Personal income tax cuts now law
The Bill containing the three-stage personal income tax cuts package completed passage through parliament and is now law.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019 has received assent as Act No 52 of 2019 and fully implements the measure announced in the 2019 Federal Budget. The measure amends the tax law to lower taxes for individuals, including changes to the low and middle income tax offset (LMITO) from 2018/19 and the low income tax offset from 2022/23. The Bill also amends the personal income tax rates and thresholds from 2022/23.
ATO administration of amendments
The ATO is making system changes to ensure amendments to the LMITO will be taken into account for 2018/19 tax returns that have already been lodged such that taxpayers will receive the appropriate refunds reflecting their entitlement to the increased LMITO, according to income level and tax paid. The changes to the offset will also be taken into account for those yet to lodge their 2018/19 return.
If you have any questions regarding the above matters, please do not hesitate to contact us. Read more Personal Wealth Management articles.
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The ATO will take strong actions against false clothing and laundry work-related expense claims this Tax Time.
Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat said although many Australians claim clothing and laundry expenses, it is unlikely that half of all taxpayers are required to wear uniforms, protective clothing or occupation-specific clothing to earn their income.
The ATO is concerned about the number of people claiming deductions for conventional clothing. Some retail workers claim normal clothes because they are told to wear a certain colour, or items from the latest fashion clothing line. Others think they can claim normal clothes because they only wear them to work.
The ATO reminds taxpayers that an official dress code does not qualify as a uniform. A claim cannot be made for normal clothing, even if an employer requires the taxpayer to wear it, or only wear it to work.
Taxpayers who cannot substantiate their claims should expect them to be refused, and may be penalised for failing to take reasonable care when submitting their tax return.
If you have any questions or concerns about your work-related clothing, laundry and dry-cleaning expense deduction claims, please do not hesitate to contact us. Read more Personal Tax articles.
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Change for low income tax offset and LAMITO
A low and middle income tax offset (LAMITO) was introduced on 1 July 2018. The offset will run in conjunction with the low income tax offset as a targeted reduction of income tax for Australian residents.
The LAMITO provides an additional offset of up to $200 for individuals on a taxable income of $37,000 or less. Taxpayers up to $48,000 will get an increased LAMITO up to the maximum amount of $530.
The maximum LAMITO will be available for incomes up to $90,000, and will phase out for individuals with a taxable income of $125,333.
The LAMITO will be available for four years, ending with the 2021/22 income year. At this point, further income tax reductions will absorb the LAMITO.
Personal income tax cuts
For the 2018/19 income year, the top of the 32.5% tax bracket has moved from $87,000 to $90,000. That means that individuals above $90,000 in taxable income will save $135 in income tax this year compared to last year.
CGT main residence removal for foreign residents still not law
It was announced on 9 May 2017 that foreign residents would no longer have access to the CGT main residence exemption. Coupled with this, a grandfathering arrangement was in place where a foreign resident could still use the main residence exemption up until 30 June 2019.
However, at the time of writing, this legislation has not passed through parliament, meaning no changes have been made for individuals in this situation.
“Catch-up” superannuation contributions
Starting from 1 July 2018, the “catch-up” superannuation contributions rules apply. For the current income year (2018/19), individuals can carry forward unused amounts up to the concessional contributions cap of $25,000.
These rules are only in effect for individuals with a total superannuation balance of less than $500,000. This means the balance as at 30 June 2019 for individuals wishing to make a “catch-up” concessional contribution in the 2019/20 financial year. Unused amounts can be carried forward for five years.
Individuals who anticipate an increase in income to a higher tax bracket in the 2019/20 financial year may wish to take advantage of a larger tax deduction.
Downsizer contributions now available
An individual who is aged 65 or over may make “downsizer contributions” from the proceeds of the sale of a dwelling that was the person’s main residence, applicable to the proceeds from contracts entered into on or after 1 July 2018.
