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The time is fast approaching for us to call it a wrap for 2023 and head off for a short break over the holiday season.

Please note our office will be closed from Thursday 22nd December and will reopen on Monday 8th January 2024.

Thank you for your continued business, we greatly appreciate your ongoing support.

We wish you and your families a safe and enjoyable festive season and we can't wait to see you again in 2024!

From all of us at MVA Bennett

Vacant residential land tax and absentee owner surcharge 

Notifications due 15 January 2024
Notifications for vacant residential land tax and the absentee owner surcharge are due by 15 January 2024. If you made a notification last year, you only need to make a new one if your circumstances have changed.

Vacant residential land tax
You must notify them online if you own a property in inner and middle Melbourne that was vacant for more than 6 months in 2023.

Vacant residential land tax is changing from the 2025 tax year. For more information, visit the website.

Absentee owner surcharge

An absentee owner surcharge applies to Victorian land owned by an absentee individual, corporation or trust. If you are an absentee owner, you must notify via absentee owner notification portal.

If you have any questions, please contact our office on the details below.

Dear Valued Client,

Earlier this year we advised you of a number of significant changes within MVA Bennett. All those changes are either complete or well under way.

With our merge with Jeffrey Thomas & Partners, the audit division of the new business has changed its name from JTP Assurance to MVA Bennett Assurance. This change will appear on letterheads, reports, and invoices.

With our change in banks, the new bank account detail will now appear on invoices as issued. With that in mind, we respect your need to satisfy yourselves when you do receive an invoice with new details on it.

To help you in this, our staff are here to assist if you wish to call our office directly and confirm the changes.

We will still maintain our previous bank accounts as we understand this change may take some time.

As with all change, we understand there may be questions so we welcome any questions, queries, or suggestions you may have.

We take this opportunity to wish you a safe holiday period and prosperous 2024.

Workers owed $3.6bn in super guarantee 

Workers are owed over $3.6 billion in superannuation guarantee according to the latest Australian Taxation Office estimates – a figure the Government and the regulators are looking to dramatically change.

Superficially, the statistics on employer superannuation guarantee (SG) compliance look pretty good with over 94%, or over $71 billion, collected without intervention from the regulators in 2020-21.

The net gap in SG has also declined from a peak of 5.7% in 2015-16 to 5.1% in 2020-21. The COVID-19 stimulus measures helped drive up the voluntary contributions with the largest increase in 2019-20, which the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) says they “suspect reflects the link between payment of super contributions and pay as you go (PAYG) withholding by employers. PAYG withholding is linked to the ability to claim stimulus payments such as Cash Flow Boost.”

Despite these gains, a little adds up to a lot and 5.1% equates to a $3.6 billion net gap in payments that should be in the superannuation funds of workers. Lurking within the amount owed is $1.8 billion of payments from hidden wages. That is, off-the-books cash payments, undisclosed wages, and non-payment of super where employees are misclassified as contractors.

In addition, the ATO notes that as at 28 February 2022, $1.1 billion of SG charge debt was subject to insolvency, which is unlikely to ever be recovered. Quarterly reporting enables debt to escalate before the ATO has a chance to identify and act on an emerging problem.

Employers should not assume that the Government will tackle SG underpayments the same way they have in the past with compliance programs. Instead, technology and legislative change will do the work for them.

Single touch payroll matched to super fund data

Single touch payroll (STP), the reporting mechanism employers must use to report payments to workers, provides a comprehensive, granular level of near-real time data to the regulators on income paid to employees. The ATO is now matching STP data to the information reported to them by superannuation funds to identify late payments, and under or incorrect reporting.

Late payment of quarterly superannuation guarantee is emerging as an area of concern with some employers missing payment deadlines, either because of cashflow difficulties (i.e., SG payments not put aside during the quarter), or technical issues where the timing of contributions is incorrect. Super guarantee needs to be received by the employee’s fund before the due date. Unless you are using the ATO’s superannuation clearing house, payments are unlikely to be received by the employee’s fund if the quarterly payment is made on the due date. The super guarantee laws do not have a tolerance for a ‘little bit’ late. Contributions are either on time, or they are not.

When SG is paid late

If an employer fails to meet the quarterly SG contribution deadline, they need to pay the SG charge (SGC) and lodge a Superannuation Guarantee Statement within a month of the late payment. The SGC applies even if you pay the outstanding SG soon after the deadline. The SGC is particularly painful for employers because it is comprised of:

Unlike normal SG contributions, SGC amounts are not deductible, even if you pay the outstanding amount.

And, the calculation for SGC is different to how you calculate SG. The SGC is calculated using the employee’s salary or wages rather than their ordinary time earnings (OTE). An employee’s salary and wages may be higher than their OTE, particularly if you have workers who are paid overtime.

It's important that employers that have made late SG payments lodge a superannuation guarantee statement quickly as interest accrues until the statement is lodged. The ATO can also apply penalties for late lodgment of a statement, or failing to provide a statement during an audit, of up to 200% of the SG charge. And, where an SG charge amount remains outstanding, a company director may become personally liable for a penalty equal to the unpaid amount.

The danger of misclassifying contractors

Many business owners assume that if they hire independent contractors, they will not be responsible for PAYG withholding, superannuation guarantee, payroll tax and workers compensation obligations. However, each set of rules operates slightly differently and, in some cases, genuine contractors can be treated as if they were employees. There are significant penalties faced by employers that get it wrong.

A genuine independent contractor who is providing personal services will typically be:

‘Payday’ super from 1 July 2026

The Government intends to introduce laws that will require employers to pay SG at the same, or similar time, as they pay employee salary and wages. The logic is that by increasing the frequency of SG contributions, employees will be around 1.5% better off by retirement, and there will be less opportunity for an SG liability to build up where the employer misses a deadline.

Originally announced in the 2023-24 Federal Budget, Treasury has released a consultation paper to start the process of making payday super a reality. Subject to the passage of the legislation, the reforms are scheduled to take effect from 1 July 2026.

What is proposed?

The consultation paper canvasses two options for the timing of SG payments: on the day salary and wages are paid; or a ‘due date’ model that requires contributions to be received by the employee’s superannuation fund within a certain number of days following ‘payday’. A ‘payday’ captures every payment to an employee with an OTE component.

The SGC would also be updated with interest accruing on late payments from ‘payday’.

Currently, 62.6% of employers make SG payments quarterly, 32.7% monthly, and 3.8% fortnightly or weekly.

We’ll bring you more on ‘payday’ super as details are released. For now, there is nothing you need to do.

Up to 10 years in prison for deliberate ‘wage theft’

Legislation currently being debated in Parliament will introduce a new criminal offence for intentional “wage theft”. If enacted, in addition to the criminal offence, a fine will apply. The fine is three times the underpayment and:

The reforms are not intended to capture unintentional mistakes and a compliance ‘safe harbour’ will be introduced by the Fair Work Ombudsman for small businesses.

In addition to addressing wage theft, the Bill also seeks to:

The Bill introducing the reforms has been referred to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee. The Committee is scheduled to report back in February 2024.

