Tax Alert March 2021

Tax Alert March 2021

Individuals and small business owners who have taken advantage of the government’s COVID-19 support programs will find themselves increasingly under the tax man’s microscope in coming months. This is just one of the key developments occurring in the world of tax at the moment.

Data matching program expanded

The Tax Commissioner has applied for additional data from Services Australia to allow the ATO to verify the eligibility of applicants for the government’s key COVID-19 support schemes.

The ATO will begin matching the data against eligibility criteria for the JobKeeper, temporary early access to superannuation, Temporary Cash Flow Boost and JobMaker Hiring Credit schemes.

Objectives of the program include “verification of applications and identify compliance issues”, identifying individuals and businesses “failing to meet their registration and/or lodgement obligations”, and ensuring all tax and super reporting obligations have been met.

Expenses shortcut extended again

Employees using the shortcut method to calculate their working from home expenses can continue using this method after the ATO extended the deadline for the scheme to 30 June 2021.

The ATO has updated its guidance to enable employees and business owners working from home between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021 to claim a flat 80 cents per work hour for running expenses during this period.

Clock runs down on STP exemption

The ATO has reminded small employers (with 19 or less staff) exemptions from the single touch payroll (STP) system end on 30 June 2021.

From 1 July 2021, employers who are currently exempt from reporting closely held payees will need to report them through STP. (Closely held payees include family members, directors or shareholders of the business and beneficiaries of a trust). They will, however, have the option to report the information on a quarterly basis.

Super choice expanded for employees

On 1 January 2021, the rules relating to choice of super fund changed and the ATO is warning employers they must comply.

Any new workplace determination or enterprise agreement made on or after 1 January 2021 must now offer employees the right to choose the super fund into which their employer pays their compulsory Super Guarantee (SG) contributions. This applies to both existing and new hires.

Once an employee has nominated a fund using the ATO’s Standard Choice Form, the employer must pay their SG contributions into that fund. Employers who fail to comply risk being audited and penalised by the ATO.

JobMaker Hiring Credit

Businesses considering hiring new employees aged 35 and under may be eligible for a government payment through the new JobMaker Hiring Credit scheme.

Employers will receive payments of up to $200 a week for each eligible employee aged 16 to 29, or $100 a week for an employee aged 30 to 35. Eligibility criteria include holding an ABN, being registered for PAYG withholding tax, reporting through STP, and being current with your income tax and GST lodgement obligations.

Businesses can register for JobMaker on the ATO website at any time until the program closes.

Business concessions start

Small to medium-sized businesses with an annual turnover of $10 to $50 million are eligible for several new tax concessions from 1 April 2021.

The concessions were announced and legislated late in 2020. Under the new rules, eligible businesses are exempt from 47% FBT when they provide employees with car parking or work-related portable devices (such as phones and laptops).

Eligible businesses are also able to access simplified trading stock rules and remit their PAYG instalments based on GDP adjusted notional tax. From 1 July, they will have up to two years to seek an amendment to a tax assessment.

Claiming GST credits

The ATO is reminding businesses about the rules relating to claiming GST credits for business purchases.

Although a credit is available for most business purchases, valid claims cannot be made if the supplier is not registered for GST, even if their tax invoice lists an ABN and GST amount. The ATO recommends businesses use the ABN Lookup tool to check their suppliers prior to making a claim.

If a purchase is used for both personal and business use, you need to work out the business use portion of the GST and only claim that portion.