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PAYG withholding: New penalties for non-compliance

New penalties for business’s pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding and reporting obligations are to be introduced as a result of legislation commencing 1 July 2019. The law will now prevent businesses from claiming deductions for payments to employees and certain contractors if they fail to comply.

Payments that are impacted include salary, wages, commissions, bonuses or allowances to an employee, payment under a labour-hire arrangement, payment to a religious practitioner, or payments for a supply of service. This measure highlights a key reason why governance over all employment tax is important.

Specifically, the new laws will prevent an employer from claiming a deduction for payments to employees if the employer fails to:
Withhold an amount from the payment as required under PAYG withholding rules; or
Report a withholding amount to the ATO as required.

If you make a mistake by failing to withhold an amount or to report it, your business will not lose its deduction if you voluntarily disclose this to the ATO before an audit or other compliance activity in regards to your tax affairs. Taking early action to ensure your business is compliant to these updated PAYG withholding laws will make a difference to whether you remain eligible for deductions.

Posted on 18 March '19, under tax. No Comments.

Determining whether GST is for business or private use

The goods and services tax (GST) is applied to most goods and services sold in Australia, taxed at a rate of 10%. If you run a business, you are likely to have GST obligations such as claiming credit for any GST included in the price of goods and services that have been purchased for your business.

However, many businesses have expenses that are used privately as well as for business purposes. This means that a business must divide the GST on these costs between private and business use. The ATO allows an annual adjustment for these expenses when it comes to determining exactly how much something is used for business or private purposes.

Common types of purchases that can be made for both business and private use include:

At the end of the financial year when the business’ income tax return is being finalised, adjustments can be made to account for the reduction in the GST amount for private use that can be claimed back. The adjustment will either increase the amount of GST that businesses are liable to pay or reduce the GST refund for the tax period the adjustment is made in.

Posted on 8 March '19, under tax. No Comments.

ATOs small business benchmarks

The ATO small business benchmark guides are designed to help small businesses compare performance with similar companies in the same industry. These guides have been updated to include data from the 2016-2017 financial year.

Within this system, there are two benchmarks businesses can use. Performance benchmarks apply to all industries and businesses. This area consists of the financial ranges so you can make comparisons and improvements to your business performance. Ranges you can look into are income tax, which is information provided by businesses on their tax returns, and activity statements which are provided using financial year activity statements. Input benchmarks only apply to tradespeople working on projects and purchasing their own materials. Within this benchmark, you can receive an expected range of income based on labour and materials used in a project. This is designed to help estimate turnover and ensure records accurately reflect income.

The small business benchmark system is also designed to aid the ATO in identifying businesses that may be avoiding tax obligations by not reporting elements of their income. The information reported by a business is compared to key elements of the benchmark for their industry, ensuring all activity is in line with the regular work practices.

Posted on 1 March '19, under tax. No Comments.

STP extension for small businesses

The ATO has released a statement in relation to transitioning to Single Touch Payroll (STP) for small employers. Parliament has passed legislation to extend STP to include employers with fewer than 20 employees from 1 July 2019. STP is payday reporting by employers to the ATO as it happens.

The initiative is designed to help keep up with advances in technology and firmly establish business reporting. As some small employers do not currently use commercial payroll software, the ATO is working with software providers to develop low and no-cost reporting solutions including simplifying payroll systems.

It has been highlighted that to further assist in the transition, the ATO is offering:

Posted on 21 February '19, under tax. No Comments.

“Building a Better Tax system” What does this mean for you?

The Australian government has launched the Better Tax campaign in order to help inform the public of tax reforms coming into effect. Designed to “better Australia”, here is a look at what this plan means for you.

Individual Tax:

Business Tax:

Posted on 14 February '19, under tax. No Comments.

Travel allowance and expenses

On the occasion that you are required to travel overnight for work, you may be eligible to receive a travel allowance from your employer for accommodation, food, drink or incidental expenses. The reasonable amount of travel expenses is updated yearly and is based on job type and salary. From this allowance, tax deductions are to be withheld unless specified otherwise. Exceptions are:

Where the exceptions apply, your employer won’t withhold tax and will include the allowance on your payslip.