“Wage-theft” is illegal in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria under State laws. While the Federal Bill is not intended to interfere with State legislation, the impact of the interaction between the existing State legislation and the proposed Federal reforms is unclear.

Over the last two years, the Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered over $1 billion in back-payments, mostly from large corporates and universities. Court ordered penalties of $6.4 million were paid by employers across this same time period.

When trust distributions to a company are left unpaid

What happens when a trust appoints income to a private company beneficiary but does not actually make the payment?

The tax treatment of this unpaid amount was at the centre of a recent case before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) that saw a taxpayer successfully challenge the ATO’s long held position (Bendel and Commissioner of Taxation [2023] AATA 3074). For many years, the ATO’s position has been that if a trust appoints income to a private company beneficiary but does not actually make the payment, this unpaid amount can be treated as a loan. Under Division 7A of the tax rules, these loans can be taxed as unfranked dividends unless they are managed using a complying loan agreement with annual principal and interest repayments.

This AAT decision challenges an important ATO position, with the tax outcomes being potentially significant for trust clients that currently owe (or may have owed in the past) unpaid trust entitlements to related private companies.

But this is not the end of this story. On 26 October 2023, the Tax Commissioner lodged a notice of appeal to the Federal Court. There is no guarantee that the Federal Court will reach the same conclusion as the AAT. We will need to wait and see.

As the case progresses, we will let you know about the impact.

Fixed-term employment contracts limited to 2 years

From 6 December 2023, employers can no longer employ an employee on a fixed-term contract that:

The changes were introduced as part of the Pay secrecy, job ads and flexible work amendments. See the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website for more details.

30% tax on super earnings on balances above $3 million

Treasury has released draft legislation for consultation to enact the Government’s plan to increase the tax rate on earnings on superannuation balances above $3m from 15% to 30% from 1 July 2025. This is the final step before the legislation is introduced into Parliament.

From a planning perspective, for those with superannuation balances close to or above $3m, it will be important to explore the implications of your personal situation – there is no one size fits all strategy and what is best for you will depend on how a potentially wide array of factors impact on your individual scenario.

When is food GST-free?  

Chobani plain yoghurt is GST-free but Chobani’s ‘flip’ range is taxable? A recent case before the AAT demonstrates how fine the dividing line is between GST-free and taxable foods.

Back in 2000 when the Goods & Services Tax (GST) was first introduced, basic food was excluded to secure the support of the Democrats for the new tax regime. Twenty three years later, the result of this exclusion is an unwieldy dividing line between GST-free and taxable foods that is consistently tested and altered. It is this dividing line that US yoghurt giant Chobani Pty Ltd recently tested in a case before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

At the centre of the case was Chobani’s Flip Strawberry Shortcake flavoured yoghurt and whether the product, composed of a tub of strawberry flavoured yoghurt with a separate tub of baked cookie and white chocolate pieces, is subject to GST. If the two components were sold in isolation, the baked cookie pieces would be taxable and the yoghurt GST-free.

Chobani had originally treated the flip yoghurt range as GST-free, relying on a 2001 GST ruling that allowed “a supply that appears to have more than one part but is essentially a supply of one thing” to be a composite supply. A product that is a composite supply could be treated as GST-free if the other components did not exceed the lesser of $3 or 20% of the overall product. In Chobani’s case, this meant that they could treat the flip yoghurt as GST-free.

Then in 2021, the ATO advised Chobani that its position had changed and it intended to treat the flip yoghurt as a combination food and therefore taxable.

Under the GST system, ‘combination foods’ where at least one of the food components is taxable, are subject to GST. Lunch packs of tuna and crackers, for example, are a combination food and therefore GST applies to the whole product because it is intended that the tuna and crackers are eaten together. But, where the food is a ‘mixed supply’, where each item is separate from the other and not intended to be consumed together, the GST will apply (or not) to each individual product. An example would be a hamper.

In the Chobani case, the AAT found in favour of the Commissioner’s interpretation that the flip product was a combination food and therefore subject to GST on the whole product.

The outcome of the Chobani test case has a number of implications. The first is that the ATO has issued a new draft GST ruling on combination foods (GST 2023/D1) replacing the previous guidance. The guidance states that three principles apply when determining whether there is a supply of a combination food:

The second implication is that at least one classification on the ATO’s GST status of major product lines list will change. Weirdly, dip (with biscuits, wrapped individually and packaged together), was listed as a mixed supply, not a combination food.

In a previous case, Birds Eye (Simplot Australia) was also unsuccessful in its appeal to the Federal Court that their frozen vegetable products that combined omelette, rice or grains were GST-free. The Court determined that the foods were either prepared meals or a combination of foods and therefore taxable.

For food manufacturers, importers and distributors, it is important to keep up to date with the changing GST landscape and ensure that you are utilising the correct classifications - it’s a moving feast!

Warning: Redrawing investment loans

The ATO estimates that incorrect reporting of rental property income and expenses is costing around $1 billion each year in forgone tax revenue. A big part of the problem is how taxpayers are claiming interest on their investment property loans.

We’ve seen an uptick in ATO activity focussing on refinanced or redrawn loans. This activity is a result of a major data matching program of residential property loan data from financial institutions from 2021-22 to 2025-26. This data is being matched to what taxpayers have claimed on their tax returns. Those with anomalies can expect contact from the ATO to explain the discrepancy.

If you have an investment property loan and redraw on the loan for a different purpose to the original borrowing, the loan account becomes a mixed purpose account. Interest accruing on mixed purpose accounts need to be apportioned between each of the different purposes the money was used for.

On the other hand, if the redrawn funds are used to produce investment income, then the interest on this portion of the loan should be deductible.

For example, if you have redrawn on the loan to pay for a private holiday, or pay down personal debt, then the interest relating to this portion of the loan balance is not deductible. Not only will the interest expenses need to be apportioned into deductible and non-deductible parts, but repayments will normally need to be apportioned too.

Withdrawals from an offset account are treated as savings rather than a new borrowing. If you have a loan account and an interest offset account is attached to this account that reduces the interest payable on the loan, withdrawing funds from the offset account will typically increase the amount of interest accruing on the loan, but won’t change the deductible percentage of the interest expenses. That is, when you withdraw funds from the offset account this is really a withdrawal of savings and won’t impact on the extent to which interest accruing on the loan account is deductible.

If you have a home loan that was used to acquire your private home and you have funds sitting in an offset account, withdrawing those funds to pay the deposit on a rental property won’t enable you to claim any of the interest accruing on the home loan. However, if you redraw funds from the home loan to acquire a rental property then interest accruing on this portion of the loan should be deductible. The tax treatment always depends on how the arrangement is structured.

Think you might have a problem? Contact us and we can investigate the issue before the ATO contact you.

Quote of the month

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

$20k deduction for ‘electrifying’ your business

Electricity is the new black. Gas and other fossil fuels are out. A new, limited incentive nudges business towards energy efficiency. We show you how to maximise the deduction!

The small business energy incentive is the latest measure providing a bonus tax deduction to nudge the investment behaviour of small and medium businesses, this time towards more efficient energy use and electrification. Fossil fuels are out, gas is out, electricity is the name of the game.

