Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

ATO alert on fraudulence and non-compliance: COVID-19 measures

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
The ATO is on the look-out for fraudulent schemes designed to take advantage of the Government’s COVID-19 stimulus measures. This includes JobKeeper, early release of superannuation, and boosting cash flow for employers.
The ATO will be using its wide array of data sources to assess and identify inappropriate behaviour. It has also established a confidential tip-off line for the public to raise concerns of any wrongdoing.
“We’ve received intelligence about a number of dodgy schemes, including the withdrawal of money from superannuation and re-contributing it to get a tax deduction. Not only is this not in the spirit of the measure (which is designed to assist those experiencing hardship), severe penalties can be applied to tax avoidance schemes or those found to be breaking the law. If someone recommends something like this that seems too good to be true, well, it probably is”, ATO Deputy Commissioner Will Day said.
Mr Day said the ATO will be conducting checks, “so if you’ve received a benefit as part of the COVID-19 stimulus measures and we discover you are ineligible, you can expect to hear from us. If you think this may apply to you, you should contact us or speak to your tax professional”. Penalties for fraud can include financial penalties and prosecution, and even imprisonment for the most serious cases.

JobKeeper payments to childcare providers end

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
The ATO’s key JobKeeper information has been updated to note that payments for childcare providers stop from 20 July 2020.
This follows the Government’s changes to transition certain approved providers of childcare services out of the JobKeeper scheme. The Government has instead decided to extend separate support to this sector by reintroducing the Child Care Subsidy and adding a Transition Payment as part of the Early Childhood Education and Care transition arrangements.
The changes mean that eligibility for JobKeeper payments ends from 20 July for:
• employees of an approved provider of childcare services where those employees whose ordinary duties are that they are engaged principally in the operation of the childcare centre; and
• eligible business participants where the business entity is an approved provider of a childcare service.
Childcare providers need to ensure that they do not claim JobKeeper for employees and eligible business participants who are no longer eligible. Likewise, childcare providers will not be reimbursed for payments made after JobKeeper Fortnight 8 (6 to 19 July 2020).

JobKeeper extended, with changes

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
The Government has announced that JobKeeper payments will continue for six months beyond the legislated finish date of 27 September 2020, subject to revamped eligibility rules. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Government will introduce two tiers of payment rates as part of “JobKeeper 2.0” to better reflect the pre-COVID-19 incomes of recipients.
The extension of JobKeeper from 28 September 2020 until 28 March 2021 will also include a requirement for businesses and not-for-profits to demonstrate an actual decline (not merely predict a decline) in turnover under the existing turnover test. The JobKeeper payment will also be stepped down and paid at two rates.
Importantly, the existing arrangements for those receiving JobKeeper payments continue until 27 September 2020.
The JobKeeper payment ($1,500 per fortnight until 27 September) is to be reduced and paid at two rates.
Period                                                       Rate per fortnight (full)    Rate per fortnight(<20 hours worked per week)
28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021                              $1,200                                         $750
4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021                                      $1,000                                         $650
Businesses and not-for-profits will be required to nominate which payment rate they are claiming for each of their eligible employees (or business participants) and
will have to meet a further decline in turnover test for each of the two periods of extension.
The eligibility rules for employees remain unchanged. Self-employed people will be eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment where they meet the relevant turnover test
and are not a permanent employee of another employer.

Businesses and not-for-profits will be required to nominate which payment rate they are claiming for each of their eligible employees (or business participants) and
will have to meet a further decline in turnover test for each of the two periods of extension.The eligibility rules for employees remain unchanged. Self-employed people will be eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment where they meet the relevant turnover test and are not a permanent employee of another employer.

Snapshot of Federal COVID-19 pandemic measures

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Tax-related business measures

•    Cash flow boost payments: Tax-free payments of up to $100,000 are available for eligible small and medium sized entities  and not-for-profits (including charities) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000.
•    Instant asset write-off: From 12 March to 30 June 2020, the threshold increases to $150,000 for business entities with aggregated annual turnover of less than $50 million.
•    Accelerated depreciation: Businesses with aggregated turnover of less than $500 million can deduct capital allowances for depreciating assets at an accelerated rate. This measure extends over the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 income years.
•    Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive: The Government has deferred the lodgment dates for R&D Tax Incentive applications for 2018–2019 until 30 September 2020.

