Category: Featured Articles

Interest Rates on Hold

Last week (05/03/19), the Reserve Bank of Australia decided not to change the official cash rate of 1.5%. Two days later the December quarter economic growth figures showed that the economy had slowed considerably – growing by just 0.2% from October to December, and 2.3% over the previous 12 months. This is considerably less than the forecast 3% in the Federal Budget. As a result, many economists are now expecting the Reserve Bank to reduce interest rates even further in the coming year; which would represent record lows. It’s an opportune time therefore to review whether you are making the most of this low rate environment. 

Have you considered the following? 

*         Fixed rate options. While rates are at an all-time low there may be opportunities to fix your loans for 3 or 5 years at under 5% per annum. Explore your options. Some borrowers may wish to fix just a portion of their loan. 

*         Review your position. Low interest rates offer an opportunity to refinance or revise your payment schedule to pay your loan off sooner. Talk to your broker to see if there’s a home or business loan that better suits your needs. 

*         Debt reduction. With lower rates, your monthly/fortnightly repayments will be less. Rather than pocketing the difference, if you put the difference into extra repayments, you can shave years off your loan and, in doing so, save thousands in interest. For example, a $500,000 home loan at an interest rate of 7% requires repayments of $3,078 per month over 30 years. At 4.5%, the repayments are $2,533, a difference of $545 a month. If you put that $545 into extra repayments, you can potentially take more than 9 years off the home loan term and save almost $140,000 in interest. 

*         Create an offset account. This is effectively a money source sitting beside your mortgage. Any savings inside this account are effectively offset against your loan, which in turn reduces the amount of interest you pay. 

Of course, low rates will not be around forever. As a borrower it’s important not to become complacent and to make sure that you still have the capacity to meet your repayment obligations in the event that rates increase. 

Legislation Update 26/02/2019

The first sitting of Parliament for 2019 wrapped up last week. While legislation to extend the Single Touch Payroll reporting regime to all employers passed into law (just awaiting Royal Assent), there are a couple of other measures that remain unlegislated which could impact your business. With the full Parliament only expected to sit for three more days (April 2 – 4) until an Election is called, there are now serious doubts surrounding whether these measures will pass into law. In view of this, we put forward the following suggested approach in the meantime: 

  1. Superannuation Amnesty 

The legislation to enact this measure is still before the Senate. To recap, the Superannuation Guarantee Amnesty was to be available for the 12-month period from 24 May 2018 to 23 May 2019. To get the benefits of the Amnesty (set out below) employers must during this 12-month period voluntarily disclose any Superannuation Guarantee underpayments that exist in the past (going back to when Superannuation Guarantee commenced in 1992). 

For an employer, the tax benefits of the Amnesty are: 

* The administration component of the Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGG) is not payable (this is a $20 per employee, per quarter, for whom there is an SG Shortfall) 

*  Part 7 penalties will not be applied. This can be up to 200% of the SG Charge that is payable (note that SG Charge includes the SG Shortfall that you owe to employees) 

* All catch-up payments that you make during the 12-month Amnesty period will be tax deductible. 

By contrast, under the current law, when superannuation has been underpaid or paid late Superannuation Guarantee Charge that must paid to the ATO is not deductible, and late contributions that an employer has made to an employee’s superannuation and has elected to offset against their SG Charge liability are also not deductible. 

If an employer is contemplating disclosing past superannuation shortfalls specifically to get the benefits of the Amnesty (including claiming a deduction for your late contributions) then it may be prudent to hold off until such time that the Amnesty actually becomes law (if at all). We will keep you apprised of the passage of the legislation through Parliament. However, with only a few sitting days remaining for this Parliament, and with the Opposition opposed to this measure, there are serious doubts about it becoming law. 

Irrespective of the Amnesty however, all employers should consider coming forward to disclose and pay past shortfalls to get their Superannuation Guarantee affairs in order. The Government is committing more resources to this area – including requiring Superannuation Funds to report more regularly to the ATO (at least once each month) – therefore non-complying employers may be more easily detected going forward. 

