You are here

Home » Blogs » kerry's blog

September 2019 Newsletter

"Outrageous" deductions rejected

 

The ATO has published some of the most unusual claims that they disallowed last financial year.

Nearly 700,000 taxpayers claimed almost $2 billion of ‘other’ expenses, but the ATO's systematic review of claims had found, and disallowed, some very unusual expenses, including:

·         claims for Lego sets bought as gifts for children, and sporting equipment or membership fees for their child athletes;

·         claims for dental expenses ("believing a nice smile was essential to finding a job");

·         some taxpayers tried to claim the purchase of a brand new car (in excess of $20,000 each!), with one "particularly charitable" taxpayer trying to claim for a car purchased as a gift for their mother;

·         one taxpayer made a claim for "the cost of raising twins", while another claimed for the "cost of raising three children" (and another taxpayer was obviously shocked at the cost of having children, simply stating "New born baby expensive" when making their claim);

·         other taxpayers claimed child support payments, private school fees, school uniforms, before school care and other school expenses, as well as health insurance costs and medical expenses; and

·         one taxpayer decided to claim the cost of their wedding reception.

 

The ‘other’ deductions section of the tax return is for expenses incurred in earning income that don’t appear elsewhere on the return — such as income protection and sickness insurance premiums.

The ATO is reminding taxpayers that, in order to claim an ‘other’ deduction, the expenses must be directly related to earning income and they need to have a receipt or record of the expense.

 

 

ATO guidance regarding incorrect ENCC determinations

The ATO has acknowledged that an incorrect excess non-concessional contribution ('ENCC') determination may issue due to a known system issue with the calculation of some SMSF member’s total super balance ('TSB').

Editor: Recent super reforms have meant that individuals are restricted from making non-concessional contributions where their TSB equals or exceeds $1.6 million.

This is due to an individual’s pension being incorrectly 'double counted' in the calculation of their TSB (which may have occurred where the individual commenced a pension on 30 June 2017 and/or 1 July 2017).

If an incorrect ENCC determination does issue, the ATO advises that there is no need for the SMSF to amend its reporting — an amended determination should issue within 4 weeks.

Editor: If you get one of these, please contact our office and we'll help sort it out.

 

 

ATO watching for foreign income this Tax Time

The ATO is urging taxpayers who receive any foreign income from investments, family members or working overseas to make sure they report it this tax time.

New international data sharing agreements allow the ATO to track money across borders and identify individuals not meeting their obligations.

“This year, the ATO has received records relating to more than 1.6 million off-shore accounts holding over $100 billion and is now using data-matching and sophisticated analytics to identify foreign income that has not been reported,” Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat said.

The ATO has shared data on financial account information of foreign tax residents with over 65 foreign tax jurisdictions across the globe, including information on account holders, balances, interest and dividend payments, proceeds from the sale of assets, and other income.

In addition to a small number of individuals deliberately engaging in tax avoidance, the ATO is concerned about a large number that are unsure of how to meet their obligations.

“If you're an Australian resident for tax purposes, you are taxed on your worldwide income, so you must declare all of your foreign income no matter how small the amount may be.  This may include income from offshore investments, employment, pensions, business and consulting, or capital gains on overseas assets,” Ms Foat said.

"Even if you have paid tax on the overseas income it must be reported to the ATO, however you may be able to claim a foreign income tax offset to account for any foreign tax paid.”

 

The ATO hits the road

The ATO plans to visit almost 10,000 businesses this financial year in all States and Territories, across a variety of industries, as part of their strategy to deal with the black economy (they visited nearly 9,000 businesses in the 2018/19 financial year).

According to Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt, there are a number of businesses in some areas not registered for GST or PAYG withholding, which can be a sign of the black economy, as well as a number of businesses with overdue tax returns.

Other black economy signs that the ATO looks out for are things like lifestyle and assets far exceeding reported business income, sham contracting, a failure to provide pay slips, reports that employers are paying their workers cash in hand and keeping them off the books, or a lack of merchant payment facilities like EFTPOS.

Some businesses are more likely than others to get a visit from the ATO, including:

·         Residential building construction;

·         Building completion and installation services, and other construction services;

·         Building cleaning, pest control, and gardening services;

·         Accommodation;

·         Pharmaceutical and other store-based retailing;

·         Automotive repair and maintenance;

·         Cafes, restaurants, and takeaway food services;

·         Personal care services;

·         Legal and accounting services;

·         Computer system design and related services; and

·         Adult, community and other education services

 

Motor vehicle registries data matching program protocol

The ATO will match the data provided by the State and Territory motor vehicle registering authorities against the ATO’s taxpayer records with the objective of identifying those who may not be meeting their registration, reporting, lodgment and payment obligations.

Details will be requested where records indicate a vehicle has been transferred or newly registered during the 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years where the purchase price or market value is equal to or exceeds $10,000 (approximately 2 million transactional records a year).

This data will allow compliance checks on luxury car tax, FBT and fuel schemes, as well as identifying higher risk taxpayers with outstanding taxation lodgments, and those with undeclared income or concealing the real accumulation of wealth.

Tax cuts become law

The Government has announced that more than 10 million Australians will receive immediate tax relief following the passage of legislation through the Parliament, which increases the top threshold for the 19% tax rate from $41,000 to $45,000 and increases the low income tax offset from $645 to $700 in 2022/23.

