Claiming vehicle expenses using a logbook

You can claim motor vehicle travel that is directly connected with your work as a tax deduction.

To do so it is important to be able to distinguish between what is considered work related and what is private. Travel to and from your normal place of employment is generally considered private, however the ATO has provided examples of the exceptions where travel is considered to be work related:

• You are required to carry bulky tools or equipment (such as an extension ladder) for work and are unable to leave the tools on site in a secure location.
• You’re attending conferences or meetings.
• Delivering items or collecting supplies.
• Travel between two separate places of employment, provided one of the places is not your home (for example, when you have a second job).
• Travel from your home or normal workplace to an alternative workplace and back to your normal workplace or directly home.
• When your work requires you to perform itinerant work.

If you fall into any of the above categories, or one similar there are two possible methods to make a claim on motor vehicle expenses in your tax return. The first is known as the cents per kilometer method. As the name suggest the cents per kilometer method uses a pre-determined rate established by the ATO (multiply by the number of kilometers traveled throughout the year). There is currently a maximum limit of 5,000 kilometers per vehicle.

The alternative is to use the logbook method which establishes the work-related motor vehicle use by way of a percentage. The percentage is then applied to your motor vehicle expenses associated with that vehicle.

To work out your work-related percentage, you must record all business journeys made in your own motor vehicle over a 12-week consecutive period, detailing;

• When the log book period starts and finishes
• The start and finish odometer readings for the logbook period
• Date of each journey
• Start and finish time of each journey
• The number of kilometres travelled for each journey
• The purpose for the journey
• The total number of kilometres travelled during the 12-week period.

At the end of the 12-week period the work-related percentage can be determined. To do this, divide your business use kilometres by your total kilometres, then multiply by 100. For example: You’ve travelled a total of 5,000Km; 3,000km relate to work, the calculation is therefore 3,000 / 5,000 x 100 = 60%.

Now that you’ve determined your work-related percentage, it’s important to know what expenses you are entitled to include as part of your claim. These expenses include:

• The running cost such as fuel and oil
• Registration
• Insurance
• Repairs and maintenance
• Depreciation
• Interest on motor vehicle loan
• Lease payments

Your total motor vehicle expenses are added up and then apportioned based on your logbook percentage. Continuing on with the above example, your logbook percentage is 60% and your total motor vehicle expenses are $10,000 so your deduction will be 10,000 x 0.60 = $6,000.
Reminder: You will need to keep receipts for all expenses to be able to claim them.

Pro tip #1

A logbook has a potential effective life of five years. A new logbook is required if your motor vehicle or job role changes.

Pro tip #2

If you started to use your car for business purposes less than 12 weeks before the end of the income year, you can continue to keep a logbook into the next year so it covers the required 12 weeks.

Pro tip #3

If you want to use the logbook method for two or more cars, the logbook for each car must cover the same period. The 12-week period you choose should be representative of the business use of all cars.

Author: Georgia Burgess
Email: Georgia@faj.com.au

The ATO crackdown on cash businesses

Over 85% of Australians believe it’s unfair to use cash to avoid paying their fair share of tax and the ATO is undertaking an initiative to identify cash businesses that may be avoiding tax.

The ATO are cracking down on businesses that are pushing cash sales by not offering other payment facilities. Restaurants, cafes, pubs, hairdressers, beauty salons and home based businesses are those typically associated with having a high amount of cash transactions. Businesses in those industries are expected to be targeted first.

This doesn’t intend to implicate all businesses in those industries, but it does send a message that the industry is under close scrutiny.

Sophisticated data matching tools have been developed to assist them to identify businesses that are deemed to be high risk. Information is being collected from a number of sources, including banks, other government agencies and industry suppliers. The ATO will also receive information regarding purchasing major items including boats/cars and real property which they can use to deduce whether or not your taxable income reported in your tax returns reflects the lifestyle you are living.

Equally the ATO will compare reported income and expenses to industry benchmarks to identify anomalies.

