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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


New Approved Occupational Clothing Guidelines 2017

The government has issued new guidelines to set out criteria for tax deductible non-compulsory uniform

  • the clothing is in the nature of occupation specific, or protective clothing; or
  • the wearing of the clothing is a compulsory condition of employment for employees and the clothing is not conventional in nature; or
  • where the wearing of the clothing is not compulsory, the design of the clothing is entered on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing.

 The new guidelines outline (among other things):

  • the steps that need to be undertaken by employers to have designs of occupational clothing registered; and
  • the factors that will be considered in determining whether designs of occupational clothing may be registered.

The guidelines commence on 1 October 2017, and the previous Guidelines are revoked with effect from the same day.

If the total value of a superannuation fund member's pensions exceeded $1.6 million on 1 July 2017, they may face adverse tax consequences.

However, there is a transitional provision that permits a minor excess over $1.6 million to be ignored, subject to certain conditions being met.

Basically, this will be satisfied if the value of their pension interests on 1 July 2017 exceeded $1.6 million by no more than $100,000 (i.e., their total value did not exceed $1.7 million), but the member is able to commute the pension(s) by an amount that is at least equal to that excess no later than 31 December 2017. 

This will mean that no 'transfer balance cap' consequences arise (e.g., no 'excess transfer balance earnings' will accrue on the excess and no 'excess transfer balance tax' will become payable).

Therefore, it is important that this issue is identified and, if applicable, dealt with promptly

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