Legislation before Parliament will see SMEs with an aggregated turnover of less than $50 million able to claim a bonus 20% tax deduction on up to $100,000 of their costs to improve energy efficiency in the business. But, the tax deduction is time limited. Assuming the legislation passes Parliament, you only have until 30 June 2024 to invest in new, or upgrade existing assets.

How much?

Your business can invest up to $100,000 in total, with a maximum bonus tax deduction of $20,000 per business entity. The energy incentive is not provided as a cash refund, it either reduces your taxable income or increases the tax loss for the 2024 income year.

What qualifies?

The energy incentive applies to both new assets and expenditure on upgrading existing assets. There is no specific list of assets that can qualify. Instead, the rules provide a series of eligibility criteria that need to be satisfied.

First, the expenditure incurred in relation to the asset must qualify for a deduction under another provision of the tax law.

If your business is acquiring a new depreciating asset, it must be first used or installed for any purpose, and a taxable purpose, between 1 July 2023 and 30 June 2024. If you are improving an existing asset, the expenditure must be incurred between 1 July 2023 and 30 June 2024.

If your business is acquiring a new depreciating asset the following additional conditions need to be satisfied:

If you are improving an existing asset the expenditure needs to satisfy at least one of the following conditions:

What doesn’t qualify?

Certain kinds of assets and improvements are not eligible for the bonus deduction, including where the asset or improvement uses a fossil fuel. So, hybrids are out. Solar panels and motor vehicles are also excluded.

In addition, the following assets are specifically excluded from the rules:

What does qualify?

The legislation contains a few examples of what would qualify:

The legislation to implement the energy incentive is before Parliament. We’ll keep you updated on its progress. If you intend to make a major outlay to take advantage of the bonus deduction, talk to us first just to make sure it qualifies.

The ‘Airbnb’ Tax

Property investors that choose to utilise their property for short-term stays (or leave it vacant) are firmly in the sights of the regulators.

The Victorian Government’s recent Housing Statement announced Australia’s first short-stay property tax. The additional tax, which is scheduled to come into effect from 1 January 2025, is expected to generate $70 million plus annually. The Short Stay Levy will be set at 7.5% of the short stay accommodation platforms’ revenue – so, a few days in Melbourne at $850 will cost an extra $63.75 taking the stay to $913.75.

According to the statement there are more than 36,000 short stay accommodation places - with almost half of these in regional Victoria. More than 29,000 of those places are entire homes.

Airbnb’s ANZ Country Manager Susan Wheeldon however says that “short-term rentals in Victoria make up less than one percent of total housing stock. Acute housing issues existed long before the founding of Airbnb, and targeting these properties is not a long term solution.”

Property investors are now braced for an onslaught of similar taxes at either the local Government or State level.

For Victorian investment property owners this comes after a temporary land tax surcharge from the 2024 land tax year and for those keeping a property vacant, an increase to the absentee owner surcharge rate from 2% to 4% including a reduction in the tax-free threshold from $300,000 to $50,000 (for non-trust absentee owners).

Some local Government taxes on Airbnb style accommodation will be removed once the new tax comes into effect.

Some Councils already impose a surcharge on short stay accommodation. Brisbane City Council for example imposed a 50% rate surcharge on properties listed for short-term rental for more than 60 days a year in their 2022-23 Budget, only to increase it to 65% in 2023-24.

What happens overseas?

Bed taxes in some form are not uncommon internationally but it is unusual to isolate one form of tourist accommodation from another as the Victorian Government have chosen to do. Also unusual is the 7.5% rate – many local taxes on short stay accommodation are in the 5% range (despite California’s Transient Occupancy Tax of up to 15% depending on the region you are staying).

Globally, the idea of taxing vacant and short-term accommodation is also not new.

In British Columbia, the Underused Housing Tax - a 1% tax on the ownership of vacant or underused housing introduced from 1 January 2022 - has been credited with increasing the rental stock by up to 20,000 properties.

Taking the alternative route to freeing up rental stock, New York introduced new rules in September 2023 that severely restrict Airbnb style accommodation options. Hosts need to register with the city if they offer accommodation for less than 30 consecutive days (unless their building is exempt as a hotel or accommodation establishment). Under the new rules the host must permanently reside in the property - entire properties will no longer be available - and, only two guests are allowed. The platforms are responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the new rules.

New York is not alone in curbing the rise of short-term rentals. Amsterdam, Paris and San Francisco limit the number of days in a year an entire residence can be listed – between 30 and 90 days.

Closer to home in Byron Bay, the Byron Bay Council will limit “non hosted holiday letting to 60 days per year for most of the Shire” from 23 September 2024.

But do restrictions on Airbnb create rental stock?

According to Professor Nicole Gurran, from the University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning, if Australia is serious about controlling short-term rentals to solve Australia’s long-term rental crisis, then more needs to be done.

“In comparison to much of the international regulation of the short-term rental market, Australia is very “light touch”. The overarching aim is to encourage the tourism economy.

While this might have been appropriate five years ago when the rental market was in better shape, and long-term housing demand focused on inner city areas, the current crisis demands a new approach. Regulations must be tailored to the conditions of local housing markets, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach that exists today,” Professor Gurran says.

In a 2017 study, Professor Gurran and Professor Peter Phibbs found that, Airbnb absorbed 7% of stock in one Sydney municipality.

So, where is all this going? Governments are unlikely not to take advantage of the opportunity to share in what has become a lucrative short-term rental market. What that looks like will really depend on the States and Territories. Beyond revenue, further regulation is likely to ensure that private gain from short-term rentals is not at the expense of supply of long-term accommodation.

30% tax on super earnings above $3m

Treasury has released draft legislation to enact the Government’s plan to increase the tax rate on earnings on superannuation balances above $3m from 15% to 30% from 1 July 2025. This is the final step before the legislation is introduced into Parliament and a step closer to reality.

The draft legislation appears largely unchanged from the Government’s original announcement.

The proposed calculation aims to capture growth in total super balance (TSB) over the financial year allowing for contributions (including insurance proceeds) and withdrawals. This method captures both realised and unrealised gains, enabling negative earnings to be carried forward and offset against future years.

The ATO will perform the calculation for the tax on earnings. TSBs in excess of $3 million will be tested for the first time on 30 June 2026 with the first notice of assessment expected to be issued to those impacted in the 2026-27 financial year.

From a planning perspective, for those with superannuation balances close to or above $3m, it will be important to explore the implications to your personal situation – there is no one size fits all strategy here and what is best for you will depend on your circumstances. Superannuation, even with the increased tax, remains a tax efficient vehicle.

Self-education: What can you claim?

The Australian Taxation Office have released a new draft ruling on self-education expenses. We revisit the deductibility of self-education expenses and what you can and can’t claim.

If you undertake study that is connected to your work you can normally claim your costs of that study as a tax deduction - assuming your employer has not already picked up your expenses. There is also no limit to the value of the deduction you can claim. While this all sounds great and very encouraging there are still issues to consider before claiming your Harvard graduate degree, accommodation, and flights as a self-education expense.

