed on the same policy i.e., wines of different brands). The insurance policy must be in place within 7 days of acquisition.
  • Like all other assets, if a collectible is sold to a related party, then it must be sold at market value. Collectibles also require a qualified independent valuation if sold to a related party.

This means you cannot stay in a holiday home owned by your SMSF, you cannot drive a vehicle owned by the SMSF, and you cannot enjoy artwork held by the SMSF. And, those bottles of Penfolds Grange owned by the SMSF that broke (wink, wink) are likely to trigger an audit as they should have been properly stored in a way that prevents breakage.

Your investment strategy

An SMSF investment strategy should articulate the plan trustees have for a fund and the investments they choose to hold. It should drill down into the reasons why certain assets will be acquired (or sold) and how these choices align to the retirement goals of the members.  If your SMSF is considering purchasing collectibles, it is essential that your investment strategy is aligned to these types of investments and articulates why the asset fits within the strategy.  This is particularly important if the collectible/s will dominate the types of assets held by the fund, its liquidity, and diversity.

A common question is, can my SMSF purchase, let’s say artwork, from a member or a related party of the fund? The answer is no. SMSFs are not allowed to purchase assets, other than listed shares and business real property, from related parties. But, the SMSF could transfer the artwork to a member as an in-specie lump sum payment if the member meets a condition of release, or sell the asset to the member but only if the transaction is at arms length, and an independent valuation confirms the market value of the asset.

 

 

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Climate change featured heavily during the election and now the Albanese Government is putting into place some of the promises it made. We look at the current state of play and the likely impact.

The Government’s Climate Change Bill passed the House of Representatives in early August and is now before the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for review.  But what impact does the legislation have on business and consumers in Australia?

Under the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty, Australia and 192 other parties committed to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 degrees. At this level, the more extreme impacts of climate change – floods, heatwaves, rising sea levels, threats to food production – can be arrested. As part of this commitment, the parties are required to communicate their emissions reduction ambitions through a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). On 16 June 2022, Australia communicated its updated NDC to the UN, confirming Australia’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and a new, increased target of 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 (a 15% increase on the previous target). The Climate Change Bill enshrines these emission targets into legislation.

The Bill itself sets an accountability framework for climate targets but does not introduce mechanisms to cut emissions.

Impacted industries

The energy sector is at the heart of climate change producing around three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the CSIRO says energy contributes approximately 33.6% of all emissions, with a further 20.54% from stationary energy (from manufacturing, mining, residential and commercial fuel use), transport 17.6%, and agriculture 14.6%. The future of the energy industry is also at the crux of the Government Powering Australia policy.

Emissions reduction is not just a social obligation but a necessity as investment tilts towards lower emission suppliers. As an example, the 2022-23 Federal Budget committed a $120 billion 10-year infrastructure pipeline. The June 2022 Business Council of Australia Infrastructure in a world moving to net zero report provides a series of recommendations to address the way in which Government invests including the adoption of low carbon materials on public projects and options for reducing emissions during construction, understanding the whole of life emissions impact of infrastructure projects and potentially adopting the UK style PAS2080 standard on carbon management infrastructure, and a shift in procurement to lower carbon supply chains. If these considerations have not made it into business production and supply chain planning, they will soon.

Amongst other initiatives the Government have committed to:

  • $20bn investment in Australia’s electricity grid to accelerate the decarbonisation.
  • An additional $300m to deliver community batteries and solar banks across Australia.
  • Up to $3bn investment in the new National Reconstruction Fund to support renewables manufacturing and low emissions technologies.
  • Powering the Regions Fund to support the development of new clean energy industries and the decarbonisation priorities of existing industry.
  • Double existing investment in electric vehicle charging and establish hydrogen refuelling infrastructure (to $500m).
  • Review the effectiveness of the Emissions Reduction Fund that provides businesses with the opportunity to earn Australian carbon credit units for every tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent a business stores or avoids emitting through adopting new practices and technologies.
  • New standardised and internationally-aligned reporting requirements for climate risks and opportunities for large businesses.
  • Reduce the emissions of Commonwealth Government agencies to net zero by 2030.

In essence, business can expect directed funding for co-investment in emission reduction technology, Government spending to be through the lens of the renewed emissions targets, and for new funding opportunities to advance low emission technology.

But emissions reduction is not just about industry. Land use change can have a significant impact on emissions through reductions. For example, a reduction in forest clearing in 2020 reduced emissions by 4.9%. One initiative needs to go hand in hand with the other.

In 2021, fossil fuels represented 67.5% (59.1% coal) of the total annual electricity generation and renewables 32.5% (an increase of 5% on the previous year with the spike contributed by small scale solar, and large scale solar and wind farms).

 

FBT-free Electric Cars

New legislation before Parliament, if enacted, will make zero or low emission vehicles FBT-free. We explore who can access the concession and how.