Superannuation
•    Superannuation early release: Eligible people affected by COVID-19 can apply to release (tax-free) up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019–2020 and up to $10,000 in 2020–2021.
•    Temporary residents: Certain temporary residents impacted by COVID-19 may apply for early release of up to $10,000 of their super by 30 June 2020.
•    Super pension drawdowns reduced: The minimum annual payment amounts for certain pensions and annuities have been temporarily reduced by 50% for 2019–2020 and 2020–2021.

Social security and support
•    Fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement: This $550 supplement is available for six months for job seekers, sole traders, students and some others. It effectively doubles the current payment for new and existing social security recipients from 27 April 2020. It will be paid for six months to both existing and new recipients of the JobSeeker Payment, Sickness Allowance, Youth Allowance for jobseekers, Parenting Payment Partnered, Parenting Payment Single, Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance and Farm Household Allowance.
•    Stimulus payments for income support recipients: The first $750 cash stimulus payment has now gone out to 6.8 million eligible pensioners, carers, disability support pensioners, those on family tax benefits and concession card holders. A second $750 payment will be made from 13 July 2020 for eligible income recipients and concession card holders.
•    Regional and sector support: The Government has set aside an initial $1 billion to support regions, communities and industries that have been disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic, including those heavily reliant on industries such as tourism, agriculture and education.

ATO concessions
•    Deferring tax payments: Tax payment dates will be deferred by up to six months for tax amounts due through the BAS. This includes PAYG instalments, income tax assessments, FBT assessments and excise.
•    Varying PAYG instalments: The ATO has allowed businesses to vary their PAYG instalment amounts to zero for the March 2020 quarter. Businesses that vary their PAYG instalment to zero can also claim a refund for any instalments made during the 2019–2020 financial year.
•    ATO automatic lodgment deferrals: Company 2018–2019 income tax returns are now due by 5 June 2020 and SMSF 2018–2019 annual returns by 30 June 2020. For individuals, partnerships and trusts, 2018–2019 income tax returns can be lodged by the 5 June 2020 concessional due date. Finally, the due date for 2019–2020 FBT annual returns has been deferred to 25 June 2020.
•    Working from home deductions: The ATO will accept tax deduction claims using a flat rate of 80c per hour, provided a diary of working hours is kept.
•    FBT: If entities provide or pay for goods or services to assist employees who are sick or are at risk of becoming sick with COVID-19, this will generally be exempt from FBT if the benefit is provided for their immediate relief.
•    Switching to monthly GST reporting: Businesses on a quarterly reporting cycle can elect to switch their GST reporting and payment to a monthly cycle to get a quicker GST refund.

Financial institutions
•    Bank loan deferrals: Banks will defer loan repayments for six months for small businesses with total business loan facilities up to $10 million who need assistance because of COVID-19.
•    Bank assistance for JobKeeper: The major banks have agreed to set up a dedicated hotline for customers needing to access bridging finance to pay their staff ahead of receiving money under the JobKeeper program. The banks have also agreed to expedite the processing of those JobKeeper applications.
TIP: The ATO has a range of regularly updated webpages that provide answers to common COVID-19 support questions, including on:
•    JobKeeper for employers, and for employees;
•    income tax impacts for people who work and earn money overseas but have returned to Australia because of COVID-19; and
•    tax considerations and other financial impacts for residential rental property owners, including rent and loan payment   changes, and personal use of short-term accommodation like holiday houses.

ATO opens applications for early release of super

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

The ATO has released its application form for the early release of superannuation by individuals impacted by COVID-19. From 20 April, an individual can make one application to access up to $10,000 of their super (tax-free) in the 2019–2020 financial year, and a second application for up to $10,000 in the 2020–2021 year until 24 September 2020.