  1. Enhancing the Instant Asset Write-Off 

Legislation to expand and extend the Small Business Instant Asset Write-Off is still before the House of Representatives. This Bill seeks to extend the write-off by 12 months until 30 June 2020 (currently set to expire on 30 June 2019) and increase the threshold by $5,000 to $25,000; with the increase backdated to 29 January 2019. If passed into law, this would mean that there would be two thresholds for 2018/2019 as follows: 

* $20,000 (for assets installed ready for use between 1 July 2018 and 28 January 2019), and 

* $25,000 (for assets installed ready for use between 29 January 2019 and 30 June 2019. 

Irrespective of the whether the legislation passes into law, it is important to have perspective. You are only getting back the tax rate on the asset, not the full value of the asset. This is the same as the old law where the write-off threshold was $1,000  You don’t get any extra cash than you would otherwise have received under the old rules – you simply get it sooner. Consequently, you should not let tax distort or blur your commercial instincts – as you don’t get any extra cash than you would otherwise have under the old rules, you should continue to only buy assets that fit within your business plan. 

Key Dates For March & April

Many lodgement and payment dealines are looming for business including those relating to Activity Statements, Superannuation, and more….  

MARCH 2019 
21 March – February monthly Activity Statements – due for lodgement and payment

APRIL 2019 
21 April – March monthly Activity Statements – due for lodgement and payment 
21 April – Quarter 3 (January-March) PAYG instalment Activity Statements for head companies of consolidated groups – due for lodgement and payment 
28 April – Quarter 3 (January-March) Activity Statements – due for lodgement and payment (if lodging by paper) 
28 April – Quarter 3 (January-March) PAYG instalment notices (forms R and T) – final date for payment and, if varying the instalment amound, lodgement 
28 April – Quarter 3 (January-March) GST instalment notices (forms S and T) – final date for payment and, if varying the instalment amount, lodgement 
28 April – Quarter 3 (January-March) superannuation guarantee contributions to be made to a complying fund on behalf of your employees 
30 April – Quarter 3 (January-March) TFN Report for closely held trusts for TFNs quoted to a trustee by beneficiaries – final date for lodgement 

Where one of these dates falls on a weekend or a public holiday, the due date is extended to the next business day.

The Tax Advantages of Superannuation

Superannuation is a concessionally taxed environment as follows  

* Superannuation earnings (such as interest, dividends, rent etc.) are taxed at 15% when your account is in accumulation mode (i.e. not in pension mode). These earnings are tax-free when your account is in pension mode. By contrast, investment earnings on assets (such as shares, property, term deposits etc.) held outside of superannuation are taxed at your marginal tax

* Capital gains made by superannuation funds are likewise taxed at 15% when your account is in accumulation mode. Where a CGT assets supports a pension, any capital gain made when those assets are sold is tax-free. Any capital gain made by your superannuation fund is reduced to 10% (a 33% discount) where that asset has been held for 12 months or more.  Although this is a lesser discount than the 50% discount available to trusts and individuals, this is negated by the base CGT superannuation taxation rate of 15%.

Therefore, as well as making provision for your retirement, by contributing to superannuation you can also enjoy the above tax concessions. From 1 July 2017 all individuals up to age 75 can claim an income tax deduction for personal superannuation contributions. Before this date, you could only claim a deduction for your personal contributions where less than 10% of your assessable income, your reportable fringe benefits and your reportable employer superannuation contributions (e.g. salary sacrifice contributions) for the year were from being an employee – this was known as the 10% Rule. This rule prevented most employees from claiming a tax deduction for this type of contribution. However, under the new rules, to claim a deduction, the following requirements must be met:

* Age – All individuals under the age of 65 are eligible. Those aged 65 to 74 meet the superannuation ‘work test’ (work for at least 40 hours in a period of not more than 30 consecutive days in the financial year in which you plan to make the contribution). For those aged 75, the contribution must be made no later than 28 days after the end of the month in which you turn 75. Older taxpayers are ineligible.

* Minors –  If the individual is under 18 at the end of the income year in which the contribution is made, they must derive income in that year from being an employee or carrying on a business.

* Complying Fund – The contribution must be made to a complying superannuation fund.

* Notice Requirements – To claim the deduction you must provide your superannuation fund with a Notice of intention to claim a deduction form before you lodge your tax return in respect of that financial year.