Electric vehicles (EV) represent just under 2% of the new car market in Australia but it is a rapidly growing sector with a 62.3% jump in new EV registrations between 2020 and 2021.

Making EVs FBT-free is just the first step in the Government’s plan to make zero and low emission vehicles the car of choice for Australians, focussing on affordability and overcoming “range anxiety” by:

  • Cutting import tariffs
  • Placing EV fast chargers once every 150 kilometres on the nation’s highways
  • Creating a national Hydrogen Highways refuelling network, to deliver stations on Australia’s busiest freight routes
  • Converting the Commonwealth fleet to 75% no-emissions vehicles

It is on this last point, fleet cars, that the FBT exemption on EVs is targeted. In Australia, business account for around 40% of light vehicle sales according to a research report by Griffith and Monash Universities. However, EV sales to business fleets comprised a mere 0.08% of the market in 2020. The Government can control what it purchases and has committed to converting its fleet to no-emission vehicles, but for the private sector, there is a wide gap between the total cost of ownership of EVs and traditional combustion engine vehicles. It’s more expensive overall and the Government is looking to reduce that impediment through the FBT system.

How the EV FBT exemption will work

The proposed FBT exemption is intended to apply to cars provided by an employer to an employee under the following conditions:

 

 

If an electric car qualifies for the FBT exemption, then associated benefits relating to running the car for the period the car fringe benefit is provided, can also be exempt from FBT.

Government modelling states that if an EV valued at about $50,000 is provided by an employer through this arrangement, the FBT exemption would save the employer up to $9,000 a year.

While the measure provides an exemption from FBT, the value of that fringe benefit is still taken into account in determining the reportable fringe benefits amount of the employee. That is, the value of the benefit is reported on the employee’s income statement. While income tax is not paid on this amount, it is used to determine the employee’s adjusted taxable income for a range of areas such as the Medicare levy surcharge, private health insurance rebate, employee share scheme reduction, and social security payments.

Can I salary sacrifice an electric car?

Assuming your employer agrees, and the car meets the criteria, salary packaging is an option. While some FBT concessions are not available if the benefit is provided under a salary sacrifice arrangement, the exemption for electric cars will be available. In order for a salary sacrifice arrangement to be effective for tax purposes, it needs to be agreed, documented, and in place prior to the employee earning the income that they are sacrificing.

Government modelling suggests that for individuals using a salary sacrifice arrangement to pay for a $50,000 electric vehicle, the saving would be up to $4,700 a year.

Who cannot access the FBT exemption

Your business structure makes a difference

By its nature, the FBT exemption only applies where an employer provides a car to an employee. Partners of a partnership and sole traders will not be able to access the benefits of the exemption as they are not employees of the business. When it comes to beneficiaries of a trust and shareholders of a company it will be important to determine whether the benefit will be provided to them in their capacity as an employee or director of the entity.

Exemption is limited to cars

As the FBT exemption only relates to cars, other vehicles like vans are excluded. Cars are defined as motor vehicles (including four-wheel drives) designed to carry a load less than one tonne and fewer than nine passengers.

EV State and Territory tax concessions

The Federal Government is not alone in using concessions to encourage electric vehicle ownership.

ACT

The ACT Government offers a stamp duty exemption on new zero emission vehicles, and up to two years free registration for new or second hand zero emission vehicles (registered between 24 May 2021 and before 30 June 2024).

New South Wales

Reimbursement of stamp duty paid on purchases of new or used full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), with a dutiable value up to and including $78,000.

Queensland

Discounted registration duty for hybrid and electric vehicles. And, a limited $3,000 rebate for new eligible zero emission vehicles with a purchase price (dutiable value) of up to $58,000 (including GST) on or after 16 March 2022.

South Australia

A limited $3,000 subsidy and a 3-year registration exemption on eligible new battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles first registered from 28 October 2021.

Tasmania

From 1 July 2022 until 30 June 2022, no stamp duty applies to light electric or hydrogen fuel-cell motor vehicle (including motorcycles). Vehicles with an internal combustion engine do not qualify.

Victoria

A limited $3,000 subsidy is available for new eligible zero emission vehicles purchased on or after 2 May 2021. More than 20,000 subsidies are available under the program. Plus, stamp duty for ‘green passenger cars’ is set at the one rate regardless of value ($8.40 per $200 or part thereof).

Zero emission vehicles receive a $100 annual registration concession but are also subject to a per kilometre road user charge.

Western Australia

A $3,500 rebate on the purchase of a new zero emission, hydrogen fuel cell or battery light vehicle with a value of up to $70,000 purchased on or after 10 May 2022.

Can I claim my crypto losses?

The ATO has released updated information on claiming cryptocurrency losses and gains in your tax return.