First home super saver scheme
Voluntary contributions up to $15,000 can be made by an individual who has yet to purchase their first home into their superannuation account. The scheme allows the individual to withdraw this contribution plus earnings in order to be used for a first home deposit.
Voluntary contributions made after 1 July 2018 may be used for withdrawal in the Scheme.
HELP repayment levels set to change
From 1 July 2018, students with a HELP debt may need to start repaying the debt on earning $45,000. This lower threshold is significantly lower than previous years ($51,957 in 2017/18), and is necessary for individuals who have become non-residents.
Insurance policies in super to become “opt-in”
Superannuation members who are inactive will need to “opt-in” with their life insurance and TPD providers from 1 July 2019 to retain their current policies.
Inactive members are individuals who have not had a contribution or roll-over into their account for 16 months. As at 1 July 2019, this will apply for accounts without a contribution or roll-over since 1 March 2018.
Work test exemption for low balance retirees
The work test has been removed for recently retired individuals, commencing 1 July 2019. Announced in the 2018 federal budget, this applies to voluntary superannuation contributions for individuals over 65 years of age.
For the first year in which an individual is greater than 65 years of age and does not meet the work test, a voluntary contribution may be made. However, this contribution will only be allowed if the individual met the work test in the previous year, regardless of whether they were under 65 years or not. Also, the member’s total superannuation balance at the beginning of the year needs to be under $300,000.
Image rights to be included on individual returns only
The use of “public fame” or “image rights” in a third party entity was due to be removed from 1 July 2019. This meant that using image rights would be restricted to individual returns. However, this proposal from the 2018 federal budget has not become law.
Vacant land expenses no longer deductible for “build-to-rent”
Claiming tax deductions during a “build-to-rent” investment has been proposed to stop from 1 July 2019. This measure was announced in the 2018 federal budget, but is yet to become law.
A taxpayer may still be prudent to bring forward some payments, where possible, to claim a deduction this year. It is unconfirmed at the time of writing whether this announcement will be introduced into parliament in the future, still with the current expected start date.
If you have any questions regarding the above points raised, please do not hesitate to contact us. Read more Personal Tax articles.
Martin van der Saag
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The Australian Labor Party (ALP) has announced an intention in government to change franking credits from a refundable to a non-refundable tax credit from 1 July 2019.
A “Pensioner Guarantee” would be included in the franking credit change for individuals in receipt of an Australian Government pension or allowance. Also, self-managed superannuation funds with at least one pensioner or allowance recipient before 28 March 2018 will also be exempt from the changes (ALP website).
Under an ALP government, negative gearing will only be allowed on newly constructed residential properties after 1 January 2020 (ALP website).
All prior investments would be grandfathered, meaning that income losses on an asset class are able to be offset against other assessable income.
It has been suggested that any negative income amounts would be allowed to be carried forward and offset against a future capital gain on the asset (Ref: MinterEllison, p 5).
However, investors with many rental properties may be able to “stagger” the gearing levels across currently held assets in the same class. Specifics relating to how the new policy would work with regards to split loans, redraw or credit facilities are to be determined.
From 1 January 2020, the ALP has proposed to halve the capital gains tax discount from 50% to 25%. This change in the discount rate will apply for all assets purchased after 1 January 2020 that are held for longer than 12 months (ALP website).
The media release goes on to say that all purchases made prior to 1 January 2020 will be fully grandfathered. There has been no announcement regarding any consequences this development may have on employee share scheme acquisitions.
Limit on deductions for managing tax affairs
The proposal in its current form is a $3,000 limit per taxpayer per year for managing tax affairs. This may include preparing and lodging tax returns and activity statements, and obtaining tax advice from a recognised tax adviser.
Other areas which have been seen as controversial in the media relate to tax agent charges in large “one-off” events, such as divorce, inheritance or retirement (Ref: CPA In the Black). Also, there has been no further guidance on whether the deductibility of general interest charge on a tax debt will also be limited to $3,000 per year.