Most businesses do the right thing and will have nothing to worry about, however an ATO audit can be costly and time consuming, even when no wrong doing is found. Many accounting businesses offer accounting audit insurance to mitigate these costs.

Author: Nick Vincent
Email: nick@faj.com.au

What are the benefits of super salary sacrifice?

Salary sacrificing is an arrangement between an employee and their employer whereby part of the employee’s salary is sacrificed for benefits of a similar value. When you salary sacrifice superannuation, you are electing to have part of your salary paid to your superfund instead of receiving this amount as wages. In doing so, you are making before-tax super contributions to your superfund, referred to as concessional contributions.

A major benefit of salary sacrificing super is that you pay less tax on the sacrificed amount. For example, say you are contemplating sacrificing $10,000 of your salary to super. If you salary sacrifice this amount, the $10,000 will be treated as a concessional contribution and therefore will be taxed in your superfund at a rate 15%. If you decide against salary sacrificing, the $10,000 will be taxed as ordinary income at your marginal tax rate, which depending on your income, could be as high as 47%. This means you could potentially have a tax saving of up to 32%. So not only are you boosting your retirement savings when you salary sacrifice super, you are also paying less income tax.

Salary sacrificing to super is more beneficial to individuals with middle to high incomes. If you are in a low income tax bracket, there may be minimised or no tax savings. The downside to salary sacrificing super is that you will not have access to that money until you reach your preservation age and/or meet a condition of release, so it may be more as you get closer to retirement age.

Individuals with incomes of over $250,000 for the 2018 financial year will pay and extra 15% on their concessional contributions due to Division 293. This means any amount sacrificed to super will be taxed at 30%. Although these individuals will be paying more tax on their concessional contributions, they still benefit from salary sacrificing to super as their marginal tax rate would be 47% on ordinary income, meaning they have a tax saving of 17%.

Pro Tip #1:
Concessional contributions include your employer’s 9.5% super guarantee contributions to your superfund as well as your own salary sacrificed contributions. Be aware that the combined total of these cannot exceed $25,000 for the 2018 financial year.

Pro Tip #2:
Another change in the 2018 financial year is that employees can now claim a tax deduction for after tax super contributions within the $25,000 cap. This allows you to make the decision closer to year end and can help with tax planning.

Author: Tessa Jachmann
Email: tessa@faj.com.au

What can I claim in my tax return without receipts?

Tax time can be a chaotic period, so finding your receipts for work related deductions can be a huge hassle. Fortunately, there are some legitimate work related deductions that can be claimed without proof of receipt. Taxpayers may be entitled to claim the following:

Up to 5000 kilometres of work related travel
This might include carrying bulky tools and travel required out of office by your employer.

Laundry and maintenance
Maintenance of work related clothing such as compulsory uniform, protective clothing and occupational specific clothing may be claimed to a maximum of $150 without proof of receipt.

Home office expenses
You may be entitled to claim for the costs of work you have done at home. If so, then simply record the amount of hours worked per week, multiply it by the amount of weeks worked during the financial year and then by a set rate (cents per hour) as set by the ATO.

Claiming work related deductions up to $300 at item D5 in your tax return
This can include any stationery or tools purchased to assist your work.

Pro tip:
Although these claims require no substantiation via receipt, the ATO still requires any claim to be genuine and incurred. The ATO may seek further information about the legitimacy of the claim. It is best to keep a record to support the basis of any claims to mitigate the risk of further investigation by the ATO.

Author: Lachlan Hunn
Email: lachlan@faj.com.au

Single Touch Payroll

What is Single Touch Payroll?

Single touch payroll (STP) is a reporting change for employers that the Australian Government are currently rolling out. Essentially it is streamlined reporting from your accounting software directly to the ATO.

What this means for you the employer

From 1st July 2018, if you have 20 employees or more, you can say goodbye to end of year ATO reporting for payroll. Information typically provided to the ATO at the end of financial year such as salary and wages, pay-as-you-go PAYG withholding and superannuation must now be reported to the ATO when you pay your employees, every time that you pay them.