TIP: The ATO has run a social media campaign asking people to observe the intention of the legislation and only apply to release their super to deal with the adverse economic effects of COVID-19. You should not withdraw your super early and recontribute it to gain a personal tax deduction.
If you are eligible, you should carefully check your super account balances to ensure there are sufficient funds available to claim. If you make an application and the fund has insufficient money to fulfil the application, you will not be able to make a second application for the balance from another fund/account in that financial year or ask for an amount above the $10,000 cap in the 2020–2021 financial year.
It take one to two business days for super funds to receive notifications directly from the ATO about their members. The government then expects funds to process the payments and release the amounts to individuals “as soon as possible”.
If your application is rejected by the ATO, you will be notified via your MyGov account in two to three days.
Separate arrangements apply for applications by members of self managed super funds (SMSFs). The ATO will issue a determination to you as the fund member (instead of to the super fund) advising of your eligibility to release an amount. When the SMSF receives the determination from you, the SMSF trustee is then authorised to make the payment.

Understanding the JobKeeper Payment scheme

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

The JobKeeper Payment scheme is now open to eligible employers, sole traders and other entities to enable them to pay their eligible employees’ salary or wages of at least $1,500 each (before tax) per fortnight. You can enrol for the JobKeeper Payment through the ATO’s Business Portal, in ATO online services using myGov if you are a sole trader, or through a registered tax or BAS agent.
There are special rules that enable sole traders (entities that do not have employees as such) to obtain the JobKeeper Payment.
The JobKeeper Payment scheme commenced on 30 March and will finish on 27 September 2020, operating on a fortnightly basis. Employers and eligible recipients must qualify on a (rolling) fortnightly basis.

Decline in turnover

Businesses (including sole traders and charities) must have suffered a “substantial decline” in turnover due to the COVID-19 pandemic to be entitled to the payment of $1,500 for each eligible employee.
The decline in turnover test requires you to measure the business’s projected GST turnover and compare it to a “relevant comparison period”. To be eligible, the turnover must have declined by:
•    for ACNC-registered charities: 15%;
•    for entities with turnover less than $1 billion: 30%;
•    for entities with turnover greater than $1 billion: 50%.

Wage condition

Critically, it is a condition of entitlement that the business has paid salary and wages of at least the amount of $1,500 (before tax) to each relevant employee in the fortnight.
TIP: Employers and other eligible recipients that enrol by 31 May can claim for the fortnights in April and May if you meet all the requirements for each fortnight. This includes having paid employees by the appropriate dates. For the first two fortnights the ATO will accept that the minimum payment has been paid even if it occurred late, provided it was paid by the end of April.

Employee conditions

An individual must be employed during a JobKeeper fortnight to be eligible for that fortnight (but does not need to be employed for the full fortnight). In addition, they must, as at 1 March 2020, be aged 16 or over, be an employee or a long-term casual employee (12 months of regular and systematic employment) and be an Australia resident for tax purposes.
The 1 March date is important, as it allows employees who were retrenched after that date but then subsequently rehired to be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment. However, if an employee was only engaged after 1 March, they are not eligible.
Eligible employees must have provided a notice to their employer agreeing:
•    to be nominated by the employer as an eligible employee of that employer under the JobKeeper scheme;
•    that they have not agreed to be nominated by another employer; and
•    that (if employed as a casual employee) they do not have permanent employment with another employer.
An eligible employee who is employed by one or more qualifying employers will need to choose one employer that will receive the JobKeeper Payments.
Once an employee has nominated an employer, the employer has received JobKeeper Payments and has paid the employee, the employee cannot nominate a different employer. This includes where the employment relationship ends (although the ex-employee may then be eligible for the separate JobSeeker Payment).

Payment
The government will pay the JobKeeper Payment within 14 days of the end of the calendar month in which the fortnight ends. This means that the first JobKeeper Payment will not be made until (at least) the first week of May.

Federal Budget night shifts to 6 October 2020

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

The Australian Government recently announced that this year’s Federal Budget will not be handed down until 6 October 2020. In making the announcement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that this postponement is intended to “provide more time for the economic and fiscal impacts of the coronavirus, both in Australia and around the world, to be better understood”.
Since 1994, with a few exceptions, Australia’s Federal Budget has been handed down by the Treasurer on the second Tuesday in May. Exceptions were made in 1996, when an election and a change of government occurred in March and the Budget was handed down in August; in 2016, when the Budget was handed down on the first Tuesday in May because the government was considering calling call a double dissolution election; and most recently in 2019, when a Federal election was called for 18 May and the Budget was presented on 2 April.
Between 1901 and 1993 the Budget was presented in August, on the first Tuesday night of Parliament’s spring session.