Superannuation is also a great asset protection strategy. If a person becomes bankrupt, they may lose most (or all) of their assets. However, the Bankruptcy Act provides that the interest of the bankrupt in a regulated superannuation fund at the time of the commencement of the bankruptcy is not ‘property’ that can vest in their trustee in bankruptcy to be divided among creditors. Furthermore, if the superannuation fund pays a lump sum to a bankrupt (though not a pension) after the date of the bankruptcy, this money is also not divisible among creditors.

 

#News Flash# Single Touch Payroll Legislation Passes Parliament

Smaller employers (those with 19 or less employees) must commence reporting via Single Touch Payroll (STP) from 1 July 2019 after legislation passed Parliament this morning (12/02/2019).  

The STP regime revolutionises the way employers report payroll information to the ATO. In essence, STP is a new reporting mechanism whereby employers report employee payments (such as salary and wages, allowances etc.) and PAYG withholding to the ATO directly through their STP solution (e.g. upgraded Standard Business Reporting-enabled software) at the same time they pay their employees. To be clear, no additional reporting is required – just a new method of reporting.

Standard business reporting-enabled software (SBR-enabled software) is essential to reporting under STP. Employers must adopt an STP solution by the due date. Solutions will vary depending on an employer’s current payroll processes.

  •  Accountant or Bookkeeper – Employers who use an Accountant or Bookkeeper to process their pays will simply rely on them to provide an STP solution (SBR-enabled software) by the deadline. Even where an Accountant or Bookkeeper does not process employer payroll, employers may turn to them for advice around how they can become STP-compliant.
  • Software Upgrades – If an employer uses commercial payroll software, then they should contact their software provider as the deadline nears and ensure that they offer an updated Standard Business Reporting-enabled version of the software. Major software houses have this software available.
  • In-House Method – If an employer uses an in-house method of payroll or manual method (such as paying employees by EFT and manually providing them with pay-slips and Payment Summaries)…then they will likely need to adopt STP-compliant payroll software. Such employers may lean heavily on their Bookkeeper or Accountant when installing this software, and may need upfront training. Alternatively, they may choose to outsource their payroll to a payroll service provider such as a payroll bureau, or an Accountant or Bookkeeper.

The ATO is acknowledging that there are a significant number of smaller employers who do not use any type of payroll software when processing the pays each week/fortnight etc. Consequently, micro businesses (employers with 1 to 4 employees) will not be required to adopt/buy payroll software in order to comply with Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting. Whilst for most employers their STP solution will be adopting STP-compliant software, micro-businesses will according to the ATO be provided with different STP compliance options. Speaking on a recent ATO webcast, ATO Assistant Commissioner, John Shepherd confirmed this:

“You won’t need to buy payroll software, that’s why we’re looking for those alternate solutions- some of which might be an app, something that’s fit for purpose to get the STP information in but is easy to use, doesn’t take much time and doesn’t cost that business money to do so ,” said Mr Shepherd.

“We’ve spoken to some different banks and the possibilities around as people pay staff through internet banking being able to submit the single touch pay run information at the same time and we expect that to be part of the list of options that come forward over the next 12 months.

“There are obviously lots of other benefits from using payroll software but we’re not saying for STP that you need to go out and buy a product to do STP.”

MYOB and Xero and other major software houses have already developed these low cost STP-solutions for micro-business. You should contact your Accountant or Bookkeeper for further guidance in this area.

 

 

Key Dates for January & February 2019

Many lodgement and payment deadlines are looming for business including those relating to Activity Statements, Superannuation, and more…..

January 2019
15 January – Due date for lodgement of income tax returns for companies and trust that were taxable medium to large businesses in the prior year and are not required to lodge earlier. If you fail to lodge by the due date, your 2018/2019 income tax return will be due on 31 October 2019
21 January – Due date for lodgement and payment of December 2018 monthly Activity Statements
28 January – Due date for October-December 2018 Superannuation Guarantee contributions to be made to a complying fund on behalf of your employees
31 January – Final date for lodgement of October-December 2018 TFN report for closely held trust for TFNs quoted to a trustee by beneficiaries