It is important to keep detailed records of your travel expenses, length of trips and if it was overseas or domestic travel. If you need to claim anything from these trips in the future, you will need the appropriate documentation that covers all expenses, not just excess amounts. Vehicle, food, accommodation and incidental expenses need to be documented on a case by case basis:

Posted on 7 February '19, under tax. No Comments.

Instant asset write-off for small businesses to be extended and increased

As of 29 January 2019, the Instant Asset Write-Off Scheme will be extended to 30 June 2020 for assets purchased under $25,000.

The Instant Asset Write-Off affects small businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million a year. It allows business owners to immediately deduct assets costing up to $25,000 which can then be claimed for tax return in that income year. The Prime Minister’s announcement on 29 January stated that “businesses who go out and invest today, whether it’s a vehicle, whether it’s a piece of plant or equipment, all of it, up to $25,000, immediate write down.” However, there are certain assets that are excluded from the scheme so it is best to check with your accountant or financial advisor.

It is important to remember that the Instant Asset Write-Off Scheme reduces the tax your business has to pay, it is not a rebate. Your cash flow will still have to be sufficient enough to support the purchases.

With the ATO reporting that the average claimed amounts were at $11,000 in 2016-2017, there are concerns that the scheme is underutilised. Fewer than 350,000 small businesses have taken advantage of the scheme in the 2016-2017 year.

There is no guarantee that the Federal government will extend this scheme beyond 30 June 2020.

Posted on 31 January '19, under tax. No Comments.

Single Touch Payroll to include all businesses in 2019

On 1 July 2018, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) rolled out Single Touch Payroll (STP). This changed the way employers with 20 or more employees report their employees’ tax and super information. Generally through payroll or accounting software that offer STP reporting (or through a third-party service provider), employers are expected to report information on withholding amounts, superannuation liability information or ordinary times earnings (OTE) and salary, wages, allowances and deductions.

The STP currently affects businesses with 20 or more employees, but just last month, the Senate passed a Bill for the STP to include all Australian businesses, affecting at least an additional 700 000 businesses. Although the amendments to the STP are currently under review by the House of Representatives, the change is expected to be implemented on 1 July 2019.

Posted on 18 January '19, under tax. No Comments.

Claiming deductions for business travel expenses

You can claim tax deductions for expenses related to business travel provided you follow the ATO’s rules.

Eligibility requirements
You must fulfil certain eligibility requirements for your tax deduction claims to be valid. You can only claim a tax deduction if you:

Record keeping rules
The ATO has strict recordkeeping rules to ensure deductions are accurate. For one or more nights away from home ensure you keep documents like:

For travellers spending six or more consecutive nights away from home, a travel diary or similar document must be kept. You must record the detail of each business activity before your travel ends, or as soon as possible afterwards. You must log:

Business and private travel rules
Many travellers may integrate a holiday into their business trip. If you operate your business as a company or trust, fringe benefits tax may apply if the employee travel includes private activity paid for by the employer. For sole traders, exclude the private expenses from your claim.

Posted on 20 December '18, under tax. No Comments.

Avoid these small business tax errors

Unwanted attention and penalties from the ATO can jeopardise your small business.

Protect your business by avoiding these common small business tax errors.

Not using an accountant
Tax laws frequently change, and compliance requirements can be time-consuming and demanding. A registered tax agent will streamline your financial processes, provide advice on maximising your finances and keep you compliant.

Inaccurate tax returns
Small businesses that do not declare their income and deductions accurately will attract the ATO’s attention and financial penalties. All foreign income, capital gains tax, business sales and bank interest must be declared. You must also have legitimate evidence supporting your tax deduction claims.

Poor record keeping
Businesses that fail to keep accurate records will struggle to remain compliant. It is vital to keep:

Incorrect superannuation payments
The ATO will sanction employers that fail to pay their employees’ superannuation correctly and on time. Make your mandatory quarterly payments are paid at the correct rate of 9.5 per cent of your employee’s pay. The cash-flow benefits of delaying super payments and missing deadlines are not worth the financial and criminal punishments incurred by frequent breaches.

Posted on 14 December '18, under tax. No Comments.

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