Clients are often surprised by what cannot be claimed. Self-education expenses are not deductible if you are undertaking the education to obtain a new job or something not connected to how you earn your income now. Take the example of a nurse’s aide who attendees university to qualify as a registered nurse. The university degree and the expenses associated with degree are not deductible as the nursing degree is not sufficiently connected to their current role as a nurse’s aide.

The ATO have recently released a new draft ruling on self-education expenses. While the ruling does not introduce new rules, it does reinforce what the ATO will accept…and what they won’t.

Personal development courses

While not always the case, one of the key challenges in claiming deductions for self-development or personal development courses is that the knowledge or skills gained are often too general. Take the example of a manager who is having difficulty coping with work because of a stressful family situation. She pays for and attends a 4-week stress management course.

In that case, the stress management course is not deductible because the course was not designed to maintain or increase the skills or specific knowledge required in her current position.

When your employment ends part the way through your course

If your employment (or your income earning activity) ends part the way through completing a course, your expenses are only deductible up to the point that you stopped work. Anything from that point forward is not deductible (that is until you obtain a new role and assuming the course remains relevant).

Overseas trips with some work thrown in

Overseas study tours are deductible in limited circumstances. If you are travelling overseas, you need to prove that the dominant purpose of the trip is related to how you earn your income. Factors that help demonstrate this include the time devoted to the advancement of your work related knowledge, the trip not being merely recreational, and that the trip was requested by or supported by your employer. The ATO are strict on this. Take the example of a senior lecturer in history at a University. He takes a trip to China with his wife while on leave over the Christmas break to update his knowledge on his area of academic interest. While his job does not require him to undertake research, he incorporated some of the 600 photos he took and some of the learnings from the tour into the courses he teaches. Despite having a relationship to work, the trip is not deductible as, while relevant in some ways to his field of activity, it is incidental to the overall private and recreational nature of the trip.

Overseas conference with some recreation thrown in

We’ve all had them. Conferences where you spend a few days in sessions and then a day (or more) of touring or golf. When the dominant purpose of the trip is related directly to your work, then the ATO are more accommodating. If the leisure time, for example an afternoon tour organised by the conference, is incidental to the conference itself, then you can claim the full conference expenses.

Where you are extending your stay beyond the conference dates and this isn’t considered incidental, then you apportion the expenses and only claim the portion related to the conference. Let’s say you attend a conference for four days, then spend another four days on holiday. Assuming the conference is directly related to your work, you can claim your expenses related to the conference (assuming they were not picked up by your employer), and half of your airfare (as it’s a 50/50 split on how you spent your time between the conference and recreation).

Not fully deductible? Part of the course might qualify

If a particular course is not entirely deductible, a deduction may still be available for some of the course fees where there are particular subjects or modules in that course that are sufficiently related to your employment or income earning activities. In these cases, the course fees would be apportioned. Take the example of a civil engineer who is completing her MBA. While the MBA itself may not have a sufficient connection to her engineering role to be fully deductible, her expenses related to the project management subject she took as part of the degree could qualify.

Interaction with government assistance

If your course is a Commonwealth supported place, you cannot claim the course fees. But, the deductibility of course fees are not impacted merely because you borrow money to pay for those fees, for example a full-fee paying student using a government FEE-HELP loan to pay for course fees.

A warning on large claims

There is no limit on the amount you can claim as a self-education expense but the ATO is more likely to target large self-education expenses. For anyone who has completed post graduate study you know that these expenses can ratchet up very quickly, particularly when you add in any other expenses such as books or travel. It’s important to ensure that there is a clear connection between your current job or business activity and the self-education expenses before you claim them.

Airfares incurred to participate in self-education, provided you are not living at the location of the self-education activity, are deductible. Airfares are part of the cost of undertaking the self-education activities.

Quote of the month

“Grit is about doing the hard work, day in and day out, without immediate reward.”
Angela Duckworth, academic and psychologist

Note: The material and contents provided in this publication are informative in nature only.  It is not intended to be advice and you should not act specifically on the basis of this information alone.  If expert assistance is required, professional advice should be obtained.

The Billion Dollar TikTok Scandal

$1.7 billion paid out in fraudulent refunds, another $2.7bn in fraudulent claims stopped, around 56,000 alleged perpetrators and over 100 arrests to date. How did the TikTok tax scandal get out of control?

It was promoted as a victimless hack that delivered tens of thousands of dollars into your bank account. Like any hack, taking part was as simple as following the instructions. The streamlined process designed to make it easy for a small business to start-up under Australia’s self-assessment system, also made it easy for the ‘TikTok fraud’ to go viral.

How did it happen?

At some point in 2021, videos started to spread that spelt out how to get the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to deliver money into your account. Not quite a loan but a hack that sometimes saw tens of thousands delivered into accounts, no questions asked. As the message gained traction, and with more and more people validating the hack, facilitators emerged. All you had to do was hand over your personal details to the facilitators and they would take care of the rest.

The fraud saw offenders inventing fake businesses, applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN), many in their own names, then submitting fictitious Business Activity Statements (BAS) to claim GST refunds.

By late 2021, the Banks noticed the uptick in suspicious activity, mostly large refunds that were out of character for those accounts - in some cases, Centrelink recipients receiving large credits from the ATO. The banks froze a number of accounts and reported the suspicious matters as they are required to do under the Anti-Money Laundering & Counter Terrorism legislation, including to the ATO.

In April 2022, the ATO formed Operation Protego to disrupt the rapid increase in GST refund fraud by individuals that were not genuinely in business. By that stage however, the strategy had gone viral.

By May 2022, the average GST refund paid was $20,000, claimed by around 40,000 people. The ATO conceded around $850 million had been paid out in potentially fraudulent claims. By June 2022, that figure had blown out to $1.2bn but the ATO had stemmed the flow, rejecting $1.7bn in fraudulent claims. Search warrants and arrests of scheme promoters followed.

It's hard to understand how so many people - an estimated 56,000 Australians - made the leap in logic that some sort of hack had been discovered that enabled you to claim thousands of dollars in tax refunds as a ‘loan’ from the ATO. At the best of times the ATO is not known for its sporadic acts of generosity and laissez faire attitude to tax revenue. We know the opposite is true.

And, why so many accepted a view promoted on TikTok - the act of participating in the fraud required falsifying records at several stages and yet, failed to ring alarm bells. Unfortunately, naivety is not a compelling defence against fraud.

Caught in the web?

“The ATO has zero tolerance to any fraudulent or corrupt behaviour that may in any way impact the ATO.”

The TikTok tax fraud is extensive and has several layers of impact across the 56,000 taxpayers caught up in it.

The closest circle are the scheme promoters and facilitators. To date, more than 100 people have been arrested including members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, organised criminal organisations, and youth crime gangs – and more than 10 people have been convicted for their involvement.

The maximum penalty for promoting a tax fraud scheme is 10 years in prison.