Discretionary trust distributions tax
A prior announcement made by the ALP in opposition intends to introduce a 30% standard minimum rate of tax to adult beneficiaries for discretionary trusts. There intends to be no change to the trust taxing rules for non-discretionary trusts, such as testamentary trusts or fixed unit trusts (ALP website).
Extension of budget repair levy
Following the 2019 Federal Budget, the ALP confirmed that, in government, they will bring back the temporary budget repair levy of 2%. ALP shadow treasurer stated the levy would remain in place until the budget surplus was 1% of gross domestic product, anticipated to be 2023 (AFR story, 3 April).
The 2% levy would apply to individuals who are above $180,000 in taxable income.
Australian Investment Guarantee
The ALP leader confirmed in the 2019 budget reply speech a commitment to the Australian Investment Guarantee (AIG). The AIG will be an immediate write-off of 20% for any new eligible asset costing more than $20,000.
Further information on eligible assets would be made available later, but are intended to include machinery, plant and equipment, including upgrades. It is announced that investments in buildings (capital works) would be excluded, as well as motor vehicles.
The federal opposition has committed to changing certain rules relating to superannuation contributions (ALP website). These include:
- providing superannuation guarantee payments of 9.5% for paid parental leave, and
- phasing out the $450 per month minimum income threshold for superannuation guarantee.
Catch-up concessional contributions
Labor has announced their intention to repeal the catch-up concessional contributions, introduced in the 2016/17 income year (2018 ALP National Platform, p 15).
Under the enacted legislation, individuals with a total superannuation balance of less than $500,000 are able to make additional concessional contributions. Eligibility to make additional contributions apply where an individual has not reached their concessional contributions cap in previous years, with effect from 1 July 2018. Unused amounts will be carried forward on a rolling basis for a period of five consecutive years from 1 July 2018.
- Maintaining the company tax rate of 25% for businesses with aggregated turnover under $50m, scheduled to commence in the 2021/22 income year.
- Managed investment trust tax rate to be reduced from 30% to 15% in a “Build to rent” scheme, commencing 1 January 2020.
- Removal of thin capitalisation calculations for debt deductions, leaving international entities with only the worldwide gearing ratio test to apply.
- Reducing non-concessional contributions cap from $100,000 to $75,000.
- Reducing threshold for Div 293 tax from $250,000 to $200,000.
- Banning new limited recourse borrowing arrangements in self-managed superannuation funds.
- Reintroducing recently repealed legislation surrounding deductibility for salary and wage earners to make additional deductible superannuation contributions. In the past, only self-employed individuals could make personal deductible superannuation contributions.
If you have any questions or concerns about how the Australian Labor Party tax policies may impact on you, please do not hesitate to contact us. Read more Financial Industry articles.
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With the 2019 federal budget, the treasurer announced that the federal government intends to increase the low and middle income tax offset (LAMITO). If enacted, the increase would begin in the current 2018/19 income year. The announcement also confirms that the LAMITO would only run for four years, from the 2018/19 to the 2021/22 income year.
The table of the current law next to the proposed changes, as it relates to the 2018/19 and following income years, is below:
Less than $37,000
Between $37,000 and $48,000
Increase 3c per $1, capped at $530
Increase 7.5c per $1, capped at $1,080
Between $48,000 and $90,000
Between $90,000 and $126,000
Reducing from maximum at 1.5c per $1
Reducing from maximum at 3c per $1
In both scenarios, taxpayers between $48,000 and $66,667 will have a reduced Low Income Tax Offset with the maximum level of LAMITO.
At this stage, the proposed changes are at announcement phase and have yet to be introduced into parliament. However, it has been stated by the current federal opposition that they intend to legislate the proposed change.
We will keep you informed of any changes as they are announced.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Read more Personal Tax articles.
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The Federal Treasurer, Mr Josh Frydenberg, handed down the 2019/20 Federal Budget at 7:30 pm (AEDT) on 2 April 2019.
