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Family assistance payments

The ATO has reminded individuals receiving Child Care Subsidy and Family Tax Benefit payments from Services Australia that they and their partners must lodge their 2019/20 Individual tax returns by 30 June 2021.  Lodgment deferrals with the ATO do not alter this requirement.

Services Australia needs such individuals’ income details to balance payments for Child Care Subsidy and Family Tax Benefit.

If tax return lodgment is not made by 30 June 2021:

  • clients receiving Child Care Subsidy may lose their ongoing entitlement and/or receive a debt from Services Australia and have to repay the amount received in the 2019/20 financial year; and
  • clients receiving Family Tax Benefit may miss out on additional payments, may also receive a debt from Services Australia and/or may have their fortnightly payments stopped.
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ATO warns on ‘copy/pasting’ claims

The ATO is alerting taxpayers that its sights are set on work-related expenses like car and travel claims that are predicted to decrease in this year’s tax returns.

Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh noted that COVID-19 has changed people’s work habits, so the ATO expects their work-related expenses will reflect this.

“We know many people started working from home during COVID-19, so a jump in these claims is expected,” Mr Loh said.

“But, if you are working at home, we would not expect to see claims for travelling between worksites, laundering uniforms or business trips.”

The ATO will also look closely at anyone with significant working from home expenses, that maintains or increases their claims for things like car, travel or clothing expenses:

“You can’t simply copy and paste previous year’s claims without evidence.”

“But we know some of these unusual claims may be legitimate.  So, if you explain your claim with evidence, you have nothing to fear.”

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Super Guarantee rate rising from 1 July 2021

The super guarantee rate will rise from 9.5% to 10% on 1 July 2021, so businesses with employees will need to ensure their payroll and accounting systems are updated to incorporate the increase to the super rate.

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Temporary reduction in pension minimum drawdown rates extended

The Government has announced an extension of the temporary reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown rates for a further year to 30 June 2022.

As part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic (and the negative effect on the account balance of superannuation pensions), the Government reduced the superannuation minimum drawdown rates by 50% for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 income years.

This 50% reduction will now be extended to the 2021/22 income year.

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Cryptocurrency under the microscope this tax time

The ATO is concerned that many taxpayers believe their cryptocurrency gains are tax-free, or only taxable when the holdings are cashed back into Australian dollars.

ATO data analysis shows a dramatic increase in trading since the beginning of 2020, and has estimated that there are over 600,000 taxpayers that have invested in crypto-assets in recent years.

This year, the ATO will be writing to around 100,000 taxpayers with cryptocurrency assets explaining their tax obligations and urging them to review their previously lodged returns.  The ATO also expects to prompt almost 300,000 taxpayers as they lodge their 2021 tax return to report their cryptocurrency capital gains or losses.

Gains from cryptocurrency are similar to gains from other investments, such as shares.  CGT also applies to the disposal of non-fungible tokens (‘NFTs’).

The ATO matches data from cryptocurrency designated service providers to individuals’ tax returns, helping it to ensure investors are paying the right amount of tax.

“The best tip to nail your cryptocurrency gains and losses is to keep accurate records including dates of transactions, the value in Australian dollars at the time of the transactions, what the transactions were for, and who the other party was, even if it’s just their wallet address,” Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said.

Businesses or sole traders that are paid cryptocurrency for goods or services will have these payments taxed as income based on the value of the cryptocurrency in Australian dollars.

Holding a cryptocurrency for at least 12 months as an investment may mean the holder is entitled to a CGT discount if they have made a capital gain.

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Avoiding disqualification from SG amnesty

The superannuation guarantee (‘SG’) amnesty ended on 7 September 2020.  Employers who disclosed unpaid SG amounts and qualified for the amnesty are reminded that they must either pay in full any outstanding amounts they owe, or set up a payment plan and meet each ongoing instalment amount so as  to avoid being disqualified and losing the benefits of the amnesty.

The ATO will be sending employers reminders to pay disclosed amounts, if they have not previously engaged with the ATO.  Employers will have 21 days to avoid being disqualified from the amnesty.

Registered agents can assist their employer clients who qualified for the SG amnesty avoid disqualification.  In particular, if a client needs to set up a payment plan, agents can do this (online) on their behalf, if the employer:

  •    has an existing debit amount under $100,000 (total balance or overdue amounts);
  •    does not already have a payment plan for that debit amount; and
  •    has not defaulted on a payment plan for the relevant account more than twice in the past two years.

 

The ATO has advised that employers who are disqualified from the amnesty will:

  •    be notified in writing of the quarter they are disqualified for;
  •    be charged an administration component of $20 per employee for each disqualified quarter;
  •    have their circumstances considered when deciding a Part 7 penalty remission (this is an additional penalty of up to 200% of the unpaid SG amount that may be imposed under the SG laws); and
  •    be issued with a notice of amended assessment.