The second circle are those actively engaged in the scheme - who declared that they were carrying on a business, established an ABN, and submitted GST refund claims for expenses they did not incur. For those who received fraudulent GST refunds, the money will need to be paid back, penalties are likely to apply, and there is a risk of criminal proceedings. If the ATO have contacted you, engagement will be the key to reducing penalties and preventing an escalation to criminal proceedings. If you were engaged in the GST refund fraud but the ATO has not contacted you yet, it will be important to work with us as soon as possible to declare and manage the issue.

Where to now for identify theft victims?

The third circle is comprised of the unwitting identity theft victims whose details have been used to generate fraudulent GST refunds. The ATO have had reports of people offering to buy and sell myGov details in order to access refunds. The conversation within the accounting community is that the ATO are inundated at present trying to manage the fallout, not just from the TikTok GST refund fraud but identity theft in general. So, keep on top of your myGov account and if you notice any unusual activity, contact us asap.

The TikTok fraud timeline

“Nobody is giving money away for free or offering loans that don’t need to be paid back.”
ATO Deputy Commissioner and Chief of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) John Ford.

Late 2021 ·       Banks freeze suspicious accounts and refer unusual behaviour to ATO.
April 2022 ·       Operation Protego formed
May 2022 ·       ATO issue a warning on fake businesses, ABN applications and fraudulent business activity statements to generate GST refunds after around $850 million in potentially fraudulent payments made to around 40,000 individuals, with the average amount fraudulently claimed being $20,000.
June 2022 ·       ATO tallies the cost of fraudulent claims at $1.2bn. Between April and June 2022, the ATO rejected $1.7bn in fraudulent claims.

·       ATO launches coordinated action across three days in 12 locations across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland, which saw warrants executed against 19 individuals suspected of being involved in GST fraud.

July 2022 ·       ATO executes search warrants for five suspected offenders.
Dec 2022 ·       ATO tallies fraudulent rejected claims at $2.5bn by more than 53,000 individuals.
Feb 2023 ·       Warrants executed against 10 individuals suspected of promoting the fraud including on social media.
Aug 2023 ·       ATO tallies fraudulent rejected claims at $2.7bn.

The upshot to date; $2.7bn in fraudulent claims rejected before being paid, $1.7bn fraudulent payments made with around $66m recovered by 30 June 2022. Another $700m in liabilities, including around $300 million in penalties, raised in 2023-24.

The case of the taxpayer who was paid too late

What a difference timing makes. A recent case before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) is a reminder about the tax impact of the timing of employment income.

In this case, the taxpayer was a non-resident working in Kuwait. As part of his work, he was entitled to a ‘milestone bonus’ but, the employer was not in a position to pay the bonus at the time.

When the job ended, the taxpayer moved to Australia and became a resident. Once in Australia, the former employer honoured the performance bonus and paid it as a series of instalments.

The dispute between the ATO and the taxpayer started when the Commissioner issued amended assessments taxing the bonus payments received.

The dispute focused on when the bonus was derived. Had the bonus been derived while the taxpayer was still a non-resident then it would not have been taxed in Australia. This is because non-residents are normally only taxed in Australia on Australian sourced income. Employment income is typically sourced in the place where the work is performed (although there can be exceptions to this).

Australian tax case law says that employment income is normally derived on receipt. In the taxpayer’s case, this was when he received the payments from his former employer, not when he became entitled to the bonus. Because the taxpayer received the bonus when he was a tax resident of Australia, the bonus was subject to tax.

The difference for the taxpayer was quite dramatic. Had he been paid the bonus when it was due, he would have paid no tax as Kuwait does not impose income tax.

Please call us if you are concerned about tax residency or managing overseas income.

The shape of Australia’s future

What will the Australian community look like in 40 years? We look at the key takeaways from the Intergenerational Report.

The 2023 Intergenerational Report (IGR) is a crystal ball insight into what we can expect Australian society to look like in 40 years and the needs of the community as we grow and evolve. It doesn’t map out our path to flying cars and Jetsons style robotic domestic help (unfortunately) but it does forecast structural trends that will give many of us a level of anxiety about what we need to be doing now to successfully navigate the future.

The report links the continued growth and prosperity of Australia to five significant areas of influence:

We’re ageing

Thanks for the reminder. The number of people aged 65 and over will more than double and the number aged 85 and over will more than triple. We’re expected to live longer with the life expectancy of men increasing from 81.3 to 87 years and from 85.2 to 89.5 for women by 2062-63. And that’s a problem for the younger generation.

Who bears the burden of an ageing population?

Australia’s low birth rate, limited migration and increased longevity all have an impact. The old age percentage - the number of people aged 65 and over for every 100 people of traditional working age (15 to 64) in the population - will increase from 26.6% to 38.2%.

From a tax perspective, Australia’s reliance on personal tax means workers will bear an increasing proportion of the tax burden under current fiscal policy. In a recent interview, former Treasury boss Ken Henry labelled it an “intergenerational tragedy” with personal tax growing from 11.7% of GDP to 13.5% based on current policy. The report says that “only 12% of Australians aged 70 and over pay income tax and this age group now makes up 12.2% of the total population. This age group is expected to increase to 18.1% of the total population in 2062-63.” Wholesale tax reform will be required to prevent the growing tax burden on individuals dragging on the economy. With economic growth expected to slow to 2.2% from 3.1% over the next 40 years, the solution will not magically arise from corporate Australia. If it was not for our high rate of inflation you would think an increase to the GST was imminent.

Services and who pays

Demographic ageing alone is estimated to account for around 40% of the increase in Government spending over the next 40 years.

The outcome of an ageing population, as you would expect, is increased demand for care and support services that will push the Federal Budget back to a point where deficits are the norm if the current policies remain in place.

From a consumer perspective, it also means that the trend towards user-pays will only increase. As individuals, we need to ensure that we have the means to fund our old age because Government resources will be limited by increasing demand and this demand is funded by a deteriorating percentage of workers contributing to tax revenue.

It's also likely that we will need to look at how we generate income. For some that might mean working longer, for others it is value adding - creating, buying and selling assets in some form, whether that is business, innovation, or through more traditional assets such as property or financial products.

Superannuation the size of a nation

Australia currently has the fourth largest pool of retirement assets in the world, with total superannuation balances projected to grow from 116% of GDP in 2022-23 to around 218% by 2062-63. Our superannuation system will be what underwrites retirement for most Australians. At present, around 70% of people over aged pension age receive some form of Government income support. Over time, and as our superannuation system matures, this percentage is expected to decline sharply as a percentage of GDP with Government support supplementing rather than providing for retirement (the first generation of workers with superannuation guarantee throughout their working life hit retirement age around 2058).

However, the IGR points out that, “the cost of superannuation concessions will increase, driven by earnings on the larger superannuation balances held by Australians.” The proposed tax on future earnings on super balances above $3m may not be the last.

You can expect the management of superannuation to be a priority for Government to ensure that retirement savings are maximised to reduce the reliance on Government support, and to ensure that this enormous pool is leveraged for the gain of not only members, but the nation.

Growth of services

Like most advanced economies, global competition has shifted Australia’s industrial base from the production of goods to services. Ninety percent of jobs are now in services.