The first point to understand is that gains and losses from crypto are only reported in your tax return when you dispose of it – you sell it, convert it to fiat currency, exchange it for another type of asset, buy something with it, etc. You cannot recognise market fluctuations or claim a loss because the value of your crypto assets changed until the loss is realised or crystallised.

Gains and losses from the disposal of cryptocurrency should be reported in your tax return in the year that the disposal occurred.

If you made a capital gain on crypto that was held as an investment and you held the crypto for more than 12 months then you may be able to access the 50% Capital Gains Tax (CGT) discount and halve the tax you pay.

If you made a loss on the cryptocurrency (capital loss) when you disposed of it, you can generally offset the loss against capital gains you might have (unless the crypto is a personal use asset). But, you can only offset capital losses against capital gains. You cannot offset these losses against other forms of income like salary and wages, unfortunately. If you don’t have any capital gains to offset, you can hold the losses and carry them forward for another future year when you can use them.

If you earned income from crypto such as airdrops or staking rewards, then these also need to be reported in your tax return.

And remember, keep records of your crypto transactions. The ATO has sophisticated data matching programs in place and cryptocurrency reporting is a major area of focus.

How high will interest rates go?

The RBA lifted the cash rate to 1.85% in early August 2022. The increase comes a few weeks after Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe told the Australian Strategic Business Forum that “…we’re going through a process now of steadily increasing interest rates, and there’s more of that to come. We’ve got to move away from these very low levels of interest rates we had during the emergency.” He went on to say that we should expect interest rates of 2.5% – how quickly we get there really depends on inflation.

The RBA Governor has come under increasing pressure over comments made in October 2021 suggesting that interest rates would not rise until 2024. At the time however, Australia was coming out of the Delta outbreak, wage and pricing pressure was subdued, and inflation was low. That all changed and changed dramatically. Inflation is now forecast to reach 7.75% over 2022 before trending down. We’re not expected to reach the RBA’s target inflation rate range of 2% to 3% until the 2023-24 financial year.

In the UK, the situation is worse with the Bank of England predicting that inflation will reach around 13% over the next few months. The UK has been heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine with the price of gas doubling, compounding pressure from post pandemic supply chain issues and price increases.

With interest rates rising, what can we expect? Deputy RBA Governor Michele Bullock recently said that Australia’s household credit-to-income ratio is a relatively high 150%, increasing in an environment that enabled households to service higher levels of debt. But it is not all doom and gloom. “Strong growth in housing prices over 2021 and early 2022 has boosted asset values for many homeowners, with housing assets now comprising around half of household assets,” she said. The recent downturn in house prices has only marginally eroded the large increases over recent years. Plus, households have saved around $260m since the pandemic creating a buffer for rising interest rates. This, however, is a macro view of the economy at large and individual households and businesses will face different pressures depending on their individual circumstances.

For businesses, the rate increase has a twofold effect. It is not just the rate rise and the higher cost of funds in their borrowings. That by itself is significant but at this stage, if anything, it is the lesser issue. The more significant impact comes from negative consumer sentiment and the flow through effect on sales and cash flow.

  • In general, your debts should not exceed around 35-40% of your assets. There will be some exceptions to this with new business start-ups and first home buyers.
  • Review the cost of cash in your business, reviewing rates, and the configuration and mix of loans to ensure you are not paying more than you need to.
  • If possible, avoid having private debt as well as business and investment debts. You can’t get tax relief on your private debt.
  • Keep an eye on debtors and don’t become your customer’s bank.

Tax & the family home

Everyone knows you don’t pay tax on your family home when you sell it…right? We take a closer look at the main residence exemption that excludes your home from capital gains tax and the triggers that reduce or exclude that exemption.

Capital gains tax (CGT) applies to gains you have made on the sale of capital assets (assets you make money from). Unless an exemption or reduction applies, or you can offset the tax against a capital loss, any gain you made on an asset is taxed at your marginal tax rate.

What is the main residence exemption?

Your main residence is the home you live in. In general, CGT applies to the sale of your home unless you have an exemption, partial exemption, or you are able to offset the tax against a capital loss.

If you are an Australian resident for tax purposes, you can access the full main residence exemption when you sell your home if your home was your main residence for the whole time you owned it, the land your home is on is or is under 2 hectares, and you did not use your home to produce an income – for example running a business from your home or renting it out.

If the home is on more than 2 hectares, if eligible, you can treat the home and up to 2 hectares of the land it is on as one asset and claim the main residence exemption on this asset.

However, if you use your home to produce an income by running a business from home or renting it out, CGT can apply to the portion of the home used to produce income from that time onwards.

 

What’s a main residence?

For CGT purposes, your home normally qualifies as your main residence from the point you move in and start living there. However, if you move in as soon as practicable after the settlement date of the contract, that home is considered your main residence from the time you acquired it.

