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Welcome to the May 2019 edition of the Spry Roughley Report.

Another election with the result being good for business and investment. There remain big challenges for us all in the years and decades ahead, especially around the evolution and adoption of technology and the need to improve our environmental management. (I read recently that in 30 years there will be more weight of plastic in the oceans than fish!).

I have just returned from our international group meeting in Barcelona where the programme was centred around the use of large scale technology to manage communities. We contrasted the use of such technology in Barcelona, for instance, as an acknowledged world leader in smart city technology, with the application of similar technology in the cities of China. What was striking was the acceptance by many people from around the globe that the erosion of their privacy is a worthwhile trade-off for perceived benefits that the technology can deliver. This is based on the community trust in their Governments and their use of the information garnered. The basis of such trust however is vastly different in Western society, reflecting a trust in the respect for privacy, as compared to China, for example, which apparently reflects the imbedded trust of people in their leadership to use that information to improve the overall social compliance and cohesion. We will hear more about such developments as Australia increasingly deploys monitoring technology to manage our safety and integrates known personal information to improve the services we enjoy. 

Also highlighted was the imperative to manage our personal data security. Keeping electronic devices up to date on all software releases; having more complex passwords, and changing them periodically; using VPN connections wherever available (rather than more open internet options); and adopting two-factor authentication on critical applications such as banking, is essential. The stories of monetary and identity theft, fraud and manipulation are frightening. We all need to heed the calls for better IT hygiene!

Back at home I am struck by the expectation of low and lowering interest rates and the robustness of the economy. The alignment of Government and the regulatory bodies of APRA and the Reserve Bank for stimulus augurs well for the year ahead. There are threats of course, particularly around the Trump - Li standoff, but the opportunities are there to be grasped.

For other more detailed insights, including the legislation for the instant write-off of asset purchases up to $30,000 each, through to June 2020, for businesses with turnover to $50 million, read on……

As usual, please do not hesitate to call us on (02) 9891 6100 should you wish to discuss how any of the points raised in the report specifically affect you, or click here to send us an email.

Warm regards,

Martin

Martin Roughley, Director
Spry Roughley Services Pty Limited



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ATO to ramp up ABN investigations and cancellations

As part of the ATO's work to ensure the integrity of the Australian Business Register, it investigates the business activities of Australian Business Number (ABN) holders when it seems their ABN is no longer being used – for example, if business income isn't being reported, or where the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) deregisters a company. The ATO may then cancel the ABN where there's sufficient evidence the business is inactive. An ABN will also be cancelled when the taxpayer themselves advises they've stopped their business activities, or when they lodge their final tax return.

The ATO is ramping up its focus on cancelling inactive ABNs over the coming months, saying it's refined its models to help identify businesses that are no longer active or whose owners have forgotten to cancel their ABN when they ceased business.

If an ABN is cancelled and the holder is still running a business, or an ABN application is refused, the taxpayer can object to the decision within 60 days.

If your ABN seems to be inactive, the ATO may ask you for evidence that you're setting up or still running a business. We can help you with putting together this information, or with applying to have your ABN reinstated if it's incorrectly cancelled.

Learn more about this...


Fringe benefits tax: rates, thresholds and ATO focus for 2019–2020 

The ATO has issued its annual rulings about rates and thresholds that apply for the new FBT year (1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020), including the benchmark interest rate, the cents-per-kilometre amounts for calculating the value of a fringe benefit from private use of a motor vehicle other than a car, the threshold for the FBT record-keeping exemption, state-by-state amounts for valuing housing benefits, and the the weekly amounts the ATO considers reasonable for food and drink expenses incurred by employees who receiving a living-away-from-home allowance.

We can help you reduce your business's FBT liability with useful strategies like providing employee benefits that are tax-deductible or FBT-exempt, using employee contributions or providing cash bonuses.

The ATO will focus on monitoring a range of FBT issues this year, including looking for employers who fail to report motor vehicle fringe benefits or incorrectly apply exemptions for vehicles; identifying mismatches between amounts on FBT returns and the income amounts on the employer's tax return; looking for incorrect classifications of entertainment expenses; monitoring issues around car parking fringe benefits; and following up with taxpayers who don't lodge FBT returns on time.

Learn more about this...


Guidance on when a company carries on a business 

With reduced company tax rates available for some businesses in recent years, and changes in eligibility for capital gains tax (CGT) small business concessions, it's become increasingly important for us to understand how the law and the ATO deal with concepts like "small business entity" and "carrying on a business".

