Welcome to our August 2022 Bulletin
- Tax Time Targets
- What to expect from the new Government?
What changed on 1 July 2022?
- ATO refocus on debt collection
- Overcome your customers fear of spending
- Tax & the family home
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.
- Work-related expenses
- Rental property income and deductions, and
- 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.”
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 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.
A reminder of what changed on 1 July 2022
- 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
- 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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
 Transitional rules ended on 30 June 2020.
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.
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.
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.
The main residence rules changed in 2017 to exclude non-residents from accessing the main residence exemption.
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.