If you cannot move in straight away because you are in the process of selling your old home, you can treat both homes as your main residence for up to six months without impacting your eligibility to the main residence exemption. For example, where you have moved into your new home while finalising the sale of your old home. This applies if you were living in your old home for a continuous period of 3 months in the 12 months before you disposed of it, you did not use your old home to produce an income (rented it out or used it as a place of business) in any part of that 12 months when it was not your main residence, and your new property becomes your main residence.

If the sale takes more than six months and if eligible, the main residence exemption could apply to both homes only for the last six months prior to selling the old home. For any period before this it might be possible to choose which home is treated as your main residence (the other becomes subject to CGT).

If your new home is being rented to someone else when you purchase it and you cannot move in, the home is not your main residence until you move in.

If you cannot move in for some unforeseen reason, for example you end up in hospital or are posted overseas for a few months for work, then you still might be able to access the main residence exemption from the time you acquired the home if you move in as soon as practicable once the issue has been resolved. Inconvenience is not a valid reason and you will need to ensure that you have documentation to support your position.

Proof that your property is first established or continues to be your main residence is subjective and if the issue is ever queried, some of the factors the ATO will look at include:

The length of time you have lived in the dwelling

  • Where your family live
  • Whether you moved your personal belongings into the dwelling
  • The address you have your mail delivered
  • Your address on the Electoral Roll
  • Your connection to services such as telephone, gas and electricity, and
  • Your intention.

Foreign resident or resident?

The main residence rules changed in 2017 to exclude non-residents from accessing the main residence exemption.[1]

The rules focus on your tax residency status at the time of the CGT event (normally the time the contract of sale is entered into). That is, in most cases if you are a non-resident at the time you enter into the contract of sale, you will be unable to access the main residence exemption. This is the case even if you were a resident for part of the ownership period.

Conversely, if you are a resident at the time of the sale, and you meet the other eligibility criteria, the rules should apply as normal even if you were a non-resident for some of the ownership period. For example, an expat who maintains their main residence in Australia could return to Australia, become a resident for tax purposes again, then sell the property and if eligible, access the main residence exemption.

It’s important to recognise that the residency test is your tax residency not your visa status. Australia’s tax residency rules can be complex. If you are uncertain, please contact us and we will work through the rules with you.

The tax rules also contain integrity provisions that can deny the main residence exemption where someone circumvents the rules by deliberately structuring their affairs to access the exemption – for example, transferring the property to a related party prior to becoming a foreign resident to access the main residence exemption.

Can I treat my home as my main residence even if I don’t live there?

Once you have established your home as your main residence, in certain circumstances, you can treat it as your main residence even if you have stopped living there. The absence rule allows you to treat your home as your main residence for tax purposes:

  • For up to 6 years if it’s used to produce income, for example you rent it out while you are away; or
  • Indefinitely if it is not used to produce income.

By applying the absence rule to your home, this normally prevents you from applying the main residence exemption to any other property you own over the same period. Apart from limited exceptions, the other property is exposed to CGT.

Let’s say you moved overseas in 2019 and rented out your home while you were away. Then, you came back to Australia in 2021 and moved back into your house. Then in early 2022, you decided it is not your forever home and sold it. You elected to apply the absence rule to your home and didn’t treat any other property as your main residence during that same period. In this case, you should be able to access the full main residence exemption assuming you are a resident for tax purposes at the time of sale.

The 6 year period also resets if you re-establish the property as your main residence and subsequently stop living there but rent it out in between. So, if the time the home was income producing is limited to six years for each absence, it is likely the full main residence exemption will be available if the other eligibility criteria are met.

 

What happens if I have been running my business from home?

If your home is also set aside as a dedicated place of business (i.e., you do not have another office or workshop), then you might only be able to claim a partial main residence exemption. This is because income producing assets are excluded from the main residence exemption.

If you are running a business from home, you can usually claim a tax deduction for occupancy expenses such as interest on the mortgage, council rates, and insurance. If you claimed or were eligible to claim these expenses, then you will only be able to access a partial main residence exemption. These rules apply even if you have not claimed these expenses as a deduction; the fact that you are eligible to make a claim is enough to impact your access to the main residence exemption.

In many cases, if your home would have qualified for a full main residence exemption before it is used as a dedicated place of business, the cost base of your home for CGT purposes should also be reset to its market value at that time.

Also, if only a partial main residence exemption is available, you will need to check whether you can access the small business CGT concessions on any remaining capital gain. As these rules are complex, please contact us and we will work through the rules with you.

However, if you have only been working from home out of convenience and there is another office that you normally work from, then your eligibility to access the main residence exemption should be unaffected. The ATO has confirmed that all that time working from home temporarily during the pandemic should not impact your ability to access the main residence exemption.

If I rent out a room on AirBnB, can I still claim the exemption?

If your home has been used to produce income while you are living in it, the portion used to produce income will be excluded from the main residence exemption. The rules might apply differently if you move out of the home completely – see Can I treat my home as my main residence even if I don’t live there?