New guidance is now available on the types of factors the ATO considers when deciding whether a company "carries on a business in a general sense", and how the scope and nature of the business come into play when the ATO determines the tax consequences of a company's activities and transactions.

The guidance emphasises that it's not possible to definitively state whether a company is carrying on a business, but it's a question of fact that the ATO must decide on a case-by-case basis by looking at a range of indicators across the company's features and activities. One key indicator is whether the company's activities have the purpose of making a profit. The ATO accepts that where a profit-making purpose exists, it's likely the other indicators will support a conclusion that the company carries on a business.

Learn more about this...


Super guarantee amnesty not yet law, but $100 million recovered 

The ATO has recovered around $100 million in unpaid superannuation from employers since the 12-month super guarantee amnesty was proposed on 24 May 2018, even though the law hasn't yet changed to put the amnesty in place.

At a Senate Economics Legislation Committee hearing in April, ATO Deputy Commissioner, Superannuation Mr James O'Halloran estimated that there has been a 10–15% increase in the number of employers coming forward to self-report unpaid super guarantee amounts in response to the announcement of the amnesty, despite it not yet being law. Mr O'Halloran said 19,000 employers have come forward within the normal super guarantee charge process for reporting unpaid contributions.

The Bill to implement the amnesty lapsed on 11 April when the Federal Election was called, so the ATO must keep applying the existing law. This means employers who make a voluntary disclosure of historical non-compliance won't be entitled to the proposed concessional treatment, unless and until the amnesty is legislated by a future Parliament. The ATO has said if this eventually happens, it will apply the new law retrospectively to voluntary disclosures made up until 23 May 2019.

Employers who've missed a super payment or haven't paid employees' super on time must lodge a superannuation guarantee charge statement and, while the current law applies, pay all of the relevant amounts, including interest and administration fees.

Learn more about this...


Instant asset write-off with Budget changes now law 

Changes to the instant asset write-off rules have now become law, including measures recently announced in the government's Federal Budget.

The write-off has been extended to medium sized businesses (with aggregated annual turnover of $10 million or more, but less than $50 million), where it previously only applied to small business entities (with aggregated annual turnover of less than $10 million).

The second important change is that the instant asset write-off threshold increases to $30,000, where it was previously $25,000.

The changes apply from 2 April 2019 to 30 June 2020, and the write-off works on a per-asset basis, so eligible businesses can instantly write off multiple assets.

Learn more about this...


Rental deductions: ATO audits to double 

The ATO has warned that it will increase its scrutiny of rental-related deductions this year. It says some people are still claiming travel to residential rental properties, but from 1 July 2017 taxpayers (aside from excluded entities) have no longer been permitted to claim tax deductions for travel expenses related to inspecting, maintaining or collecting rent for a residential rental property.

The ATO expects to more than double the number of its in-depth audits this year to 4,500, with a specific focus on over-claimed interest, capital works claimed as repairs, incorrect apportionment of expenses for holiday homes let out to others and omitted income from accommodation sharing.

Learn more about this...


Shortfall penalties reduced under new ATO initiative 

The ATO has heard from community and tax professionals that people should have a chance to correct their mistakes when they get their tax wrong, provided there isn't dishonest intent behind their errors, and is taking a new approach that seems to be having positive effects.

Under this new approach, if the ATO finds an error on a tax return or an activity statement during an audit or review, the taxpayer may be eligible for automatic penalty relief. This means the ATO will show the taxpayer where they made the error, won't apply a penalty and will educate the taxpayer on getting it right in future.

In the first six months of the initiative, the ATO has assisted thousands of people and small businesses and individuals with errors on their tax returns or activity statements, and shortfall penalties for "failure to take reasonable care" and "not having a reasonably arguable position" have been reduced by 89.2% for individuals and 83.8% for small businesses.

Learn more about this...


How the ATO identifies wealthy individuals and their businesses 

The ATO uses sophisticated data matching and analytic models, drawing on tax returns and referrals from other government agencies or the community, to identify wealthy and high wealth individuals and link them to associated businesses. Given the importance of this group to community confidence in the tax and super systems, the ATO says it has an ongoing focus on engaging with such taxpayers, letting them know what information the ATO holds about them, and offering assistance and services to help "get things right up front". This early engagement is part of the ATO's commitment to improving the client experience, increasing transparency and reducing red tape.

Learn more about this...

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  • Our firm is built on being attentive to and extensively knowledgeable about our clients so we can work with them to help them to both achieve their goals and protect them from risk. We are forward looking in our advice and always aim to be practical and right.
    - Martin Roughley, Managing Director
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