Mr Frydenberg said the Budget is “back in the black”, announcing a budget surplus of $7.1b, and forecasting a surplus of $11b in 2020/21, $17.8b in 2021/22 and $9.2b in 2022/23. The budget focuses on “restoring the nation’s finances”, further strengthening the economy to create more jobs and to “guarantee the essential services”.
The government proposes various changes to further lower individual taxes, including increasing the low and middle income tax offset, and lowering the 32.5% rate to 30% in 2024/25. More businesses will have access to immediate deductions for asset purchases, with the expansion of the instant asset write-off to businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50m.
The tax, superannuation and social security highlights are set out below.
- The legislated Personal Income Tax Plan will be changed to further lower taxes for individuals, including changes to the low and middle income tax offset (LMITO), the low income tax offset (LITO) and the personal income tax (PIT) rates and thresholds.
- The instant asset write-off threshold for businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $10m will be increased to $30,000 for eligible assets that are first used, or installed ready for use, from 7.30 pm (AEDT) on 2 April 2019 to 30 June 2020.
- Businesses with an aggregated turnover of $10m or more but less than $50m will be able to immediately deduct purchases of eligible assets costing less than $30,000 that are first used, or installed ready for use, from 7.30 pm (AEDT) on 2 April 2019 to 30 June 2020.
- The Medicare levy low-income thresholds for singles, families, seniors and pensioners will be increased from the 2018/19 income year.
- Payments to primary producers in the Fassifern Valley, Queensland affected by storm damage in October 2018 will be treated as exempt income.
- An income tax exemption will be provided for qualifying grants made to primary producers, small businesses and non-profit organisations affected by the North Queensland floods.
- Six more organisations have been approved as specifically-listed deductible gift recipients.
- The list of countries whose residents are eligible to access a reduced withholding tax rate of 15% on certain distributions from Australian managed investment trusts (MITs) will be updated.
Tax integrity and black economy
- Australian Business Number (ABN) holders will be required to lodge their income tax return and confirm the accuracy of their details on the Australian Business Register annually to retain their ABN status.
- The start date of amendments to Div 7A will be delayed by 12 months to 1 July 2020.
- Minor amendments will be made to the hybrid mismatch rules to clarify their operation from 2019.
- The ATO’s Tax Avoidance Taskforce will extend its operations and expand its activities, including increasing its scrutiny of specialist tax advisors and intermediaries that promote tax avoidance schemes.
- The ATO will receive funding to increase activities to recover unpaid tax and superannuation liabilities with a focus on large businesses and high wealth individuals.
- A dedicated sham contracting unit will be established within the Fair Work Ombudsman to address sham contracting behaviour by some employers.
- Members of regulated superannuation funds will not have to meet the work test after 1 July 2020 if they are 65 or 66 years of age.
- The restrictions on claiming the spouse contribution tax offset will be eased from 1 July 2020, giving 70 to 74 year old spouses eligibility.
- The calculation of exempt current pension income will be simplified for superannuation funds from 1 July 2020, allowing a preferred method of calculation and removal of some actuarial certificates.
- Transitional tax relief for merging superannuation funds will become permanent from 1 July 2020.
- SuperStream will be expanded from 31 March 2021 to include electronic ATO requests for release of superannuation funds and SMSF rollovers.
- An expression of interest process will be undertaken to identify options to support establishment of a Superannuation Consumer Advocate.
- For vehicles acquired on or after 1 July 2019, eligible primary producers and tourism operators will be able to apply for a refund of any luxury car tax paid, up to a maximum of $10,000.
- Access to refunds of indirect tax, including GST, fuel and alcohol taxes under the Indirect Tax Concession Scheme has been granted or extended.
- There will be a one-off Energy Assistance Payment of $75 for singles and $62.50 for each member of a couple eligible for qualifying payments on 2 Apri 2019 and who are resident in Australia.
- Single Touch Payroll reports lodged by employers will be shared with social security agencies from 1 July 2020.
