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Crackdown on multinational corporate tax evasion

Treasurer Joe Hockey has announced that he has requested the Tax Commissioner ramp up his efforts to prevent multinational corporations from generating profits in Australia before moving them offshore to avoid tax responsibilities.

Tax evasion tactics by multinational corporations have been an ongoing problem in Australia. There has recently been a renewed interest in the issue as revelations about the negligible Australian tax paid by high profile companies, such as Google and Apple, have come to the fore.

The plan to tackle this issue includes reinforcing Australia’s capitalisation rules, collaborating with other countries and strengthening communication between the government and the Tax Commissioner.

Multinational corporate tax evasion is not just damaging to the Australian budget. It also means that there is unfair competition for Australian businesses who are doing the right thing in meeting their tax obligations.

Posted on 8 September '14, under tax. No Comments.

Using the CGT discount

A capital gain is a profit made from the sale of an asset, for example, real estate investments (the family home is exempt), a business or shares. Your capital gain is calculated as the difference between what you paid for the asset and what you eventually sold it for. A capital gain is considered by the ATO as part of your assessable income and is taxed at your marginal rate.

There is, however, a discount that may be applied to capital gains. If you have held the asset for over twelve months, you may be eligible for a 50% discount on the CGT. The CGT discount is also available to trusts and superannuation funds, although for superannuation funds the discount is only 33.3%. The discount is not available to companies.

Of course, there are occasions where you may have to dispose of an asset for less than you originally paid for it. Unfortunately, you are unable to use ‘capital losses’ to reduce your assessable income. However, you are able to carry the loss over to the subsequent income year and use it to offset future CGT liabilities.

Posted on 2 September '14, under tax. No Comments.

ATO releases ruling on bitcoin

The ATO has issued its decision on the treatment of bitcoin, and other crypto-currencies, for tax purposes. Bitcoin is a form of virtual digital currency that has been gaining popularity worldwide. Based on the  average number of daily transactions, bitcoin has overtaken western transfer and is fast approaching PayPal as the world’s most popular form of online transaction.

Bitcoin is unregulated and operates outside of the global financial system. The ATO has ruled that making purchases with bitcoin essentially amounts to bartering, and as such the virtual currency will be treated as an asset, rather than as money, for tax purposes.

In the eyes of the ATO, bitcoin will be treated similarly to shares. There is no need for individuals to declare bitcoin to the ATO until they dispose of it, in which case it may be be subject to capital gains tax. Individuals may also use bitcoin to purchase up to $10 000 worth of personal items, and it will be considered as personal assets use. If an employee receives bitcoin as part of their remuneration package then this may be subject to fringe benefits tax.

Bitcoin enthusiasts across the country have expressed disappointment in the decision, claiming that it will drive investment in bitcoin offshore, and cut Australia our of the emerging digital currency economy.

Posted on 25 August '14, under tax. No Comments.

New law enacted to prevent dividend washing

A new law that prevents taxpayers from benefiting from dividend washing has been enacted. The new integrity rule is intended to help taxpayers understand their tax responsibilities and comply with the legislation.

Dividend washing occurs when a shareholder seeks to claim two set of franking credits. This is done by selling shares after a dividend payout has been announced ex-dividend, meaning that both the dividend and the franking credit remain with the investor. The investor then repurchases shares in the same company that have both the dividend and the franking credit attached. Thus, they have come to be in possession of two sets of franking credits for one set of shares.

Investors who have entered into dividend washing in the past few years should have received written correspondence from the ATO requesting that they amend their tax returns for the relevant income years. If amendment requests are received by the ATO before the date specified in the letter no penalties will be applied. Individuals who have engaged in dividend washing but have not received correspondence from the ATO will be offered the same penalty remission if amendments are made by 22September 2014.

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

Changes to fuel tax credits

Backdating to July 1 2014, the carbon charge will be removed from all fuels. The ATO has indicated that this will result in some changes to fuel tax credits. There will be an increase in fuel tax credits available for a range of off road activities, while credits will no longer be available to specified non-transport activities in agriculture, fishing and forestry. Businesses that are registered for GST are also now able to claim more for gaseous fuels used for transport purposes.

If you are unsure as to how the changes may impact you the ATO has provided a range of online calculators and tools that you can access when completing your business activity statement, ensuring that your claim is accurate.

It has also been proposed, under the Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Special Account Bill 2014, that there will be a reintroduction of bi-annual indexation of excise and excise equivalent customs duty on all fuels. The indexation would be aligned to the consumer price index (CPI) and aviation fuels would be exempt. The additional revenue would be directed into improving roads and infrastructure, with the aim of improving national productivity.

Posted on 30 July '14, under tax. No Comments.

Carbon tax repealed

The Abbott government has delivered on its long-standing election promise to repeal the carbon tax, effective from July 1, 2014. A condition of the repeal receiving crucial crossbench support from the Palmer United Party (PUP) was that savings be directly passed on to consumers and small businesses. As a result, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has been given extended powers to fine parties failing to do so.

Initially this stipulation created anxiety amongst the business community, as the government failed to clarify whether or not all businesses would be required to provide proof of passing on savings. However, it has now been established that the ACCC is only required to ensure that electricity, natural gas and refrigerant gas companies pass on their carbon tax savings.

The repeal has been largely welcomed by the business community, with predictions indicating that electricity prices will fall by approximately 9%, and gas prices by 7%. However, energy providers have indicated that there may be other factors that are contributing to rising prices, including increased electricity infrastructure spending and new legislation allowing the international sale of Australian gas. This means that the energy savings from the carbon tax repeal may not be as significant as originally thought.

Businesses operating in other industries have indicated that their capacity to pass savings on to consumers will be largely dependent upon the savings that they incur from their suppliers. Some small business owners, in particular providers of luxury goods, have expressed the hope that they will experience a boost in business as consumers experience an increase in their disposable incomes. Whether or not this eventuates will depend largely on whether or not there is, in fact, a significant decrease in energy costs, as well as the fate of the tax breaks and cash handouts implemented by the Gillard government to counteract the costs of the carbon tax for households.

Posted on 24 July '14, under tax. No Comments.

Using myTax

The ATO has introduced a new streamlined online tax return process for individuals with very straightforward tax affairs. MyTax is made up of just ten screens and is intended for people whose only income derived from wages, salary, dividends, bank interest, allowances,  and/or other Australian government payments.

To use myTax your only tax deductions need to be from work-related expenses, expenses related to income from interest or dividends, gifts/donations, and the costs associated with handling your own tax affairs. The only tax offsets that can be used in myTax are the senior Australians and pensioners’ tax offset, the zone and overseas forces tax offset, and/or the private health insurance rebate.

If you wait until early August to file your tax return with myTax, the ATO will be able to pre-fill all of your relevant tax information from the past financial year. This means that all you will have to do is provide your identification details, review the information and then submit.

In order to use myTax, you will need to have an existing myGov account. Both myGov and myTax are available on smart phones and tablet devices.

If you are unsure whether myTax is appropriate for you then the ATO has provided a full set of questions that you can use to determine whether or not you meet the criteria. Individuals who have tax affairs that are too complex for myTax should use the existing eTax system.

Posted on 8 July '14, under tax. No Comments.

Warning issued over tax avoidance schemes

The ATO has recently advised taxpayers to seek a second opinion on before entering into any tax avoidance schemes.

According to the ATO tax avoidance schemes are designed to appear legitimate, even to savvy investors. In particular taxpayers should be wary of complex financing schemes that rely heavily upon round robin financing schemes and non-recourse loans. Essentially, if the scheme involves reducing you’re your taxable income by declaring deductions that you are not entitled to, it is likely to be illegal.

If a provider tries to dissuade you from telling people about the scheme, or discourages you from seeking a second opinion, you should take this as a warning sign. Claims of ‘risk free’ or ‘zero risk’ tax avoidance schemes should also be treated with suspicion.

Entering into an illegal tax avoidance scheme, even if you were unaware that it was illegal, can result in a hefty tax burden.

Posted on 30 June '14, under tax. No Comments.

Claiming a computer as a tax deduction

If you use a piece of equipment, such as a computer, for work related activities then you may be able to claim it as a tax deduction. If the item is valued at over $300 then you cannot claim the entire cost in the year of purchase. Instead, you will need to calculate the depreciation in value each year.

When equipment is used for both professional and personal use, as computers so often are, then you can only claim a tax deduction for the equivalent portion that is used for professional purposes. For example, if you use the computer half for work and half for leisure then you may only claim half of the value of the depreciation of the computer as a tax deduction.

The ATO has indicated that it will be focusing on tech related expenses this year, with a particular focus on ensuring that individuals accurately report the work/personal breakdown of use. It is advisable to retain all documentation, including diary entries if necessary, relating to the use of a computer you are claiming as a tax deduction.

There are also other costs associated with a computer used for work purposes that can be used as tax deductions, such as the interest paid on a loan for a computer or the cost of repairs. Upgrades cannot be claimed as repairs and, if they cost over $300, should be included as a separate depreciating expense.

Posted on 25 June '14, under tax. No Comments.

Claiming tax deductions on investment properties

If you own a rental property or are considering purchasing an investment property, it is important to be aware of the tax deductions you can claim. Claiming all of the legitimate deductions on your investment property can save you a lot of money. On the other hand accidently claiming illegitimate deductions can cost you a lot of time and energy, potentially even leading to an investigation by the ATO.

There are some immediate deductions that you can make on a rental property, for example, advertising fees, agent costs, repairs and administrative expenses. Legal fees that are directly related to renting a property, for example those associated with debt recovery, may be claimed. However, you may not claim legal costs incurred at other times, for example the solicitor’s fees when you purchased an investment property.

There are also long term costs associated with investment properties that you can claim as deductions. These include borrowing costs, depreciation on equipment and deductions on structural improvements.

Many costs associated with the loan you have taken out on an investment property are legitimate deductions, but interest on the loan is not. Examples of legitimate costs include mortgage registration, stamp duty on mortgage and loan application fees. These deductions are applicable to loans of five years and under (for longer loans the deductible period is limited to five years).

As the value of the equipment with a limited life, for example carpet, depreciates you may claim this as a tax deduction. The ATO website has a list of the depreciation rates on different moveable household items. The entire cost of items under $300 may be included in your depreciation claim.

If you have spent money on an extension, structural improvement or renovation for your rental property then this cost can be claimed as a long-term deduction (usually 2.5% p.a. over 40 years). This does not cover work done immediately after purchase, and you can only claim this for periods that the property has actually been rented out.

Posted on 5 June '14, under tax. No Comments.

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