Before you start renting out a portion of your home, it is a good idea to have it valued. If you would have qualified for the main residence exemption just before it was rented out, there are some rules that can apply in most cases and for CGT purposes, you are taken to have re-acquired your home for its market value at that time. So, if your home has increased in value over and above its cost base, this should reduce any gain when you eventually sell.

Can I have a different main residence to my spouse?

Let’s say you and your spouse each own homes that you have separately established as your main residences for the same period. The rules do not allow you to claim the full CGT exemption on both homes. Instead, you can:

  • Choose one of the dwellings as the main residence for both of you during the period; or
  • Nominate different dwellings as your main residence for the period.

If you and your spouse nominate different dwellings, the exemption is split between you:

  • If you own 50% or less of the residence chosen as your main residence, the dwelling is taken to be your main residence for that period and you will qualify for the main residence exemption for your ownership interest;
  • If you own greater than 50% of the residence chosen as your main residence, the dwelling is taken to be your main residence for half of the period that you and your spouse had different homes.

The same rule applies to the spouse.

The rule applies to each home that the spouses own regardless of how the homes are held legally, i.e., sole ownership, tenants in common or joint tenants.

 

Divorce and the main residence rules

The last two years have seen the highest divorce rate in Australia for a decade. When a property settlement occurs between spouses and if the conditions are met, the marriage breakdown rollover rules apply to ignore any CGT gain on the property settlement.

Assuming the home is transferred to one of the spouses (and not to or from a trust or company), both individuals used the home solely as their main residence over their ownership period, and the other eligibility conditions are met, then a full main residence exemption should be available when the property is eventually sold.

If the home qualified for the main residence exemption for only part of the ownership period for either individual, then a partial exemption might be available. That is, the spouse receiving the property may need to pay CGT on the gain on their share of the property received as part of the property settlement when they eventually sell the property.

I have inherited a property, if I sell it, do I have to pay CGT?

Special rules exist that enable some beneficiaries or estates to access a full or partial main residence exemption on the inherited property. Assuming the house was the main residence of the deceased just before they died, they did not then use the home to produce an income, and the other eligibility criteria are met, a full exemption might be available to the executor or beneficiary if either (or both) of the following conditions are met:

  • The dwelling is disposed of within two years of the deceased’s death; or
  • The dwelling was the main residence of one or more of the following people from the date of death until the dwelling has been disposed of:
  • The spouse of the deceased (unless they were separated);
  • An individual who had a right to occupy the dwelling under the deceased’s will; or
  • The beneficiary who is disposing of the dwelling.

An extension to the two year period can apply in limited certain circumstances, for example when the will is contested or complex.

If the deceased did not actually live in the property prior to their death and other eligibility criteria are satisfied, it still might be possible to apply the full exemption where the home was treated as their main residence under the absence rule.

If the full exemption is not available, a partial exemption might apply.

What changed on 1 July?

A reminder of what changed on 1 July 2022

Business

  • Superannuation guarantee increased to 10.5%
  • $450 super guarantee threshold removed for employees aged 18 and over
  • Small business GST and PAYG tax instalments lowered (the total tax liability remains the same, just the amount the business needs to pay through the year is lowered)
  • ATO guidance on how profits of professional firms are structured comes into effect introducing new risk criteria
  • New guidance on unpaid trust distributions to corporate beneficiaries comes into effect that may treat some unpaid distributions as loans and trigger tax consequences

Individuals

  • Superannuation guarantee increased to 10.5%
  • Work-test repealed for those under 75 to make or receive non-concessional or salary sacrifice super contributions (the work test still applies to personal deductible contributions)
  • Age for downsizer super contributions reduced to 60 years and older
  • Value of voluntary super contributions that can be withdrawn under the First Home Saver Scheme increased to a total of $50,000
  • New ATO guidelines on trust distributions come into effect primarily impacting distributions to adult children
  • Home loan guarantee scheme extended to 35,000 per year for first home buyers and 5,000 per year for single parents
  • Australia’s minimum wage increased

Overcome your customers fear of spending

One of the biggest complaints from salespeople in a tight economy is the time it takes to achieve a sale.  So, what can you do to speed up the sales process?

Sell the solution not the product

Branding is wonderful but unless your brand is as mighty as Coca Cola, it’s unlikely people will purchase what you have based on brand alone. It’s more important than ever to have clarity about why your product or service is valuable to your client and why they should be buying it from you.

Back in 2000, Berlei bras demonstrated the art of solution selling with their sports bra campaign, “only the ball should bounce.” For anyone that has seen a sports bras you know that aesthetically, they are the ugly duckling of the lingerie world; highly functional but very unattractive. Berlei used science to demonstrate how much damage exercising in anything but a sports bra could do (using television advertising, print, point of sale advertising, media, etc).  The point is to understand what the most meaningful message is for your customer and that is unlikely to be a product feature list.