- Family Tax Benefit eligibility will be extended to the families of ABSTUDY (secondary) student recipients who are aged 16 years and over, and are required to live away from home to attend secondary school.
- From 1 July 2019, net income generated from the forced sale of livestock will be exempted from the Farm Household Allowance payment assessment, when that income is invested into a farm management deposit.
- The HELP debt incurred for recognised teaching qualifications after teachers have been placed in very remote locations of Australia for four years (or part time equivalent) will be extinguished. Indexation on HELP debts of all teachers while they are placed in very remote locations will no longer accrue from 14 February 2019.
How can we help?
If you have any questions or would like further clarification in regards to any of the above measures outlined in the 2018-19 Federal Budget, please feel free to contact Martin van der Saag or Norman Ruan on (02) 9984 7774. Read more Financial Industry articles.
As a general rule, expenses incurred by a taxpayer for the purpose of earning assessable rental income will be deductible, provided they are not private or capital in nature, and that they are not explicitly excluded from deduction.
Practitioners should be reminded that expenses that could be deducted as revenue expenses may include:
- advertising for tenants
- body corporate fees
- borrowing expenses
- capital allowances (depreciation on plant)
- council rates
- gardening/lawn mowing
- interest on loans
- land tax
- legal fees
- pest control
- property agent fees/commission
- repairs and maintenance
- capital works deductions
- stationery, telephone and postage
- water charges, and
- sundry rental expenses.
For capital gains tax (CGT) purposes, the cost base (or reduced cost base) of a property could be made up of the following amounts expended by the owner on the property at the time of acquisition, during the period of ownership, and at the time of disposal under s 110-25 of ITAA 1997:
- the purchase price of the rental property
- incidental costs which are not otherwise allowable as a deduction, eg the cost of surveyors, valuers, agents, advertising, accountants, brokers, consultants and legal advisers, marketing costs, and the cost of the transfer
- costs of owning the property (if acquired after 20 August 1991) that are not otherwise allowable as a deduction
- capital expenditure that has been made to preserve or enhance the value of the property which has not otherwise been allowed as a deduction to the taxpayer, eg the capital cost of extensions, and any initial maintenance costs relating to pre-existing faults, and
- capital expenditure to establish, preserve or defend the taxpayer’s title to, or right over the property, eg legal expenses associated with establishing good title to the property.
However, fees incurred to assess the financial situation of taxpayers with a portfolio of investment properties may not be deductible as rental property expenses nor contribute to the cost bases (or reduced cost bases) of the residential properties.
Relevant facts and circumstances
Two taxpayers borrowed funds to acquire investment properties and then rented them out to generate rental income. The value of their portfolio had depreciated in recent years. They also incurred significant costs to service their debts and other out-of-pocket expenses relating to the properties.
The taxpayers engaged a consulting firm to consider the financial viability of their portfolio and reassess their financial situation in general. The consulting firm would prepare a strategic plan, and negotiate and liaise with relevant secured creditors to improve the taxpayers’ financial situation.
The ATO ruled that the consultancy fee was neither a revenue expense nor a capital expense relating to the rental properties.
The fee was not deductible as an expense incurred in gaining or producing assessable income under ITAA 1997 s 8-1. It was a private expense that related to the taxpayers’ financial situation in general, rather than their rental income.
Similarly, the fee could not be included in the cost bases (or reduced cost bases) of the taxpayers’ properties for CGT purposes. This is because the fee related not just to the rental properties but the taxpayers’ financial position in general, and the fee did not fall within any of the five elements of the cost base under s 110-25 of ITAA 1997.
If you have any questions about claiming rental property expenses as a tax deduction , please do not hesitate to contact us.
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Self-education expenses generally are deductible under ITAA 1997 s 8-1 when two elements are met. The first of which is that the expense is from a “prescribed course of education”. The second element is that the intention of the education is to maintain or improve the skills and knowledge required in the taxpayer’s current income-earning activities.
