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Tax Issues: Expenses: Car, Laundry, Rental

Tax Issues: Expenses: Car, Laundry, Rental

Written by: 
Evan Lowenstein

Tax returns 2019

Please Lodge!!!

As we are well into the tax season, this year we thought it best to remind people that they need to lodge their returns by the middle of May 2020.

In addition we thought it timely to point out that the ATO have 3 main areas that they will be targeting this year. These are the areas of protective clothing and laundry, car expenses and rental properties.

These areas have long been in the sights of the ATO because they are quite easy claims and can be subject to the perception that they are automatic standard claims.

‘Standard claims’ don’t exist in the tax legislation despite much gossip around!

You always need full substantiation of your expenses.

For example, as far as laundry goes, the ATO publish an amount per load of water and electricity that they consider reasonable. These are quite small and trifling amounts but nevertheless need to be used and justified by means of diary notes.

The notes should use the following rates:

  • $1 per load – this includes washing, drying and ironing – if the load is made up only of work-related clothing, and
  • 50 cents per load if other laundry items are included.

 

Car expenses are, as usual, also a focus of ATO scrutiny

The key driver behind this continued audit focus is that recently released ATO statistics for the 2018 income year reveal that over 3.6 million people made work-related car expense claims totalling more than $7.2 billion. Of these, the ATO reported that one in five claims were exactly $3,300, being the maximum substantiation limit under the ‘cents per kilometre’ method (i.e. a claim for 5,000 business kilometres at the 2018 rate of 66 cents per kilometre). Note that, for the 2019 income year, the maximum claimed will be $3,400 due to an increase in the rate to 68 cents.

In order to prevent adverse ATO scrutiny, taxpayers should be reminded that they can only claim trips that are of a business nature and that a careful and reasonable estimate of the numbers of kms should be kept for a length of time that is representative of normal driving patterns.

Of course home to work is not a work trip so shouldn’t be counted.

 

Rental Properties crack down

There is a concentration this year on scrutinising rental property claims. The ATO noted that in 2018, over 2.2 million taxpayers claimed over $47 billion in deductions. Accordingly, rental property deductions pose a major revenue risk. In a review of a random sample of returns claiming rental property deductions, the ATO was extremely concerned that nine out 10 of the returns contained errors. It was further noted that the 1,500 rental property audits conducted in 2018 raised penalties totalling $1.3 million.(ATO Media Release).

Again taxpayers should be mindful of claiming only expenses that relate to rentals and that if holiday homes are rented only private use and part year claims only should be calculated.

Again full receipts and documentation should be kept.

Other expenses being targeted are the amount of interest being claimed and whether repairs are correctly calculated.

 

Other tax issues

‘Employees vs Contractors’

The issue of whether a person is employed or a contractor has been occupying the minds of tax authorities, Accountants and employers for many years.

The ATO have released a check list that can be found at:  https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/Your-workers/Contractor---checklist/

Some of the factors that would weigh towards finding that a contractor relationship exists   include the following:

  • ability to subcontract or delegate – if they pay someone else to do the work;
  • basis of payment – if they will be paid based on an agreed quote they provided;
  • equipment, tools and other assets – if they are providing their own tools and equipment needed to get the job done;
  • commercial risks – if they are legally responsible for their work and liable for fixing mistakes or defects;
  • control over the work – if they decide how the work gets done subject to specific terms in any contract or agreement; and
  • independence – if they operate their own business independently of your business.

 

Salary Sacrifice

Do you currently salary sacrifice part of your income to super? Read on:

Changes to superannuation legislation mean that from next year, employers will no longer be able to opportunistically reduce their mandated 9.5 per cent superannuation guarantee (SG) contributions because you have reduced your cash salary.

This is what employers often do now – pay super only on what is left of your salary after your salary sacrifice. For example, if you are on a salary of $100,000 and salary sacrificing $10,000, the employers used to pay only your compulsory SG on just $90,000 – hence an $8550 contribution.

Instead, employers will now be forced to contribute 9.5 per cent of your total remuneration – or the full $100,000 in your case – regardless of the fact you salary sacrifice 10 per cent of this.

This redresses a crazy situation whereby those who sensibly salary sacrifice into super have seen their employer contributions cut.

For you, the closure of the loophole will mean a $950 gross super top-up each year… for doing nothing whatsoever.

Your new total $9500 gross SG payment, plus the $10,000 gross you additionally salary sacrifice, will overnight lift you to almost 20 per cent concessional – or pre-tax – contributions (importantly, you will still fall below the $25,000 contributions limit).

All employers are required to update their systems to comply with the new law from 1 January 2020.

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