Sell the savings

Does your product offer your customer any form of efficiency gain or benefit beyond value over time? Can you justify it with real examples such as testimonials and worked examples? If it does, you need to ensure that you articulate this message. If there is a benefit, ensure you highlight it and emphasise the result. Try and stay away from long range forecasts. If it is going to take a few years to see the real value then this is not a compelling selling point in the current market.

You are only as strong as the weakest link in your sales process

If your first point of contact is the weakest link in your sales chain, then you need to fix it. Help your team identify and capitalise on opportunities by giving them the training and structure they need.

Value added discounts

Discounting is a common strategy to increase sales but it comes at the cost of your margin. If you are going to discount, do it strategically. For example, when David Jones wanted to build the number of customers holding a David Jones AMEX, they offered a limited time 30% discount store wide to everyone who either held or applied for the card on the spot. And, staff were trained to encourage the adoption of the AMEX at the checkout. Yes, it was a big discount, but it created an event for existing store card holders and ramped up acquisition to the store card program. The added benefit is that loyalty programs work; the probability of selling to an existing customer is around 14 times higher than a new customer.

In tough economic times, it’s common for the volume of products purchased by customers to go down. You can overcome some of this reticence by packaging items together and encouraging sales volume by offering a discount on the second item or on bundles. If you are going to package, ensure you are not packaging low margin products and then discounting them. Packaging works best when you package products with higher profit margins or where you boost the sales volume of slow moving stock by combining it with faster selling stock.

 

Tax Time Targets

The ATO has flagged four priority areas this tax season where people are making mistakes.

With tax season almost upon us the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has revealed its four areas of focus this tax season.

  1. Record-keeping
  2. Work-related expenses
  3. Rental property income and deductions, and
  4. Capital gains from crypto assets, property, and shares.

In general, there are three ‘golden rules’ when claiming tax deductions:

  • You must have spent the money and not been reimbursed.
  • If the expense is for a mix of work related (income producing) and private use, you can only claim the portion that relates to how you earn your income.
  • You need to have a record to prove it.

1.0 Record keeping

101 of working with the ATO is that you can’t claim it if you can’t prove it. If you are audited, the ATO will disallow deductions for unsubstantiated or unreasonable expenses. Even if the expense is below the substantiation threshold of $300 ($150 for laundry), the ATO might ask how you came up with that number. For example, if you claim $300 in work related expenses (that is, make a claim right up to the substantiation threshold), how did you come up with that number and not something else?

In addition to the obvious records of salary, wages, allowances, government payments or pensions and annuities, you need to keep records of:

  • Interest or managed funds.

Records of expenses for any deductions claimed including a record of how that expense relates to the way you earn your income. That is, the expense must be related to how you earn your income. For example, if you claim the cost of RAT tests, you need to be able to prove that the RAT test was necessary to enable you to work. If you were working from home and not required to leave home, it will be harder to claim the cost of the test.

  • Assets such as shares or units in a trust, rental properties or holiday homes, if you purchased a home or inherited a property, or disposed of an asset (including cryptocurrency).

You need to keep your records for five years. These can be digital copies of the records as long as they are clear and legible copies of the original. If your records are digital, keep a backup.

Records can be tax invoices, receipts, diary entries or something else that proves you incurred the expense and how it related to how you earn your income.

2.0 Work-related expenses

To claim a deduction, you need to have incurred the expense yourself and not been reimbursed by your employer or business, and the expense needs to be directly related to your work.

What expenses are related to work?

You can claim a deduction for all losses and outgoings “to the extent to which they are incurred in gaining or producing assessable income except where the outgoings are of a capital, private or domestic nature, or relate to the earning of exempt income.” That is, there must be a nexus between the expenses you are claiming and how you earn your income.

It all sounds simple enough until you start applying this rule. Take the example of an actor. To land the acting job she needs to attend auditions. She wants to claim the cost of having her hair and make-up done for the audition. But, because she is not generating income at the stage of the audition, she cannot claim her expenses. The expense must be related to how you are currently earning your income, not future potential income. The same issue applies to upskilling. If you attend investment seminars with the intention of building your investment portfolio the seminar is not deductible as a self-education expense unless it relates to managing your existing investment portfolio – not a future one. Or, a nurse’s aide who attendees university to qualify as a nurse. The university degree and the expenses associated with this are not deductible as the nursing degree is not required to fulfil the role of a nurse’s aide.

The second area of confusion is over what can be claimed for work. If the item is “conventional” it’s unlikely to be deductible. For example, you can’t claim conventional clothing (including footwear) as a work-related expense, even if your employer requires you to wear it and you only wear the items of clothing at work. To be deductible clothing must be protective, occupation specific such as a chef’s chequered pants, a compulsory uniform, or a registered non-compulsory uniform.