February 2019
21 February – Due date for lodgement and payment of January monthly Activity Statements
28 February – Due date for lodgement and payment of October-December 2018 quarterly Activity Statements, including electronic lodgments
28 February – Due date for lodgement and payment of Annual GST returns or Annual GST information reports – if you do not have an income tax return lodgment obligation
28 February – Due date for lodgement and payment of income tax return for selp-preparing entities that were not due at an earlier date. If you fail to lodge by this date, your 2018/2019 return will be due by 31 October 2019
28 February – Due date for lodgement and payment of income tax returns for medium to large businesses (taxable and non-taxable that are new registrants)
28 February – Due date for lodgement and payment Superannuation Guarantee Charge Statement if you failed to pay Superannuation Guarantee charge on time for the October-December 2018 quarter. Superannuation Guarantee Charge is not deductible.

Where one of these dates falls on a weekend or a public holiday, the due date is extended to the next business day except in the case of Superannuation Guarantee contributions.

STP Rollout Now Law!

The Senate has now passed legislation to extend Single Touch Payroll (STP) to employers with 19 or less employees from 1 July 2019.

These businesses can also of course opt in early to STP.

The passage of legislation follows months of uncertainty for small business after STP was officially rolled out for employers with 20 or more employees from 1 July 2018.

The ATO still intends to allow micro-businesses (less than 5 employees) to adopt low-cost, alternative STP solutions.

 

 

INSTANT ASSET WRITE-OFF EXTENDED

The extension of the $20,000 instant asset Write-Off has now been passsed into law. 

PASSED
In the May 2018 Federal Budget the Government announced an extension to the Small Business Instant Asset Write-Off that was originally introduced from 1 July 2015. Under the Budget announcement, the Write -Off was to be extended until 30 June 2019 (it was to expire 30 June 2018). On 12 September 2018, The Treasury Laws Amendment (Accelerated Depreciation for Small Business Entities) Bill 2018 was passed by the Parliament into law to give effect to this 12-month extension.


More info? In our exclusive Members Area, watch the Webinar on Instant Asset Write-off (under the useful links tab) and read the full article in your November/December 2018 Bi-Monthly Newsletter, page 15.

NOT a member? Join today for exclusive access to articles, webinars, videos & publications on Saving Tax!
Call today on 1800savetax (1800 728 3829) for a special offer for first time subscribers.
https://mytaxsavers.com.au/what-do-i-get/

SUPER AMNESTY – TAKE ADVANTAGE!

Could you as an employer benefit from taking advantage of the Government’s new Superannuation Guarantee (SG) Amnesty? This article informs you of how you can wipe your SG slate clean, and enjoy some once-off taxation benefits in doing so.

Subject to the passage of legislation (which is currently before the Senate), the Amnesty will be available for the 12-month period from 24 May 2018 to 23 May 2019.

