Archive for the ‘Tax’ Category

Tax treatment of long-term construction contracts

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

In new Draft Taxation Ruling TR 2017/D8, the ATO explains the methods that taxpayers can use to return income derived and recognise expenses incurred in long-term construction projects. A construction project is considered long-term if it straddles two or more income years.

Two methods of accounting are available: the basic approach (essentially the accruals method) and the estimated profits approach.

Once a particular method is chosen, the ATO expects the taxpayer to apply it consistently for the entire contract. The same method should also be applied to all of the taxpayer’s similar contracts.

The draft ruling also deals with several accounting methods that the ATO does not consider acceptable for long-term construction contracts, including the completed contracts method (bringing profits and losses to account when the contract is completed).

Fringe benefits tax: should an Uber be treated as a taxi?

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Earlier in 2017, the Federal Court ruled that UberX drivers must be registered for GST, because they supply “taxi travel”. There has been much discussion of this finding since, and the ATO is now examining whether Uber trips should be eligible for the “taxi travel” FBT exemption.

The FBT exemption, introduced in 1995, currently only applies to travel in a vehicle that is state or territory licensed to operate as a taxi. However, with the Federal Court’s decision on GST for Uber, and some recent state and territory moves towards licensing changes, the ATO has decided to review its interpretation of the definition of “taxi” in the FBT law.

TIP: Any benefit arising from taxi travel by an employee is exempt from FBT if the travel is a single trip that begins or ends at the employee’s workplace.

In a discussion paper open for comment until late October, the ATO has asked questions such as, “Should the FBT definition of ‘taxi’ be interpreted to include not just vehicles licensed to provide taxi services … [but also] ride-sourcing vehicles and other vehicles for hire?”

TIP: Any benefit arising from an employee’s taxi travel is also exempt from FBT if the travel is a result of the employee’s sickness or injury and the journey is between the employee’s workplace, residence and/or another place appropriate because of the sickness or injury.

New passive income test for lower corporate tax rate

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

The Federal Government has recently introduced a Bill into Parliament to ensure that companies with more than 80% passive income will not qualify for the reduced company tax rate.
Under the Bill’s changes to the Income Tax Rates Act 1986, calculations of a business’s “passive income” would include:
• distributions by corporate tax entities (other than non-portfolio dividends);
• franking credits attached to such distributions;
• non-share dividends;
• interest;
• royalties;
• rent;
• gain on qualifying securities;
• net capital gains; and
• amounts included in the assessable income of partners in a partnership or beneficiaries of a trust estate that are referable to another base rate entity passive income amount.
At the time of writing, the Bill is still before the Parliament. When passed, it will apply from the 2017–2018 income year.
The lower company tax rate of 27.5% is available in 2017–2018 for small businesses and corporate base rate entities with turnover of less than $25 million.

TIP: You must also “carry on a business” to be eligible for the lower corporate tax rate – read on to find out more about what this means for companies.

Consultation paper: combating phoenix activities

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

The Federal Government has released a consultation paper proposing company and tax law reforms to combat phoenix activities.
Phoenix activities involve stripping assets from a company that’s in debt and transferring them to another company to avoid paying the first company’s liabilities – that is, the new company “rises from the ashes” of the old one.
The government is considering a range of ways to combat this type of activity, including setting up a hotline for phoenix reporting, adding phoenixing to the offences specifically prohibited under the Corporations Act 2001, making directors personally liable for companies’ unpaid GST, and limiting the ability for sole directors to resign unless there is a replacement director or the company is wound up.

New financial and superannuation complaints authority

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Legislation has now been introduced to establish a new external dispute resolution framework and an enhanced internal dispute resolution framework for the Australian financial system.
Consumers will have easy access to a single external dispute resolution scheme, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). Certain firms that provide financial and credit services will need to be members of AFCA, including Australian financial services licensees, unlicensed product issuers, unlicensed secondary sellers, Australian credit licensees and credit representatives, regulated superannuation funds (other than SMSFs), approved deposit funds, retirement savings account providers, annuity providers, and life policy funds and insurers.
Before AFCA will consider a dispute, it will refer the complaint back to the financial firm so it can attempt to resolve the dispute within a defined timeframe. AFCA will also have an independent assessor to investigate any complaints about how disputes are handled.

No GST on digital currency: Bill

Friday, October 6th, 2017

The GST Act (A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999) is being amended to ensure that digital currency, such as Bitcoin, is disregarded for GST purposes unless the supply is made in exchange for a payment of money or digital currency.
To achieve this, a definition of “digital currency” will be inserted into the GST Act. Under the new definition, a digital currency has broadly the same features as state fiat currencies (legal tender). In particular, the value of a digital currency must derive from the market’s assessment of its value. A digital currency’s value cannot be based on the value of anything else, so it must not have, for example, a value pegged to Australian or United States dollars.
The currency units must be useable as consideration for any type of supply, and must be generally available to the public.
Units will not be considered digital currency if they give the holder benefits (such as memberships or vouchers), other than entitlements incidental to holding the unit or using it as consideration.
TIP: When the new definition passes into law, no GST will apply for supplies of digital currency made on or after 1 July 2017.

Tax measures for affordable housing

Friday, October 6th, 2017

The Government has released draft tax legislation to implement elements of its housing affordability plan. The proposed measures include an increased capital gains tax discount for people who hold affordable rental housing investments for at least three years.
Under the draft legislation, managed investment trusts would be allowed to hold affordable housing investments with the main aim of deriving long-term rental income, but purchasing residential property that is not affordable housing would no longer be permitted for these trusts.
TIP: If this legislation is passed, there will be a transitional period for managed investment trusts that already hold non-affordable housing residential property to change their investments to comply with the changes.

Identification numbers for directors: an Icarus moment for phoenix activities?

Friday, October 6th, 2017

The Government has announced a package of reforms to combat phoenix activities, including the introduction of a Director Identification Number (DIN).
Phoenixing involves deliberately transferring assets from a failed or insolvent company to a new company, with the intention to avoid paying the original company’s creditors, tax and employee entitlements (that is, the new company illegally “rises from the ashes” of the indebted company).
The DIN would identify each director with a unique number, allowing regulators to map the relationships directors have with entities and other people.

Tax cut closed off for passive investment companies

Friday, October 6th, 2017

The Government has released exposure draft legislation to deny access to the lower corporate tax rate of 27.5% (down from 30%) for companies with predominantly passive income. Under the changes, companies will qualify for the lower tax rate only if:
• their passive income is less than 80% of their assessable income for the year;
• they “carry on a business” in that year; and
• they come below the aggregated turnover threshold for the year ($25 million for 2017–2018).

Compensation for ATO systems outages

Friday, October 6th, 2017

After the ATO’s unplanned systems outages, it provided lodgment deferrals, and remitted interest and penalties where the outages affected practitioners and their clients’ lodgments.
The ATO has also advised that it assesses claims for compensation in two ways:
• compensation for legal liability (eg negligence); and
• compensation under the Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA) scheme, which allows the ATO to consider claims and pay compensation for disadvantage or loss because of defective administration.
The ATO considers claims in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Finance.
TIP: If your tax affairs were affected by the ATO systems outages, contact us to find out if you’re eligible to seek compensation.