Work related or private?

Another area of confusion is where expenses are incurred for work purposes but used privately. Internet access or mobile phone services are typical. A lot of people take the view that the expense had to be incurred for work so what does it matter if it’s used for private purposes? But, if you use the service on more than an ad-hoc basis for any purpose other than work, then the expense needs to be apportioned and only the work-related percentage claimed as a deduction. And yes, the ATO does check usage in an audit.

Claims for COVID-19 tests will be a test of this rule. COVID-19 tests are deductible from 1 July 2021 if the purpose was to determine whether you may attend or remain at work. The tax deduction does not apply if you worked from home and didn’t intend to attend your workplace, or the test was used for private purposes (for example, to tests the kids before school).

Claiming work from home expenses

Last financial year, one in three Australians claimed working from home expenses. Now we’re out of the pandemic, the ATO will be focussing specifically on what is being claimed. If you claimed work from home expenses last year and returned to the office this year, then there should be a reduction in your work from home claim. The ATO will be looking for discrepancies.

If you are claiming your expenses, there are three methods you can use:

  • The ATO’s simplified 80 cents per hour short-cut method – you can claim 80 cents for every hour you worked from home from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2022. You will need to have evidence of hours worked like a timesheet or diary. The rate covers all of your expenses and you cannot claim individual items separately, such as office furniture or a computer.
  • Fixed rate 52 cents per hour method – applies if you have set up a home office but are not running a business from home. You can claim 52 cents for every hour and this covers the running expenses of your home. You can claim your phone, internet, or the decline in value of equipment separately.
  • Actual expenses method – you can claim the actual expenses you incur (and reduce the claim by any personal use and use by other family members). You will need to ensure you have kept records such as receipts to use this method.

It’s this last method, the actual method, the ATO is scrutinising because people using this method tend to lodge much higher claims in their tax return. Ineligible expenses include:

  • 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 (especially by those who are working from home solely due to a lockdown).

3.0 Rental property income and deductions

For landlords, the focus is on ensuring that all income received, whether long-term, short-term, rental bonds, back payments, or insurance pay-outs, are recognised in your tax return.

If your rental property is outside of Australia, and you are an Australian resident for tax purposes, you must recognise the rental income you received in your tax return (excluding any tax you have paid overseas), unless you are classified as a temporary resident for tax purposes. You can claim expenses related to the property, although there are some special rules that need to be considered when it comes to interest deductions. For example, if you have borrowed money from an overseas lender you might be subject to withholding tax obligations.

Co-owned properties

For tax purposes, rental income and expenses need to be recognised in line with the legal ownership of the property, except in very limited circumstances where it can be shown that the equitable interest in the property is different from the legal title. The ATO will assume that where the taxpayers are related, the equitable right is the same as the legal title (unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise such as a deed of trust etc.,).

This means that if you hold a 25% legal interest in a property then you should recognise 25% of the rental income and rental expenses in your tax returns even if you pay most or all of the rental property expenses (the ATO would treat this as a private arrangement between the owners).

The main exception is where the parties have separately borrowed money to acquire their interest in the property, then they would claim their own interest deductions.

4.0 Capital gains from crypto, property or other assets

If you dispose of an asset – property, shares, crypto or NFTs, collectables (costing $500 or more) – you will need to calculate the capital gain or loss and record this in your tax return. Capital gains tax (CGT) does not apply to personal use assets such as a boat if you bought it for less than $10,000.

Crypto and capital gains tax

A question that often comes up is when do I pay tax on cryptocurrency?

If you acquire the cryptocurrency to make a private purchase and you don’t hold onto it, the crypto might qualify as a personal use asset. But in most cases, that is not the case and people acquire crypto as an investment, even if they do sometimes use it to buy things.

Generally, a CGT event occurs when disposing of cryptocurrency. This can include selling cryptocurrency for a fiat currency (e.g., $AUD), exchanging one cryptocurrency for another, gifting it, trading it, or using it to pay for goods or services.

Each cryptocurrency is a separate asset for CGT purposes. When you dispose of one cryptocurrency to acquire another, you are disposing of one CGT asset and acquiring another CGT asset. This triggers a taxing event.

Transferring cryptocurrency from one wallet to another is not a CGT disposal if you maintain ownership of the coin.

Record keeping is extremely important – you need receipts and details of the type of coin, purchase price, date and time of transactions in Australian dollars, records for any exchanges, digital wallet and keys, and what has been paid in commissions or brokerage fees, and records of tax agent, accountant and legal costs. The ATO regularly runs data matching projects, and has access to the data from many crypto platforms and banks.

If you make a loss on cryptocurrency, you can generally only claim the loss as a deduction if you are in the business of trading.