 

Employers who continue to qualify for the SG amnesty are reminded that they can only claim a tax deduction for amounts paid on or before 7 September 2020 (i.e., the amnesty end date).

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Paper PAYG and GST quarterly instalment notices

The ATO has previously advised that it will no longer issue paper activity statements after electronic lodgment.  Instead, electronic activity statements will be available for access online, three to four days after the activity statement is generated.

As part of its digital improvement program, the ATO stopped issuing paper quarterly PAYG and GST instalment notices (forms R, S & T), where taxpayers had a digital preference on ATO systems.  The September 2020 notice was the last one issued to these taxpayers.

However, the ATO has received feedback from tax professionals that issues have arisen for some of their clients as a result of this change.  For example, some taxpayers who are self-lodgers rely on the receipt of the paper statements as a reminder that their instalments are due.

As an interim solution, the ATO said it will issue paper PAYG and GST quarterly instalment notices starting with the March 2021 quarterly notices.

For taxpayers impacted by this change, the ATO will work with their registered agents to take their circumstances into account.  The ATO has a range of practical support options available, including lodgment deferrals and payment plans that agents can access online, on behalf of their clients.

For self-lodgers, the ATO has issued an email notification reminding them that their December 2020 PAYG and GST instalment notices are due for payment soon (by 2 March 2021).

The ATO said it will continue to work with the tax profession to develop a digital solution for the PAYG and GST instalment notices that is workable for registered agents and their clients.

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Changes to STP reporting concessions from 1 July 2021

Small employers (19 or fewer employees) are currently exempt from reporting ‘closely held’ payees through Single Touch Payroll (‘STP’).  Also, a quarterly STP reporting option applies to micro employers (four or fewer employees).  These concessions will end on 30 June 2021.

The STP reporting changes that apply for these employers from 1 July 2021 are outlined below.

Closely held payees (small employers)

From 1 July 2021, small employers must report payments made to closely held payees through STP using any of the options below.  Other employees must continue to be reported by each pay day.

A ‘closely held payee’ is an individual who is directly related to the entity from which they receive payments.  For example, this could include family members of a family business, directors or shareholders of a company and beneficiaries of a trust.

Payments to such payees can be reported via STP (from 1 July 2021) using any of the following options:

  1. Report actual payments on or before the date of payment.
  2. Report actual payments quarterly on or before the due date for the employer’s quarterly activity statements.
  3. Report a reasonable estimate quarterly on or before the due date for the employer’s quarterly activity statements. Note that consequences may apply for employers that under-estimate amounts reported for closely held payees.

Small employers with only closely held payees have up until the due date of the payee’s tax return to make a finalisation declaration.  Employers will need to speak with these payees about when their individual income tax return is due.

Micro employers

From 1 July 2021, the quarterly reporting concession will only be considered for eligible micro employers experiencing ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Common examples of when the ATO would generally consider it to be fair and reasonable to grant a deferral due to exceptional or unforeseen circumstances include natural disasters, other disasters or events, serious illness or death.

Additionally, ‘exceptional circumstances’ for access to the STP quarterly reporting concession from 1 July 2021 may include where a micro employer has:

  •    seasonal or intermittent workers; or
  •    no or unreliable internet connection.

The ATO says it will consider any other unique circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

It should be noted that registered agents must apply for this concession and lodge STP reports, quarterly, on behalf of their eligible micro employer clients.

The STP reports are due the same day as the employer’s quarterly activity statements.

If an employer prefers to report monthly, the STP reports must be lodged on or before the 21st day of the following month.

Finalisation declarations will need to be submitted by 14 July each year.

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How to avoid getting dodgy advice

The ATO is warning taxpayers who may be thinking about pausing, changing or closing their business, due to the current economic conditions, to be wary of untrustworthy advisers who may recommend inappropriate or illegal behaviour.

This could include illegal phoenix activity, where businesses intentionally remove their assets prior to winding up so that they can be used in a copy of the original business.

Red flags include:

  • people the taxpayer doesn’t know cold calling with advice;
  • unsolicited letters, emails or phone calls after the taxpayer has been through court action with a creditor;
  • advice to transfer assets to a third party without payment;
  • refusal to provide advice in writing;
  • advice suggesting they have a sympathetic liquidator who will protect the taxpayer’s personal interests and assets;
  • advice to withhold certain records from the bankruptcy trustee or liquidator, or provide incorrect information to authorities; and
  • advice to deal with the liquidator or trustee on the taxpayer’s behalf.

The ATO instead recommends anyone thinking of pausing, changing or closing their business to contact a qualified professional, such as an accountant, lawyer, or registered liquidator.

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ATO Visa Data Matching Program

The ATO will acquire visa data from the Department of Home Affairs for 2020/21 through to 2022/23, relating to approximately 10 million individuals for each financial year.

The data will be used to identify non-compliance with obligations under taxation and superannuation laws, including registration, lodgment, reporting and payment responsibilities.