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The $11.1bn Small Business Tax Shortfall

Last month, the ATO released statistics showing small business is responsible for 12.5% ($11.1 billion) of the total estimated 'tax gap'.

These new figures give visibility to tax compliance issues within the small business sector and indicate where we can expect ATO resources to be focussed now and in the future.

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It's not uncommon for landlords to be confused about what they can and can't claim for their rental properties. What often seems to make perfect sense in the real world does not always make sense for the Australian Tax Office (ATO). 

In general, deductions can only be claimed if they were incurred in the period that you rented the property or during the period the property was genuinely available for rent. This means a tenant needs to be in the property or you are actively looking for a tenant. If, for example, you keep the property vacant while you are renovating it, then you might not be able to claim the expenses during the renovation period if it was not rented or available for rent during this time (there are some exceptions to this general rule). There needs to be a relationship between the money you make and the deductions you claim. Here are a few common problem areas:

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Are All Your SMSF Eggs in One Basket?

The investment strategies of Self Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs) are under scrutiny with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) contacting 17,700 trustees about a lack of asset diversity.

The ATO is concerned that, "a lack of diversification or concentration risk, can expose the SMSF and its members to unnecessary risk if a significant investment fails."

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ATO Take ‘Gloves Off’ on Overseas Income

Five years ago, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) offered a penalty amnesty on undisclosed foreign income. Five years on, the ATO has again flagged that underreporting of foreign income is an issue but this time the gloves are off.

How you are taxed and what you are taxed on depends on your residency status for tax purposes. As tax residency can be different to your general residency status it's important to seek clarification. The residency tests don't necessarily work on 'common sense.' For tax purposes:

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FBT and Uber Style Ride Sharing

When an employee uses a taxi service for travel to or from work or if the employee is sick, it is generally exempt from Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) under the FBT taxi travel exemption. The question is, what about Uber and other ride sharing services, do they also qualify for the exemption? If Uber is considered to be a taxi for GST purposes, that is, all drivers need to be registered for GST and charge GST as they are considered to be a taxi service, does the FBT exemption extend to employees using Uber for travel?

The ATO has confirmed its view that travel in ride sharing services is not exempt from FBT under this specific exemption as they do not meet the definition of a taxi service under the FBT laws (even though they do under GST law).

However, this does not mean that FBT will necessarily apply to travel undertaken by employees using a ride sharing service.

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By 30 June 2019, five major financial institutions paid $119.7 million in compensation for poor financial advice to 6,318 customers. The question is, how are these payments treated for tax purposes?

The tax treatment varies according to why the compensation was paid and who the payment was made to. Compensation payments are made for a number of reasons including fee for no service, deficient advice, or overcharging for insurance premiums for death or disability insurance cover. Each one has different tax consequences.

In some cases, the compensation will be assessable income and in others will impact the cost base of any underlying investment. If an investment has already been sold, the compensation may trigger a capital gains tax liability and in some cases it will be necessary to amend prior year tax returns.

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Weirdest Tax Deductions Revealed

Would you claim the Lego you bought for your kids throughout the year as a tax deduction? One taxpayer did and it made the Australian Taxation Office's 2018-19 list of most unusual claims.

The Lego was not the only claim for money spent on kids. Another taxpayer claimed their children's sports equipment and sporting membership fees. Others claimed school uniforms, and before and after school care. And, others claimed, "the cost of raising twins," the "cost of raising three children" and simply, "New born baby expensive." Yes indeed, but the expenses, while often shocking to parents, are not deductible. 

Cars were also a favourite. The ATO says that "many" taxpayers tried to claim the full purchase price of their new cars as a tax deduction. This included the taxpayer who claimed the cost of the new car he bought for his mother as a gift. Nice gesture but still not deductible.

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One of the stranger pieces of legislation to be introduced into Parliament last month is an attempt to ensure that overseas welfare recipients over the age of 80 are in fact alive.

There are approximately 96,000 people permanently living overseas who currently receive an Australian social security payment. The majority of these receive the age pension. At present, the system relies on a relative to advise Services Australia that the recipient of the payment has passed away for payments to cease. Government data suggests that, "there is a disparity in the death rate of pensioners aged 80 years and above overseas, compared to pensioners in Australia." So, either living overseas is good for your health and people are living longer than Australian norms suggest, or deaths are simply not being reported. The Government is betting on the latter.

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From 1 January 2020, the Government intends to restrict the value of cash payments a business makes or accepts to amounts under $10,000. Ignoring the limit will become a criminal offence with penalties of up to 2 years in prison and/ or $25,200*.

Payments of $10,000 or more will need to be made electronically or by cheque.

We'll, easy enough you say, just break it up into smaller amounts! But, the law has already thought of that. The cash payment limit will apply to the total price of a single supply of goods or services, regardless of whether the price is split into a series of payments over time. If a customer is making cash payments over time, for example instalment payments on a car, the total cash component cannot equal or exceed $10,000 – payments above this amount will need to be made using alternative payment methods.

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The recent income tax cuts that passed through Parliament do not mean everyone automatically gets $1,080 back from the Government as soon as they lodge their income tax return. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been inundated with calls from taxpayers wanting to know where their money is and how they can access the $1,080 they now believe is owing to them.

What changed?

From 1 July 2018

A low and middle income tax offset (LMITO), first introduced in the 2018-19 Federal Budget, provides a tax benefit to those with taxable incomes below $125,333. Recent changes increase the LMITO from a maximum of $530 to $1,080 and the base amount from $200 to $255, and make it applicable to a greater number of taxpayers by increasing the threshold from $125,333 to $126,000.

The first thing to remember is that this is a tax offset; you need to owe tax to offset the tax.

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