Do you or your business need help?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

If you or your business need help with your financial arrangements during this difficult time, we can help you to work out which of the many coronavirus (COVID-19) related payments, concessions and arrangements apply to you, and how you can best make use of them. Contact us today.

ATO coronavirus administrative support

A series of administrative measures to assist businesses experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been announced by the ATO. These include deferring the payment date and amounts due on Business Activity Statements (BASs), income tax assessments, FBT assessments and excise by up to four months. Businesses will also be allowed to change payment and reporting cycles for GST and vary PAYG instalment amounts. Any interest or penalties applied to tax liabilities incurred after 23 January 2020 may be remitted.
The measures that will apply are similar to those for taxpayers affected by the recent Australian bushfires. However, one important point of difference is that while the bushfire measures applied automatically to particular geographical areas, assistance for those impacted by COVID-19 will not be automatically implemented. Taxpayers who have been affected will need to contact the ATO to discuss their situation in order to come up with a tailored support plan.
The ATO has also clarified that emergency accommodation, food, transport, medical or other assistance provided by employers to employees affected by COVID-19 may be exempt from FBT, depending on the circumstances. However, employers will still need to meet their ongoing super guarantee obligations for their employees. The ATO says that by law, it cannot vary the contribution due date or waive the superannuation guarantee charge where super guarantee payments are late or unpaid.

Coronavirus stimulus: what’s in it for you?

In an effort to combat the economic effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, on 12 March 2020 the Federal Government announced an economic stimulus package worth $17.6 billion, which it said is expected to provide direct support for up to 6.5 million individuals and 3.5 million businesses. The package includes business investment initiatives, cash flow assistance payments to small and medium entities (SMEs), household stimulus payments and support for impacted sectors, regions and communities, as well as tax administration relief.

Business initiatives

The instant asset write-off threshold will be increased from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanded to include access for businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020.
A time-limited 15-month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) will also be provided to support business investment by accelerating depreciation deductions.
Eligible small and medium entities will receive a Boost Cash Flow for Employers payment of up to $25,000. The tax-free payment will provide cash flow support to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million that employ staff between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020. Businesses will receive payments of 50% of their Business Activity Statement (BAS) or Instalment Activity Statement (IAS) from 28 April 2020, with refunds to be paid within 14 days.
Eligible small businesses employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50% of an apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for up to nine months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to a new employer that employs that same apprentice.

Household stimulus for pensioners

A one-off $750 stimulus payment will be made to pensioners, social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. Payments will be made from 31 March 2020 on a progressive basis, with over 90% of payments expected to be made by mid-April. This payment will be tax-free and not count as income for social security, farm household allowance and veteran payments.

TIP: In addition to this initial $750 stimulus payment, the Government announced on 22 March that a further $750 payment will be provided (as part of a secondary stimulus package) to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. Payments of the secondary $750 amount will be made automatically from 13 July 2020.There will be one payment per eligible recipient under the first stimulus package, and one payment under the second. If a person qualifies for either or both payments in multiple ways, they will still only receive each payment once (ie there will be a maximum of two $750 payments per eligible person).

Coronavirus stimulus: round 2

To further support businesses and workers in riding out the COVID-19 pandemic and minimise the impact on the overall economy, on 22 March 2020 the Federal Government announced a second round of stimulus measures in addition to the initial announced on 12 March. This second package includes support for individuals and households, including casual workers, sole traders, retirees and people who receive income support payments.

Business measures

Cash payments for small to medium employers

Tax-free payments of up to $100,000 (with a minimum payment of $20,000) will be available for eligible small and medium entities (SMEs) and not-for-profits that employ people and have an aggregated annual turnover under $50 million. Employers will receive a payment equal to 100% of the withholding tax liability on their salary and wages, subject to monetary limits. This payment will be available to most employers from 28 April 2020.