With an ageing population, demand for health and care services is expected to soar. People aged 65 or older currently account for around 40% of total Australian health expenditure, despite being about 16% of the population. The IGR estimates that the workforce required to support this sector will need to be twice the size of what it is now to meet demand by 2049-50.

The Government’s biggest spending pressures will be health, aged care, the NDIS, defence and interest payments on government debt. Of these, the NDIS is the fastest growing at 7% per year.

The role of technology

The speed of technological change is difficult to predict, and the IGR doesn’t attempt to make predictions. But what we do know is that technology has had a transformational impact on labour productivity (the value of output of goods and services produced per hour of work). Over the last 30 years, labour productivity has accounted for around 70% of the growth in Australia’s real gross national income. But, tempering this is a slowing of labour productivity growth since the mid-2000s.

We know technological disruption is coming and the debate about the role of artificial intelligence is only just beginning. We also know that unless technology is accessible, our future will be one polarised by those who have and have not benefited from technological change.

Climate change transformation

There are two key aspects to climate change; the cost of rising temperatures, and the opportunity created by the shift to renewable energy.

Temperatures are anticipated to increase by 1.5 degrees before 2100, potentially before 2040.

From 1960 to 2018, climate disasters reduced annual labour productivity in the year they occurred by about 0.5% in advanced economies. However, for severe climate disasters labour productivity is estimated to be around 7% lower after three years. With rising temperatures, floods, bushfires and other extreme weather events are expected to increase in frequency and severity. The impact of climate change spelt out in the report is sobering with disruptions and changing patterns impacting agriculture, tourism, recreation and industries that rely on labour intensive outdoor work.

On the positive side, Australia could benefit from new “green” industries, such as hydrogen and other clean energy exports, critical minerals and green metals. It is also likely to drive new, innovative ideas as businesses invest in and develop low emissions technologies, providing a source of future productivity growth in a more sustainable economy. Australia’s potential to generate renewable energy more cheaply than many countries could also reduce costs for both new and traditional sectors, relative to the costs faced by other countries.

Geopolitical risks

Australia relies on open international markets. Trade disputes and military conflicts pose an external threat to Australia’s economy and well being. While the IGR cannot predict the nature of geopolitical events, it notes the importance of investing in national security, presumably this includes cybersecurity, ensuring access to international markets, and deepening regional partnerships to reduce supply chain vulnerabilities.

Legislating the ‘objective’ of super

The proposed objective of superannuation released in recently released draft legislation is: ‘to preserve savings to deliver income for a dignified retirement, alongside government support, in an equitable and sustainable way.’

The significance of legislating the objective of super is that any future legislated changes to the superannuation system must be in line with this objective. It’s a fairly broad definition. For example, “equitable” seeks to address the distributional impact of superannuation policy. That is, latitude for the Government to target tax concessions to address differences in demographic factors and structural inequities including intergenerational inequity and outcomes for different groups including women, First Nations Australians, vulnerable members and low-income earners.

“Sustainable” encapsulates the changing needs of an ageing population including reducing the reliance on the Age Pension. The draft also alludes to the viability of the cost of tax concessions used to incentivise Australians to save for retirement.

“Deliver income” appears to reinforce the concept that superannuation savings “should be drawn down to provide individuals with a source of income during their retirement.”

More than 15 million Australians now have a superannuation account. Australia’s superannuation pool has grown from around $148 billion in 1992 to $3.5 trillion in 2023, and will continue to grow. Total superannuation balances as a proportion of GDP are projected to almost double from 116% in 2022–23 to around 218% of GDP by 2062-63.

The consultation also recognises the value of the superannuation system as a source of capital, “which can support investment in capacity-building areas of the economy where there is alignment between the best financial interests of members and national economic priorities.”

Quote of the month

“Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”

Note: The material and contents provided in this publication are informative in nature only.  It is not intended to be advice and you should not act specifically on the basis of this information alone.  If expert assistance is required, professional advice should be obtained.

Superannuation

Minimum Pension Drawdown Increase

In response to COVID-19, the government temporarily reduced superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions.

From 1 July 2023 the 50% reduction in the minimum pension drawdown rate will no longer apply. This means that on 1 July 2023 the minimum annual payment on your pension balance the following factors will apply:

Age 2023–24 income year
Under 65 4.0%
65–74 5.0%
75–79 6.0%
80–84 7.0%
85–89 9.0%
90–94 11.0%
95 or more 14.0%

The minimum annual payment amount is worked out by multiplying the member’s pension account balance by the applicable percentage factor above.

The amount is rounded to the nearest 10 whole dollars. If the amount ends in an exact five dollars, it is rounded up to the next 10 whole dollars.

The member's age is determined at either:

Account balance means one of the following:

Where the pension commences after 1 July, the minimum payment amount for the first year is calculated proportionately to the number of days remaining in the financial year, starting from the commencement day.

Concessional Contributions Cap

Concessional contributions are contributions that you or your employer make to your super with before-tax income or claim as a tax deduction. They are also referred to as employer or before-tax contributions .the maximum tax deductible contribution in this 2023-24 year is $27,500 which is unchanged from the previous year .

Note that from 1 July 2018, if you do not use all of your concessional cap, you may be able to carry forward any unused amounts and increase your cap in future years (if you are eligible – less than $500,000 in super).

Non-Concessional Contributions Cap

Non-concessional contributions are contributions you or your spouse make to your super from your after-tax income. They are also referred to as personal or after-tax voluntary contributions. The maximum contribution is 4110,000 unchanged from the previous year

Anyone that has super worth over their total superannuation cap is not eligible to make non-concessional contributions to super.

Depending on your total superannuation balance, if you’re aged under 75, you may be able to bring forward up to two years of contributions, giving you a total maximum non-concessional cap of $330,000 for the three years.

Tax Changes from 1 July 2023

Employers & business

Superannuation

For you and your family

The cents per kilometre rate for motor vehicle expenses for 2023-24 has increased to 85 cents.

Incorrect Wage calculating = theft

For employers, incorrectly calculating wages is not portrayed as a mistake, it’s “wage theft.” Beyond the reputational issues of getting it wrong, the Fair Work Commission backs it up with fines of $9,390 per breach for a corporation. In 2021-22 alone, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $532 million in unpaid wages recovered for over 384,000 workers.

On 1 July 2023, award rates of pay and the National Minimum Wage increased by 5.75%.

It is critically important that all employers review their payroll systems and ensure they are applying the correct rates and Awards.

The National Minimum Wage applies to workers not covered by an Award or registered agreement. From 1 July 2023, the National Minimum wage has increased to $23.23 per hour ($882.80 per week for a full time employee working a standard 38 hours week).

For casuals, the minimum wage including the 25% casual loading is a minimum of $29.04 per hour.

For workers under an Award, adult minimum award wages increase by 5.75% applied from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2023. Proportionate increases apply to junior workers, apprentice and supported wages.

In addition, the superannuation guarantee increased from 10.5% to 11% on 1 July 2023.

If the employment agreement with your workers states the employee is paid on a ‘total remuneration’ basis (base plus SG and any other allowances), then their take home pay might be reduced by 0.5%. That is, a greater percentage of their total remuneration will be directed to their superannuation fund. For employees paid a rate plus superannuation, then their take home pay will remain the same and the 0.5% increase will be added to their SG payments.

