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No need to actually "downsize" for downsizer contributions

From 1 July 2018, individuals aged 65 or over may use the proceeds from the sale of an eligible dwelling that was their main residence to make superannuation contributions (referred to as 'downsizer contributions'), up to a maximum of $300,000 per person (i.e., up to $600,000 per couple), without having to satisfy the age or gainful employment tests that usually apply.  

This measure was announced in the 2017/18 Federal Budget, and aims to provide an incentive for older Australians to 'downsize' their home.  

This, in turn, is expected to reduce pressure on housing affordability by freeing up stocks of larger homes for growing families.  

Importantly, it should be noted that there is no requirement for an individual to actually 'downsize' by acquiring a smaller property, or to even acquire another property at all.  

In this regard, all that is required is that the individual (or their spouse) 'downsizes' by selling their 'main residence'. 

The individual can then move into any living situation that suits them, such as aged care, a retirement village, a bigger or smaller dwelling than the one sold, a rental property, or living with family.

Also, the property sold does not need to have been the individual's (or their spouse's) main residence during their entire ownership of it, provided the property was owned for at least 10 years and was their main residence at some time during the ownership period.  Therefore, the sale of an investment property that at one stage was their main residence may enable an individual (or their spouse) to make downsizer contributions. 

Employee denied deductions for work-related expenses

An employee photographer has been denied deductions for travel expenses (when travelling with his family), and other purported work related expenses.

The AAT held that the travel expenses were primarily incurred for the purposes of a family trip or holiday and were therefore non-deductible, as they were private and domestic in nature.

Also, in relation to the taxpayer's reliance on bank statements in the absence of invoices and receipts, the AAT observed that "evidence of the mere transfer of funds, be it by way of bank transfer or by any other means, is not sufficiently informative of the actual character of an expense", so the other disputed expenses could not be claimed as allowable deductions.

Get ready for Single Touch Payroll

Single Touch Payroll (or 'STP') is mandatory for 'substantial employers' (being those with 20 or more employees) from 1 July 2018.

All employers are required to count the number of employees on their payroll on 1 April 2018 to find out if they are a substantial employer (note that this can be done after 1 April, but they need to count the employees who were on their payroll on 1 April). 

They must count each employee (not the full time equivalent), including full-time, part-time and casual employees, as well as those employees based overseas or absent or on leave (paid or unpaid).

Employers that are part of a company group must include the total number of employees employed by all member companies of the wholly-owned group.

However, employers don't have to include the following in the headcount:

  • any employees who ceased work before 1 April;
  • casual employees who did not work in March;
  • independent contractors;
  • staff provided by a third-party labour hire organisation;
  • company directors or office holders; or
  • religious practitioners.

Note that, although directors, office holders and religious practitioners are not included in the headcount, if the employer starts reporting through STP, the payment information of these individuals will need to be reported (because the payments are subject to withholding and are currently reported in the Individual non-business payment summary).

Employers don't need to send the ATO the headcount information, but they may want to keep a copy for their own records.

Once an employer becomes a substantial employer, they will need to continue reporting through STP even if their employee numbers drop to 19 or less (unless they apply for and are granted an exemption).

Continued ATO focus on holiday home rentals

The ATO has recently advised that they are "setting their sights on the large number of mistakes, errors and false claims made by rental property owners who use their own property for personal holidays"

While it confirms that the private use of holiday homes by friends and family is entirely legitimate, the ATO states that such use reduces a taxpayer's ability to earn income from the property, and therefore impacts on (i.e., reduces) the amount of claimable deductions.

As a result, the ATO has reminded holiday home owners that: 

  • They can only claim deductions for a holiday home with respect to periods it is genuinely available for rent.
  • They cannot place unreasonable conditions on prospective tenants/renters, set rental rates above market value, or fail to advertise a holiday home in a manner that targets people who would be interested in it and still claim that the property was genuinely available for rent. 
  • Where a property is rented to friends or relatives at 'mates rates', they can only claim deductions for expenses up to the amount of the income received. 
  • Property owners whose claims are disproportionate to the income received can expect greater scrutiny from the ATO.

Commissioner's speech highlights ATO's focus areas

Recently, the Commissioner of Taxation highlighted the areas in which the ATO has recently increased its focus, including: 

  • undeclared income;
  • individuals' unexplained wealth or lifestyle;
  • incorrectly claimed private expenses;
  • unpaid superannuation guarantee; and
  • cash-only businesses and those with low usage of merchant banking facilities, with     black economy visits to over 2,600 businesses across 8 locations in 2017

New superannuation rates and thresholds released

The ATO has published the key superannuation rates and thresholds for the 2018/19 income year

  • The Non-Concessional Contributions cap will remain at $100,000 (although transitional arrangements may apply), and the Concessional Contributions cap will remain at $25,000.
  • The CGT cap amount will be $1,480,000.
  • The Division 293 tax threshold will be $250,000.
  • The maximum super contribution base for superannuation guarantee purposes will be $54,030 per quarter.
  • The maximum superannuation co-contribution entitlement for the 2018/19 income year will remain at $500 (with the lower income threshold increasing to $37,697 and the higher income threshold increasing to $52,697).

ATO extends due date for 2016/17 SMSF returns

The ATO will extend the due date for lodgment of self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) annual returns for 2016/17 to 30 June 2018.

Deputy Commissioner James O'Halloran said "We recognise there are some major new considerations and decisions for SMSFs and their advisers to make in this first financial year of operation of the superannuation reforms that came into effect from 1 July 2017.

"We have therefore decided to extend the lodgment date for 2016/17 SMSF annual returns so that SMSF trustees and their advisers can focus on these important matters."

Review of rules for early release of superannuation

The Government has announced that Treasury will review the current rules governing early release of superannuation on grounds of severe financial hardship and compassionate grounds.

It will also review whether, and the circumstances in which, a perpetrator's superannuation should be available to pay compensation or restitution to victims of crime.

The review will not examine other general conditions of release for superannuation.

The Government also announced that it will transfer the regulatory role of administering the early release of superannuation benefits on compassionate grounds from the Department of Human Services to the ATO in 2018, to enable the ATO to provide a more streamlined service to members.

ATO warning regarding small business record-keeping

According to the ATO, of all of the things that can cause small businesses to fold, "high on that list is poor record keeping".

More than half of the businesses they visited in their Protecting honest business campaign needed to improve their record keeping.

Issues they found include businesses:

  • estimating their sales and income;
  • using the 'no sale' and 'void' button on cash registers when taking cash payments;
  • not keeping cash register tapes and not reconciling at the end of the day; and
  • paying their employees cash-in-hand.

They are writing to these businesses to recommend they attend one of the ATO's record keeping workshops, which cover why good record keeping is important and how it will save them time.

Further "affordable housing" measures passed

Parliament has passed the legislation allowing first home buyers to save for a deposit inside superannuation through the First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSSS), and also allowing older Australians to 'downsize' and then contribute the proceeds of the sale of their family home into superannuation.

From 1 July 2018, a first home buyer will be able to withdraw voluntary superannuation contributions they have made since 1 July 2017 (up to $30,000 each, with individuals being able to contribute up to $15,000 a year within existing caps), along with a deemed rate of earnings, to help buy their home.

Also, from 1 July 2018, when Australians aged 65 and over sell a home they have owned for at least 10 years, they may contribute up to $300,000 from the proceeds into their superannuation accounts, over and above existing contribution restrictions.   Both members of a couple may take advantage of this measure, together contributing up to $600,000 from the proceeds of the sale into superannuation



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