In combination with the legislated removal of the 37% tax bracket in 2024/25, the Government is also "delivering structural reform to the tax system" by reducing the 32.5% tax rate to 30%.

Low and middle income tax offset also now law

In addition, from the 2018/19 income year (i.e., last income year):

·         The low and middle income tax offset ('LAMITO') has been increased from a maximum amount of $530 to $1,080 per annum and the base amount increased from $200 to $255 per annum; and

·         Taxpayers with a taxable income:

       —   of $37,000 or below can now receive a LAMITO of up to $255;

       —   above $37,000 and below $48,001 can now receive $255, plus an amount equal to 7.5% to the maximum offset of $1,080;

       —   above $48,000 and below $90,001 are now eligible for the maximum LAMITO of $1,080; and

       —   above $90,000 but is no more than $126,000 are now eligible for a LAMITO of $1,080, less an amount equal to 3% of the excess.

The ATO is implementing the necessary system changes so taxpayers that have already lodged their 2018/19 tax return will receive any increase to the LAMITO they are entitled to (any tax refund should be deposited in the taxpayer's nominated bank account).  There will not be any need to request an amendment.

Those who are yet to lodge their tax return will have any offset they are entitled to taken into account during the normal processing of their return.

 

ATO "puts the brakes" on dodgy car claims

The ATO is making work-related car expenses a key focus again during Tax Time 2019.

Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat said over 3.6 million people made a work-related car expense claim in 2017/18, totalling more than $7.2 billion.

“We are still concerned that some taxpayers aren’t getting the message that over-claiming will be detected and if it is deliberate, penalties will apply,” she said.

“While some people do make legitimate mistakes, we are concerned that many people are deliberately making dodgy claims in order to get a bigger refund. We see taxpayers claiming for things like private trips, trips they didn’t make, and car expenses their employer paid for or reimbursed them for.”

One in five car claims are exactly at the maximum limit that doesn’t require receipts.

Under the cents per kilometre method, taxpayers don’t need to keep receipts, but they do need to be able to demonstrate how they worked out the number of kilometres they travelled for work purposes.

The ATO’s sophisticated analytics compares taxpayer claims with others earning similar amounts in similar jobs.

Where the ATO identifies questionable claims, they will contact taxpayers and ask them to show how they have calculated their claim, and in some cases the ATO may even contact employers to confirm whether a taxpayer was required to use their own car for work-related travel.

Case studies

The ATO’s sophisticated data analytics found a range of unsupported claims in 2018, including:

·         When the ATO asked a taxpayer to provide the logbook to support a claim of $4,800, they found the taxpayer was referring to a car service logbook rather than a logbook kept for calculating their work use car percentage (the taxpayer had not undertaken any work-related car travel during the year).

·         Another claim was flagged by the ATO's analytics indicating a taxpayer, a retail worker, had incorrectly claimed $350 for the cost of public transport to and from work.

·         The ATO also identified an office worker claiming $3,300 for 5000 kilometres of work-related travel using the cents per kilometre method, but it turned out the taxpayer's claim was based on trips he made from home to work.

 

Private health insurance statements now optional

Taxpayers with private health insurance should be aware that insurance providers are no longer required to provide statements to their members.

Taxpayers lodging their tax returns using a registered tax agent should have their health insurance details 'pre-filled' into their return (but they will need to contact their health insurer if they cannot get this information for some reason).

 

FBT and taxi travel

Taxi travel by an employee is an exempt benefit for FBT purposes if the travel is a single trip beginning or ending at the employee's place of work (or if it is a result of sickness or injury in certain circumstances).

However, the ATO is reminding taxpayers that this exemption is limited to travel undertaken in a vehicle that is licensed to operate as a taxi by the relevant State or Territory, and does not extend to travel undertaken in a ride-sourcing vehicle or other vehicle for hire that do not hold such a licence.

 

ATO rates and thresholds

Editor: The ATO has updated a number of rates and thresholds on their website, including the following.

Division 7A – benchmark interest rate

The Division 7A benchmark interest rate for the 2020 income year is 5.37% (up from the rate for the 2019 income year of 5.20%).

Car cost limit for depreciation

The maximum value taxpayers can use for calculating depreciation of cars is the car limit in the year in which they first used or leased the car.

In the 2019/20 income year, the car limit is $57,581, unchanged from the 2018/19 year.

Capital improvement threshold

The improvement threshold for the 2019/20 income year is $153,093, up from $150,386 for the 2018/19 income year.

SMSF LRBA interest rates

An interest rate of 5.94% charged by an SMSF in the 2020 income year under a limited recourse borrowing arrangement ('LRBA') to acquire real property would be consistent with the ATO's safe harbour terms (or 7.94% for listed shares or units).

 

ATO Data Matching Program: HELP, VSL and/or TSL debts

The ATO is conducting a data matching program for the 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 financial years to identify individuals with an existing Higher Education Loan Program ('HELP'), Vocational Education and Training Student Loan ('VSL') and/or Trade Support Loans ('TSL') debt who may not be meeting their registration, lodgment and/or payment obligations.

This data collection is expected to involve approximately 3 million individuals each year.

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances.