December and summer have finally arrived, and you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief as 2021 draws to a close.
As November drew to a close all eyes were on the new strain of the coronavirus, Omicron. Global shares fell sharply on fears that Omicron will spread more easily than other variants and existing vaccines may be less effective against it. Europe is already facing a spike in COVID cases and new lockdowns. Global oil prices fell 10% on Black Friday (November 26) on the threat of renewed border closures and reduced demand for air and road travel. Markets are likely to remain volatile until there is confirmation that a new vaccine can be created quickly, which experts believe is likely.
Elsewhere, the economic smoke signals were mixed. Australian company profits rose 4% in the September quarter, and 5.4% over the year, supported by government subsidies. Not surprisingly, the NAB business confidence index rose 11.2 points in October to 20.8, its second highest result on record. But wages growth is lagging, up 0.6% in the September quarter and 2.2% over the year. Unemployment increased from 4.6% to 5.2% in October while underemployment rose from 9.2% to 9.5%. While retail sales jumped 4.9% in October as lockdowns ended in some states, consumers remain jumpy. The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating fell over 2 points in October to 106.0. Adding to hip pocket nerves, the national average unleaded petrol price hit a record high of 170.4c a litre in November. The Aussie dollar fell 4c in November to US71.2c.
Whatever your plans for the holidays, we wish you and your family a happy festive season.
Tax Alert December 2021
As COVID-19 turbulence starts to settle, the ATO is moving away from its supportive position and returning to its more usual compliance focus.
That means taxpayers need to be aware their financial affairs will come under renewed attention in the year ahead.
Data gathering programs increase
In recent months the ATO has announced programs to gather data on various aspects of Australians’ financial lives to use in its ongoing data-matching projects.
Recent programs include gathering data on property management and rental bonds, cryptocurrency, online selling and novated leases for the upcoming financial year (2022-23). The ATO will also be collecting data on payments made by government agencies such as Comcare, the Department of Health, the NDIA, Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the clean energy regulator.
Taxpayers who buy and insure high-value lifestyle assets will also be under the microscope, with the ATO looking to collect details that will “assist with profiling [to obtain] a holistic view of a taxpayer’s wealth”. Under this program, the taxman will be obtaining information from insurance companies for the period 2020-21 to 2022-23 about assets exceeding certain nominated thresholds.
These high-value assets include boats valued over $100,000, motor vehicles (including caravans) and thoroughbred horses valued over $65,000, fine art worth over $100,000 per item and aircraft valued over $150,000. Data obtained from insurers will include individual client identification and policy details.
Overseas gifts or loans under scrutiny
The ATO has also announced it will be increasing scrutiny of undeclared foreign gifts or loans from related overseas entities, including family and friends.
The regulator says it has encountered many situations where Australian taxpayers are deriving assessable income or capital gains offshore but failing to declare these in their income tax returns. The ATO will be looking at arrangements where taxpayers are attempting to avoid tax on foreign assessable income by disguising amounts as gifts or loans.
Anyone receiving genuine monetary gifts or loans should keep supporting documentation. Inheritances count as gifts, so if you receive an inheritance from overseas, get a certified copy of the person’s will or estate distribution statement.
Focus on working from home deductions
On a positive note, if you are still working from home due to COVID-19, you can continue using the shortcut method for claiming deductions until 30 June 2022.
The ATO says it’s currently reviewing the 52 cents per hour fixed rate method to make it easier and simpler to use, given more people will be working from home in the longer term.
Backpacker tax under fire
Employers paying working holidaymakers will need to keep a close eye on developments in this area following a decision by the High Court that tax rates applied to these employees is discriminatory as it is based on nationality.
The decision could affect the applicability of the backpacker tax for workers from countries with double tax agreements with Australia. According to the ATO, this means working holidaymakers from Chile, Finland, Germany, Japan, Norway, Turkey, UK, Germany or Israel.
The ATO is currently considering the implications of the High Court decision and will provide further guidance for employers. In the meantime, employers should continue using the tax rates in the ATO’s published withholding tables for backpackers.
Self-education expense threshold to go
The government has made good on its May 2021 Budget promise to remove the $250 non-deductible threshold for claiming work-related self-education expenses.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No.7) Bill 2021 is currently before Parliament. If passed, it will remove the current threshold for taxpayers claiming self-education expenses. It’s also expected to simplify the claims process in your annual tax return.
The start date for the change is likely to be 1 April or 1 July 2022.
Reminder on super stapling
If you are an employer, don’t forget to request super fund details from new employees, now the government’s super stapling rules are in place.
If a new employee doesn’t choose a super fund, you must request their stapled super fund from the ATO if they have one. This fund is linked to them and must be used for your Superannuation Guarantee (SG) contributions unless the employee requests otherwise.
If you would like help getting your tax affairs in order for the new year, contact our office today.
Single Touch Payroll (STP) changes ahead
Just when you thought you had all your systems bedded down for Single Touch Payroll (STP), from the start of next year the government is expanding the information on employee payments you need to provide.
So, what will the changes mean for your small business?
STP reporting to expand
Under the current STP rules, employers are required to report payroll information to the ATO each time they pay an employee salary or wages, pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding or superannuation.
In the 2019-20 Federal Budget, the government announced an expansion of the data it collected through the STP system starting from 1 January 2022.
The change is called STP Phase 2 and under the new rules, employers will be required to report additional information on or before each pay day.
According to the government, the aim of STP Phase 2 is to “reduce the reporting burden for employers who need to report information about their employees to multiple government agencies”.
The additional data collected from 1 January 2022 will also be used in the administration of the social security system.
New STP Phase 2 requirements
The key changes in your reporting include providing extra information on the employment basis for each of your employees (full-time, part-time or casual).
You will also need to provide information on the tax treatment of their salary. This is to help the ATO identify the factors influencing how you calculated your employee’s PAYG withholding. For instance, where your employee has notified you that they have a Study Training Support Loan.
When an employee ceases employment, you will now need to provide information on the reason, for example, voluntary separation, redundancy or due to illness. This will remove the need for you to provide former employees with separation certificates.
Phase 2 also gives you the option to include child support garnishees and child support deductions in your STP report, reducing the requirement to provide a separate remittance advice report to the Child Support Registrar.
More detailed information
Reporting of income types and country codes is also being introduced with STP Phase 2 to help the ATO identify employee payments with specific tax consequences. The government believes this will allow your employees to complete their personal tax returns more easily.
A significant change with Phase 2 will be the new requirement to separately itemise the components of any gross payment amounts such as bonuses and commissions, directors’ fees, paid leave, salary sacrifice, overtime and allowances.
Allowances will need to be reported separately, not just expense allowances that may be deductible for your employees. Any lump sum payments you make to employees need to be reported under new labels.
Although you need to provide additional information in your STP reports, the way you submit the report, due dates and types of payments covered in your reports will stay the same. Your tax and super obligations and the requirements for end of year finalisation will also stay the same.
Benefits from the STP expansion
The government claims employers will receive a number of benefits from the introduction of STP Phase 2.
A key one is a reduction in the duplicate information you are required to provide to different government agencies, reducing unnecessary interactions with these departments.
You will also no longer be required to send tax file number (TFN) and withholding declaration information to the ATO, as this will be captured in the employment conditions section of your STP report.
By more clearly defining the components making up an employee’s gross income, the government says it will be easier for employers to understand their various obligations.
Assistance with new reporting requirements
The government is working closely with digital service providers to ensure they update their software, so it is ready to commence collecting the additional information from 1 January 2022.
The specific information your business needs to provide for STP Phase 2 depends on the particular software product you use, and how you manage your payroll.
Contact us if you would like more information or help transitioning your business to the new STP requirements.
Australia is ripe for a road trip
With much of the country opening up after a long period of travel disruptions due to COVID-19, Australian’s now, more than ever, are taking the opportunity to get on the road and discover our own backyard. And, if you’re able to work flexibly, you may be able to extend that holiday a little longer or work each day whilst you’re on the road.
You may think caravanning was just for the ‘grey nomad community’ or ‘we’re too young to be travelling in a caravan’ but times have certainly changed. Due to our international borders being closed for so long, road trips are becoming increasingly more popular and so is the mode of transport we use to get around.
Thor Industries, owners of Jayco and Airstream, began seeing a marked increase in sales back in May and June 2020, and sales are continuing to grow. So much so, they now have a backlog on orders well into 2022.i
If you are thinking of taking a road trip, there are a number of considerations when choosing the type of caravan or RV for you and your family. You may want a caravan or trailer that is smaller and easier to tow on the back of your car or 4WD, or a large and luxurious RV may be more your style, where you are able to tow a small SUV at the back for off-roading.
Why choose a road trip?
When it comes to road trip destinations in Australia, we are totally spoilt for choice and Mother Nature offers some spectacular scenery along the way. Whether you prefer hugging the magnificent coastline, exploring the lush tropical north, or heading inland and going bush, there is something special for everyone.
While a road trip provides the opportunity to experience some of Australia’s beautiful landscapes, studies have found that being amongst nature also helps alleviate stress and anxiety, improves our physical health and can also boost our mood.ii
There are many other benefits to leaving the big smoke behind and travelling to regional areas to see and experience new and exciting things. You’ll no doubt spend money in most of the towns that you stop in on your journey, boosting the local economy when buying locally made arts and crafts, local produce, or perhaps you’ll book a tour if they are available.
Where to go – that is the big question…
Australia is made for a road trip and there are plenty of Instagram worthy photo opportunities to take advantage of too, so whether it be long or short, here are some of the most scenic drives in our country:
Cairns to Cape York (QLD): Cape York Peninsula (northernmost point in Australia), Mossman Gorge
Great Ocean Road (VIC: The Grotto, Loch Ard Gorge, 12 Apostles
NT – Nature’s Way (NT): Kakadu National Park, Katherine Gorge, Litchfield National Park
Perth to Albany and return (WA): Silo trail, Stirling Range National Park
Waterfall way (NSW): Bellingen, Dorigo National Park, Ebor Falls,
West Coast Wilderness (TAS): Cradle Mountain, Lake St Clair, Pencil Pine Falls
The Epicurean Way (SA): Fleurieu Peninsula, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and Barossa wine regions
You may be a seasoned caravanner or a first timer, but here are some travel tips to help you and your family on your next adventure:
Ensure everything is mechanically sound before you head off. Check if are there any weight limits along the way, what are the roads like – are all the roads sealed or will there be dirt tracks or rivers you may need to cross? Check the weather forecast. Pack essential items like medical kits, physical road maps as there may not be phone reception in some areas and if necessary, pre-book accommodation sites.
If you’re travelling with children, you may need to stop more frequently, so you must factor in the additional time it will take to reach your destination – timing is everything.
All in all, remember to appreciate what we have in this big, beautiful country, it truly is one of a kind. As the saying goes – ‘take only photos and leave only footprints’ and prepare yourself for what could be the holiday of a lifetime.
This Newsletter provides general information only. The content does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider taking financial advice tailored to your personal circumstances. We have representatives that are authorised to provide personal financial advice. Please see our website www.evogroup.net.au or call 02 9098 5055 for more information on our available services.