Technology and skills ‘boost’ deduction – 120% Deduction

The 120% skills and training, and technology costs deduction for small and medium business have passed Parliament.

Almost a year after the 2022-23 Federal Budget announcement, the 120% tax deduction for expenditure by small and medium businesses (SME) on technology, or skills and training for their staff, is finally law. There are a few complexities in the timing - to utilise the technology investment boost, you had to of purchased the technology and when it comes to acquiring eligible assets, installed it ready for use by 30 June 2023; that’s just seven days from the date the legislation passed Parliament.

Who can access the boosts?

The 120% skills and training, and technology boosts are available to small business entities (individual sole traders, partnership, company or trading trust) with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $50 million. Aggregated turnover is the turnover of your business and that of your affiliates and connected entities.

$20k technology investment boost

The Technology Investment Boost provides SMEs with a bonus deduction for expenses and depreciating assets for digital operations or digitising from 7:30pm (AEST) on 29 March 2022 until 30 June 2023.

You ‘incur’ an expense when you are in debt for it; this might be a tax invoice or it might be a contract where you are legally liable for the cost.

For depreciating assets, like computer hardware, there is an extra step. The technology needs to have been purchased and installed ready for use. For example, if you ordered 10 computers, you need to have received the computers and had them set up ready to use by at least 30 June 2023. Ordering them on 29 June won’t be enough to claim the boost if you did not receive them.

The types of expenses that might be eligible for the technology boost include:

The technology also must be “wholly or substantially for the purposes of an entity’s digital operations or digitising the entity’s operations”. That is, there must be a direct link to your business’s digital operations. For example, claiming the drone you bought at say Christmas 2022 won’t be deductible unless your business is, for example, a real estate agency that needed a drone to take aerial images of client homes to market on their website. The expense needs to relate to how the business earns its income, in particular its digital operations.

Repair and maintenance costs can be claimed as long as the expenses meet the eligibility criteria.

Where the expenditure has mixed use (i.e., partly private), the bonus deduction applies to the proportion of the expenditure that is for business use.

There are a few costs that the technology boost won’t cover such as costs relating to employing staff, raising capital, construction of business premises, and the cost of goods and services the business sells. The boost will not apply to:

Let’s look at the example of A Co Pty Ltd (A Co) that purchased multiple laptops on 15 July 2022 to help its employees to work from home. The total cost was $100,000. The laptops were delivered on 19 July 2022 and immediately issued to staff entirely for business use.

As the holder of the assets, A Co is entitled to claim a deduction for the depreciation of a capital expense. A Co can claim the cost of the laptops ($100,000) as a deduction under the temporary full expensing in its 2022-23 income tax return. It can also claim the maximum $20,000 bonus deduction in its 2022-23 income tax return.

The $20,000 bonus deduction is not paid to the business in cash but is used to offset against A Co’s assessable income. If the company is in a loss position, then the bonus deduction would increase the tax loss. The cash value to the business of the bonus deduction will depend on whether it generates a taxable profit or loss during the relevant year and the rate of tax that applies.

The good news for many eligible businesses is that your technology subscriptions and other products you use in your business might qualify for the boost.

The boost is claimed in your tax return with the extra 20% sitting on top your normal claim. That is, however the way the expense or asset is claimed (immediately or over time), the bonus 20% applies in the same way.

The Skills and Training Boost

The Skills and Training Boost gives you a 120% tax deduction for external training courses provided to employees. The aim of this boost is to help SMEs grow their workforce, including taking on less-skilled employees and upskilling them using external training to develop their skills and enhance their productivity.

Sole traders, partners in a partnership, independent contractors and other non-employees do not qualify for the boost as they are not employees. Similarly, associates such as spouses or partners, or trustees of a trust, don’t qualify.

As always, there are a few rules:

Training expenditure can include costs incidental to the training, for example, the cost of books or equipment necessary for the training course but only if the training provider charges the business for these costs.

Let’s look at an example. Animals 4U Pty Ltd is a small entity that operates a veterinary centre. The business recently took on a new employee to assist with jobs across the centre. The employee has some prior experience in animal studies and is keen to upskill to become a veterinary nurse. The business pays $3,500 for the employee to undertake external training in veterinary nursing. The training meets the requirements of a GST-free supply of education. The training is delivered by a registered training provider, registered to deliver veterinary nursing education.

The bonus deduction is calculated as 20% of the amount of expenditure the business could typically deduct. In this case, the full $3,500 is deductible as a business operating expense. Assuming the other eligibility criteria for the boost are satisfied, the bonus deduction is calculated as 20% of $3,500. That is, $700.

In this example, the bonus deduction available is $700. That does not mean the business receives $700 back from the ATO in cash, it means that the business is able to reduce its taxable income by $700. If the company has a positive amount of taxable income for the year and is subject to a 25% tax rate, then the net impact is a reduction in the company’s tax liability of $175. This also means that the company will generate fewer franking credits, which could mean more top-up tax needs to be paid when the company pays out its profits as dividends to the shareholders.

What organisations can provide training for the boost?

Not all courses provided by training companies will qualify for the boost; only those charged by registered training providers within their registration. Typically, this is vocational training to learn a trade or courses that count towards a qualification rather than professional development.

Qualifying training providers will be registered by:

While some training you might want to have engaged might not be delivered by registered training organisations, there is still a lot out there, particularly the short-courses offered by universities, or the flexible courses designed for upskilling rather than as a degree qualification. If you have recently completed performance reviews for staff and training is part of their development pathway, it might be worth exploring.

Digital games tax
 
The digital games and interactive entertainment sector is the largest creative sector in the world and one of the fastest growing industries worldwide. The global digital games industry is worth around $250 billion and in Australia, grew 22% between 2020 and 2021 generating $226.5 million in income and employing over 1,300 fulltime workers. And, it’s an industry the Government wants to support with a new tax offset.

The Digital Games Tax Offset is equal to 30% of the company’s total qualifying Australian development expenditure incurred from 1 July 2022. Companies can claim up to $20 million per company (or group of companies) per year (to reach the cap a company would need to spend around $66.7 million in eligible expenditure).

State based tax incentives are also available in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales offering an additional 10% and Queensland offering 15% on top of the federal support. Globally, a 40% tax offset is standard for this industry so the tax offset brings Australia back into a competitive position.

Who is eligible?
Companies that are Australian tax residents or foreign tax residents with a permanent establishment in Australia can qualify.

To access the offset, the company needs a certificate issued by the Arts Minister following the completion of a new digital game, the porting of a digital game to a new platform, or for ongoing development of one or more existing digital games during the income year. This certificate then determines the offset claimed in the tax return with the Minister determining the amount of qualifying expenditure. More information will be available on the arts.gov.au website in early July 2023.

The company’s qualifying Australian development expenditure incurred needs to be at least $500,000 (could be over multiple years).

What is development expenditure?