However, typically an expense is not allowable where the intention is for new employment or a new income-earning activity. This includes study in a field in which the taxpayer is not yet engaged. For example, a practicing general medical practitioner would not be allowed to claim self-education expenses for a dermatology course. This would not be allowable as the study is designed to open up a new income-earning activity as a specialist (TR 98/9 para. 62).
A recent ruling from the ATO has discovered that “not yet engaged” doesn’t particularly mean an entire course of study. Relevantly, a deduction is allowable for individual units of study within a complete course if it can be shown that all other elements of the self-education rules apply.
In the ruling, an individual was employed to deliver an engineering course with an education institution. Part of the duties required the individual to undertake scholarly pursuits and obtain new knowledge in order to deliver this course.
The individual determined that completing a law degree course was adequate in performing their duties.
The ATO was able to acknowledge that parts of this degree had a sufficient connection with the knowledge required to teach the class they were engaged to teach. This included the courses “Legal Conflict Resolution”, “Civil Obligations” and “Construction Law”. The reasoning behind this was that sections of the teaching materials related to anti-discrimination, contract terms and project management, which were parts of the engineering course.
Therefore, the individual was able to claim a deduction for self-education for parts of the degree which, on a whole, may be considered the obtaining of new knowledge.
An individual’s current working situation may not automatically allow a deduction for a course of study undertaken. However, close scrutiny of these courses may entitle them to a deduction for some of the costs involved.
If you have any questions about claiming self-educations expenses as a tax deduction , please do not hesitate to contact us. Read more Personal Tax articles.
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The ATO has released a draft practical compliance guideline providing a safe harbour approach for beneficiaries or trustees of deceased estates seeking to claim the CGT exemption for disposal of a deceased persons’s main residence within two years of their death.
This exemption in s 118-195 of ITAA 1997 also permits the Commissioner a discretion to allow a period longer than two years to obtain the exemption. The draft guideline also outlines the factors the Commissioner will consider when deciding if this discretion should be exercised. The safe harbour compliance approach is intended to allow taxpayers to manage their tax affairs as if the discretion has been exercised.
Factors relevant to exercise discretion
The Commissioner will generally allow a period longer than two years if the reasons for not disposing the dwelling were beyond the control of the beneficiary or trustee and such reasons existed for a significant portion of the first two years. All factors are weighed up in the context of the circumstances of the case and while the circumstances are more important than the length of delay, the amount of any potential capital gain or loss is not a relevant factor.
Safe harbour compliance approach
The draft guideline outlines the following five conditions that must be satisfied before a taxpayer can treat the discretion as being exercised:
- in the first two years, more than 12 months was spent addressing a challenge to a will or ownership of the dwelling, a life or other equitable interest delayed the disposal, complexity of the estate delayed administration or settlement of a sale contract was delayed due to circumstances outside the taxpayer’s control
- the dwelling is listed for sale as soon as practically possible after the above circumstances are resolved
- the sale is completed within six months of the dwelling being listed for sale
- no adverse factors exist eg activities undertaken to improve the sale price of the dwelling, and
- the longer period for the discretion to be exercised is not more than 12 months.
The guideline also illustrates the ATO’s preliminary approach to the safe harbour in a number of examples.
If you have questions on any of the above issues raised, please do not hesitate to contact us. Read more Personal Tax articles.
Chartered Tax Adviser
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The ATO has given notice, in Commonwealth Government Gazette notice C2018G00633, 10 August 2018, of its intention to collect real property rental bond data dating back to 20 September 1985 (the introduction of the CGT regime).
The data will be collected to identify individuals who have income tax reporting obligations for income producing properties or have a CGT event arising from the sale of real property for the period from 20 September 1985 to the 2019/20 financial year. The notice explains that the data “will be electronically matched with certain sections of ATO data holdings to identify taxpayers that can be provided with tailored information to help them meet their tax obligations, or to ensure compliance with taxation law”.
If you have questions on any of the above issues raised, please do not hesitate to contact us. Read more Financial Industry articles.
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