BACKGROUND
The latest data indicates that the “SG Gap” or SG Shortfall (the difference between the theoretical amount payable by employers to be fully compliant with their SG obligations and the amount they have actually paid) is $2.85 billion annually. This indicates that a concerning number of employers are not paying sufficient SG to their employees or are not paying it at all. In response to this and in order to recoup this key employee entitlement, the Government in late May 2018, announced a once-off, 12-month Superannuation Amnesty for employers.
BENEFITS
For an employer, the benefits of the Amnesty are:
  • The administration component of the Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) is waived (this is currently a $20 per employee, per quarter charge for whom there is an SG Shortfall)
  • Part 7 penalties will not be applied. This can be up to 200% of the SG Charge that is payable (note that SG Charge includes the SG Shortfall amount that you owe to employees)
  • All catch-up payments that you make during the 12-month Amnesty period will be tax deductible. The amendments also allow contributions that an employer has elected to offset against SG Charge imposed on the SG Shortfall disclosed in accordance with the Amnesty to be deducted from an employer’s assessable income. This ensures commensurate benefits are provided for employers who contribute directly to their employees’ funds when disclosing under the Amnesty as opposed to the benefits for those who instead make payments in relation to SG Charge and leave it to the ATO to distribute the amounts to the relevant funds.
By contrast, under the current law, SG Charge paid to the ATO is not deductible, and late contributions that an employer has made to an employees’ superannuation fund and has elected to offset against their SG Charge liability are also not deductible.
DETAILS
With a Bill to enact the new Amnesty now having been introduced to Parliament, we can reveal the details are as follows:
  • The Amnesty applies to any SG Shortfall from the introduction of SG back on 1 July 1992 to the quarter ending 31 March 2018.
  • You must voluntarily disclose amounts of SG Shortfall relating to the above period. Therefore, if an employer has already lodged an SG Charge Statement (and in that Statment disclosed particular SG Shortfalls), then those particular Shortfalls are not eligible for the Amnesty even if the amount of the Shortfall has yet to be paid. Likewise, Shortfalls that the ATO uncovers during current, future, or past audits of the employer are not eligible for the Amnesty. The disclosure of a new Shortfall must come from the employer, and must occur during the 12-month Amnesty period. By way of background, SG Charge Statements and SG Shortfalls operate under a self-assessment model. The ATO are in most cases unaware that an SG Shorfall exists except in the case where an employee lodges a complaint against their employer themselves, or the Shortfall is uncovered in an ATO audit. This lack of awareness by the ATO of past employer Shortfalls is why eligibility for the Amnesty rests on the disclosure by the employer of new, undisclosed Shortfalls.
  • There is no requirement to actually make a payment to get the benefit of the Amnesty. Rather, you only need to disclose an SG Shortfall. However, where you fail to make a payment during the Amnesty period, you will not receive a deduction for the catch-up payments (which are only available during the Amnesty).
  • Any payments made outside the Amnesty period are not eligible for a deduction. For example, if an employer discloses a Shortfall during the Amnesty period, and then makes a payment arrangement with the ATO to pay the required amounts back in instalments, any amounts paid after 23 May 2019 cannot be claimed as a deduction.
ACCESS
To access the Amnesty, employers or thier Advisors must first calculate the amount payable (the SG Shortfall, plus nominal interest) and lodge one of the following forms:
  • SG Amnesty Fund payment form (where you wish to access the Amnesty and can pay the amount in full (including nominal interest) direct to an employee’s superannuation fund)
  • SG Amnesty ATO payment form (where you wish to access the Amnesty but cannot pay the amount owing in full). If an employer has already lodged an SGC Statment or received an SGC assessment for a quarter, they can only use this form.
Employers need to lodge these completed forms electonically through the Business Portal or their Accountant or Bookkeeper on their behalf via the BAS Agent or Tax Agent Portal respectively. There is now a radio button on all portals. Information that must be provided includes:
  1. Details of Employer
  2. Number of quarters covered
  3. Number of employees, (no employee details are required)
  4. Amount to be paid.
CONCLUSION
Legislation to enact this Amnesty was introduced into Parliment in late May and has been passed by the House of Representatives. It is currently before the Senate. Interestingly, the Opposition have criticised the legislation which it says shows leniency to non-complying employers. Therefore, it is no absolute certainty that the Amnesty will be passed into law over the coming months. For this reason, if you are contemplating disclosing past shortfalls specifically to get the benefits of the Amnesty (including claiming a deduction for their late contributions) then it may be prudent to hold off until such time the Amnesty actually becomes law. We will keep you apprised of the passage of the legislation through Parliament.

Irrespective of the Amnesty however, all employers should strongly consider coming forward to disclose and pay past shortfalls to get their Superannuation Guarantee affairs in order. The Government is committing more resources to this area – including requiring Superannuation Funds to report more regularly to the ATO (at least once each month) – meaning non-complying employers may be easily detected going forward.

For more on this subject: Members – login to the members area, Useful Links tab – watch the Tackling Tax video ‘Superannuation Amnesty’ presented by our CEO Kelvin Deer. https://mytaxsavers.com.au/

Drought Assistance

With large swathes of Eastern Australia in the midst of one of the most severe droughts in years (indeed Autumn rainfall was the least since 1902). Be mindful that there are a number of assistance measures open to affected clients across a range of Government departments. On the ATO front, they can help by giving affected taxpayers more time to pay, waiving penalties or interest charged at a time a client was affected by drought, offering payment plans with interest free periods, and adjusting PAYG instalments to better suit the circustances. Furthermore, in special circumstances the ATO can release clients from paying some taxes, if the paying of those taxes would cause serious financial hardship.