The way the rules work is that any expenditure that a company incurs in relation to the development of the qualifying game is eligible expenditure…unless it is specifically excluded. A company develops a game by doing any of the activities necessary to complete, port, update, improve or maintain an eligible game.

The legislation takes a further step by specifically including employee remuneration or independent contractors engaged by the company to carry out work on the development of the game (excluding bonuses linked to the performance of the company or the game). Prototyping is also specifically included as is underlying game technology.

Employees that are not developing the game, for example admin staff or overseas contractors, are excluded. As are corporate costs like business overheads, marketing, travel, entertainment etc.

What games are eligible?

A digital game that can receive a classification and is made available to the general public over the internet (i.e., games developed for in-house purposes don’t qualify). The game does not include gambling or gambling like elements (loot boxes are likely to make a game ineligible if for example, the virtual items can be sold for currency) nor is used for advertising or for commercial purposes.

Australian digital games successes
Remember Fruit Ninja? Fruit Ninja, founded by HalfBrick, became a sensation in 2015 with over 1 billion downloads. Who knew a game that slices fruit with a sword would capture so much attention. Anyone with kids would have seen Crossy Road developed by Melbourne based Hipster Whale. Ninety days after it release it had 50 million downloads, earning over $10m. The Sims Freeplay was created by a merger of Melbourne studios Iron Monkey and Firemint when they were purchased by EA Games.  Then there is Melbourne based Big Ant Studios, one of the world’s biggest sports game developers and known for games such as the Tennis World Tour Game, Cricket 22 and an upcoming Rugby World Cup 2023 game.

Dear Valued Client,

The MVA Bennett team are very excited to inform you about our imminent change in software and what that means for you.

Over the past 9 months, we have been exploring software platforms that would enable us to better serve our clients in a more sustainable, effective, and safe manner. We have also been strategically aiming for a greater cloud presence to allow our team a more seamless platform and one with greater flexibility and scalability.

Our decision was to partner with Xero, whom many of you will be familiar with having used their software. They are a global provider, located in the cloud and certified as compliant with ISO/IEC 27001:2013. This means not only is the software available to our team wherever they are, but the level of security ensures your data is protected to one of the highest security standards. Additionally, because Xero also has a small to medium business focus, that means our connectivity with clients on Xero is enhanced and ensured.

Beyond security, connectivity and accessibility, Xero is a platform that partners with a range of other providers to enable addon products to provide more solutions to our valued clients. It is also a simpler and more intuitive platform which is attractive to our team.

We are very confident that this change will enhance the service we offer to all our clients and allow our team greater satisfaction in their day-to-day work.

In addition to our change in software, we are also changing our banking provider to one of the leading Australian institutions. Whilst this will not have an impact on our service offering to you, it may cause some disruption in the change process, so needs to be communicated.

Whilst we go through these enhancements both in software as well as banking provider, there will be some changes in how we interact with you. For example, the format of the financial reporting and tax returns will change, however the substance and compliance requirements of both will remain as they were. Our communications with you through our billing system and payments system will also change. These are not substantial but simply changes in the format of how we communicate to you.

Over the coming months, there will be more changes which we will communicate to you as they arise.

We hope you enjoy the journey with us and greatly appreciate your patience and understanding. Should you encounter any issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to us so we can address any concerns you have.

Small businesses given unique opportunity to get back on track with tax

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is encouraging small businesses that have overdue income tax returns, fringe benefits tax returns or business activity statements to take advantage of a new amnesty to get their lodgements back on track.

The amnesty was announced in the 2023–24 Budget. It applies to tax obligations that were originally due between 1 December 2019 and 28 February 2022 and runs from 1 June 2023 to 31 December 2023.

To be eligible for the amnesty, the small business must be an entity with an aggregated turnover of less than $10 million at the time the original tax return lodgement was due.

During this time, eligible small businesses can lodge their eligible overdue forms and the ATO will then proactively remit any penalties associated with failure to lodge.

When forms are lodged with the ATO under the amnesty, businesses or their tax professionals will not need to separately request a remission of Failure To Lodge (FTL) penalties.

Businesses are encouraged  to lodge any overdue forms even if they are outside the eligibility period. Whilst forms outside the amnesty eligibility criteria will attract late lodgement  penalties, the ATO will consider your circumstances and may remit such penalties on a case-by-case basis.

The ATO acknowledges that some  small businesses may be worried about paying tax amounts owing on their overdue lodgements. However, the ATO  makes best endeavours to work together with you or your registered tax agent to figure out the right solution for you.

The ATO wants to  make this process easy and encourage small businesses to do the right thing and believes it is a good time to reach out to your tax agent  to make sure you are up to date with your tax affairs.

The ATO offers a range of support options, including payment plans. Many small businesses are also able to set up their own payment plan online.

The amnesty applies to income tax returns, business activity statements, and fringe benefits tax returns. It does not apply to superannuation obligations and excludes other administrative penalties such as penalties associated with the Taxable Payments Reporting System.

Year end tips – 30th June deadlines

Instant Asset Write Off

There are three temporary tax depreciation incentives available to businesses with an aggregated turnover of up to $500 million:

In broad terms, depreciating assets purchased before 30 June 2023 can be written off under one of the above rules. There are  exclusions and limits that apply to car purchases.

From 1st July 2023,  the amount that can be written off has been reduced  to $20,000 and only for businesses with annual turnover less than $10 million.

Loss Carry-Back

The temporary loss carry-back measure ends on 30 June 2023

Other Business Considerations

At this time of the year,it is review time to look for opportunities to defer or lower tax imposts which may include:

Personal Tax

The rules for claiming tax deductions change frequently

Individuals who are seeking to claim deductions for employment related expenditure should be aware of an increase in audit activity by the Tax Office in relation to personal employment related deductions.

When claiming these deductions, you should ensure that :

Car Expenses

The cost of using cars for earning income can be claimed but there are rules;

The per kilometre rate method is still available but limited to 5,000 kms.

Home Office Expenses

Home office expenses may be deductible where you carry on business or employment activities at home.

Claims can be made for:

However, claims cannot be made for:

Superannuation Contributions

The rates of employer contribution (Superannuation Guarantee Charge) is scheduled to increase over the next few years. From 1 July 2023, the rate increases to 11% of salary.

In this  2022-23 Financial Year, the tax-deductible superannuation contribution cap is $27,500 for all individuals regardless of their age. The non deductible superannuation contribution cap is $110,000.

If you are over the age of 75 years old, you can only contribute mandated employer contributions and downsizer contributions.

If your total superannuation balance as at 30 June 2023 was less than $500,000 you may be in a position to carry-forward unused concessional caps starting from the 2018/19 financial year. Unused deductible or concessional caps arise where the maximum claim amount has not been claimed or contributed by the employer. Eg up to $27,500 this year and $25,000 in previous years – the opportunity extends back for five years,

Non deductible(non concessional) caps can be brought forward contribution up to three years worth in one contribution.

For example – for a contributor with less than $500,000 in their fund – an optimised contribution over the next month may look like:

Pre 30th June 2023

Post 30th June

Total                                    $542,500

Plus 2023-24 the concessional contribution up to $27,500.