SME loan guarantee scheme

A Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme will be established to support SMEs in getting access to working capital. Under the scheme, the government will guarantee 50% of new loans issued by eligible lenders. The scheme is able to support $40 billion worth of lending to SMEs.

Personal measures
Increase in income support payments supplement

A new temporary “Coronavirus Supplement” of $550 per fortnight will be implemented for people receiving certain income support payments. Eligible recipients will receive the full amount of $550 on top of their payment each fortnight, effectively doubling the current payment amount. The supplement will be paid for the next six months to existing and new recipients of the various Centrelink payments including the JobSeeker Payment (formerly called Newstart Allowance), Youth Allowance Payment for job seekers, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit Payments.

Further $750 for pensioners

In addition to the initial $750 stimulus payment previously announced, a further $750 payment will be provided to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. This does not apply to those receiving the temporary Coronavirus Supplement.

Superannuation early release

Individuals in financial distress as a result of the pandemic will be allowed to access a tax-free payment of up to $10,000 from their superannuation in 2019–2020 and a further $10,000 in 2020–2021. Eligible individuals will need to apply online to the ATO through myGov before 1 July 2020 to receive the payment for the 2019–2020 income year.

TIP: Amounts withdrawn from super in this way will not affect any Centrelink payments.

Coronavirus concessions: state governments

Some states, including New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, have followed in the Federal Government’s footsteps to provide their own stimulus and concessions for mostly small to medium businesses and in some cases to individuals and families. Most of the measures are payroll-tax-related, aimed at giving small to medium businesses a cash flow boost during this difficult time, while other measures including fee waivers, grants, relief payments and concessional loans.

ATO’s FAQ helps to clarify coronavirus impacts

The ATO’s COVID-19 frequently asked questions (FAQ) is a resource tool for people and businesses in the community who need clarifications in relation to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The FAQ is broken into common questions for individuals, employers, businesses (including internationals) and self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs).
Common questions centre around issues relating to the nationwide shutdown – late or deferring payment obligations; deductibles from working from home; residence status due to travel restrictions; GST and FBT impacts from cancellations; and SMSF losses and strategies.
TIP:
The ATO will update this FAQ regularly and welcomes suggestions and more questions. See www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Dealing-with-disasters/In-detail/Specific-disasters/COVID-19/.



Better protection for consumers: new ASIC powers

Friday, February 7th, 2020

In response to the recommendations of the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission and the ASIC Enforcement Review Taskforce Report, the government has proposed new enforcement and supervision powers for ASIC to restore consumer confidence in the financial system, particularly in relation to financial advice. These new powers include enhanced licensing, banning, warrant and phone tap powers, all designed to ensure that avoidable financial disasters uncovered during the Royal Commission are not repeated again.
While the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission seems long ago in the minds of many, the people who have been financially affected by dubious practitioners will no doubt carry the scar of mistrust for life. This is precisely why the government has introduced new laws which will give ASIC new enforcement and supervision powers in relation to the financial services sector: to weed out the “bad apples” and restore consumer confidence.

Warning to watch out for myGov and ATO tax scams

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

The government’s Stay Smart Online website warns there has been a surge in scammers impersonating myGov and the ATO to trick people into giving them money or personal details. These scams can take the form of emails, text messages and fake myGov login pages.
In June 2019, the ATO received 6,444 reports of tax-time scams impersonating the ATO. Emails with links to fake myGov login pages were the most widespread email scam.
The myGov system will never send texts, emails or attachments with links or web addresses that ask for your login or personal details. Never click on links in emails or text messages claiming to be from myGov.
Always log into your official myGov account to lodge your return and check if you owe a debt or are due a refund. You can do this by typing https://my.gov.au/ into your internet browser’s address bar.
Unfortunately, ATO and other scams continue well beyond the 30 October deadline for tax returns, as scammers know many people are waiting for a refund or information about debts. It’s important to watch out for scams throughout the year.
TIP: More information is available online at www.staysmartonline.gov.au/. If you’re unsure about a tax-related message or phone call, you can phone the ATO’s Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540.


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