Gifting an asset might still incur tax

Donating or gifting an asset does not avoid capital gains tax. If you receive nothing or less than the market value of the asset, the market value substitution rules might come into play. The market value substitution rule can treat you as having received the market value of the asset you donated or gifted for the purpose of your CGT calculations.

For example, if Mum & Dad buy a block of land then eventually gift the block of land to their daughter, the ATO will look at the value of the land at the point they gifted it. If the market value of the land is higher than the amount that Mum & Dad paid for it, then this would normally trigger a capital gains tax liability. It does not matter that Mum & Dad did not receive any money for the land.

Donations of cryptocurrency might also trigger capital gains tax. If you donate cryptocurrency to a charity, you are likely to be assessed on the market value of the crypto at the point you donated it. You can only claim a tax deduction for the donation if the charity is a deductible gift recipient and the charity is set up to accept cryptocurrency.

 

 

What to expect from the new Government

Anthony Albanese has been sworn in as Australia’s 31st Prime Minister and a Government formed. We look at what we know so far about the policies of the new Government in an environment with plenty of problems and no easy fixes.

The economy

The Government has stated that its economic priority is, “creating jobs, boosting participation, improving and increasing productivity, generating new business investment, and increasing wages and household incomes.”

A second Federal Budget will be released in October this year to set the fiscal policy direction of the Government. The Albanese Government has stated that its focus is on growing the economy as opposed to increasing taxes, but it is a delicate balance to keep growth ahead of inflation. Treasurer Jim Chalmers has said that the Government will look to “redirect spending from unproductive purposes to more productive purposes.”

In a recent speech, Treasury Secretary Dr Steven Kennedy, summed it up when he said that the most significant economic development of late has been the, “…higher-than-expected surge in inflation. Headline inflation reached 5.1% in the March quarter of 2022, the highest rate of inflation in more than 2 decades… Price increases are reflecting a range of shocks, some temporary and some more persistent.” These shocks include:

  • Increased global demand for goods straining supply chains, increasing shipping costs, and clogging ports;
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine which sharply increased the price of oil, energy and food. Russia accounts for 18% of global gas and 12% of global oil supply. Together Russia and Ukraine account for around one quarter of global trade in wheat; and
  • COVID-19 lockdowns in China impacting supply chains. China maintains a zero-COVID policy.

In Australia, energy prices have contributed strongly to inflation (the temporary reduction in fuel excise ends on 28 September 2022).

Personal income tax

The 2019-20 Budget announced a series of personal income tax reforms. Stage 3 of those reforms is legislated to commence on 1 July 2024. Stage 3 radically simplifies the tax brackets by collapsing the 32.5% and 37% rates into a single 30% rate for those earning between $45,001 and $200,000. Mr Albanese told Sky News, “People are entitled to have that certainty of the tax cuts that have been legislated… We won’t be changing them. What we want going forward is that certainty.”

Where will the money come from?

It is unclear at this stage how the Government intends to tackle the $1.2 trillion deficit. The general commentary from Finance Minister Katy Gallagher is that Treasury and Finance have been tasked with working through the Budget line by line to, “…see where there are areas where we can make sensible savings and return that money back to the Budget.”

Multinationals

Multinationals paying their fair share of tax was a go-to target during the election campaign. The plan for multinationals implements elements of the OECD’s two-pillar framework to reform international taxation rules and ensure Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) are subject to a minimum 15% tax rate from 2023. Australia and 129 other countries and jurisdictions, representing more than 90% of global GDP, are signatories to the framework.

The Government’s multinational policy supports the OECD framework by:

  • Limiting debt-related deductions by multinationals at 30% of profits, consistent with the OECD’s recommended approach, while maintaining the arm’s length test and the worldwide gearing ratio.
  • Limiting the ability for multinationals to abuse Australia’s tax treaties when holding intellectual property in tax havens from 1 July 2023. A tax deduction would be denied for payments for the use of intellectual property when they are paid to a jurisdiction where they don’t pay sufficient tax.
  • Introducing transparency measures including reporting requirements on tax information, beneficial ownership, tax haven exposure and in relation to government tenders.

The reforms will follow consultation and are not anticipated to take effect until 2023.

No change to SG rate and rate increase

No change to the legislated superannuation guarantee rate increase. The SG rate will increase to 10.5% on 1 July 2022 and steadily increase by 0.5% each year until it reaches 12% on 1 July 2025.

 

ATO refocus on debt collection

The ATO has not pursued many business tax debts during the pandemic and allowed tax refunds to flow through even if the business had a tax debt.  That position has now changed and the ATO has resumed debt collection and offsetting tax debts against refunds. If you have a tax debt that has been on-hold, expect the ATO to offset any refunds against this debt, and take steps to actively pursue the payment of the debt.  Small business account for around two thirds of the total debt owed to the ATO. If you have a tax debt, it is important that you engage with the ATO to work out how this debt will be paid.