How can you report?

To prepare, check with your respective accounting software providers if they will be compliant by the deadline. Employers may need to consider updating their accounting software to report through STP. Most accounting software platform providers like Xero, MYOB and Quickbooks are currently working to be compliant by the deadline and are keeping customers updated on their progress.

Pro Tip:

The Australian Government has announced it will expand Single Touch Payroll to include employers with 19 or less employees from 1 July 2019, subject to legislation being passed in parliament.

Not sure where to start?

Contact one of the friendly team at FAJ Bookkeeping to assist with accounting software compliances.

Author: Jasmina Nesic – Senior Bookkeeper
Email: jasmina@faj.com.au

Changes to rental property deductions

The 2017 federal budget introduced a number of changes to rental property deductions. The proposed changes are to prevent taxpayers from exploiting certain deductions and also to decrease the impact of negative gearing.

From 1 July 2017 deductions for travel expenses for inspecting and maintaining a residential property will not be allowed. This includes all types of travel whether it be via car to collect rent or travel interstate to the property for an inspection. This proposed change will only affect travel by the owner. Costs undertaken by a property manager to inspect the property is still deductible.

Also as of 1 July 2017 there will be a limit to plant and equipment depreciation deductions incurred by investors in residential real estate. Investors who purchase plant and equipment after 9 May 2017 will be able to claim depreciation over the useful life of the asset (as per normal). However, after 9 May 2017 you must have purchased the asset yourself to be able to claim depreciation on the asset. This means if you received the asset on purchase of the property and the previous owner paid for the asset, you can no longer claim depreciation on those assets. This proposed change only applies to ‘plant & equipment’ items, this usually means the asset can be easily moved and is not fixed to the property e.g. dishwasher & ceiling fans.

The proposed two changes will only apply to residential properties. Travel to non residential investment properties (business facilities, factories) is still claimable as before.

Author: Rhys Frewin
Email: rhys@faj.com.au

Employee travel expenses

Employees can claim a deduction for travel expenditure if they incur the expense in gaining and producing their assessable income and if the expense is not of a capital, private or domestic nature.

To work out if you might be eligible to claim a tax deduction for your employee travel expenses answer the below questions:
a) Do your work activities require you to undertake the travel?
b) Are you paid directly or indirectly to take the travel?
c) Are you subject to the direction and control of your employer whilst you are travelling?

If you answered yes to all of the above questions, then you are considered to be undertaking work related travel from a tax perspective.

The types of expenses you can claim for work related travel include meals, accommodation expenses and the cost of transport whilst undertaking the travel such as taxis, ubers and parking expenses. It is essential to keep your receipts of all such expenses in order to claim these in your tax return.

PRO TIP: Travel taken to commence work is considered to be preliminary to the work and therefore not deductible. This is one of the common misconceptions when it comes to travel deductibility. Travel taken by FIFO workers usually falls into this category.

Paid a travel allowance while away?
If you are paid a travel allowance that is expected to cover your expenses while travelling you may be able to rely on the tax offices daily rates for food, accommodation and incidentals without needing to maintain original receipts however only under the circumstance that you are legitimately incurring those expenses.

PRO TIP: Keep a record of the days spent away and the locations you traveled to if you were paid a travel allowance and even if you have kept all your receipts we can determine which method will net you the highest claim.

Author: Brianna Barrett
Email: brianna@faj.com.au

Allowing catch up concessional contributions

Tax deductible contributions made into super are known as concessional contributions and are subject to an annual limit (cap). Concessional contributions include those made by your employer under the super guarantee system, contributions made as part of a salary sacrifice, or personal contributions where you are entitled to claim a tax deduction.

From 1 July 2017, the concessional contributions cap has been reduced to $25,000 for all individuals, regardless of their age. Even individuals aged 50 or more (who were subject to a $35,000 annual concessional contributions cap under the old rules) will now be subject to the lower $25,000 concessional contributions cap.

Additionally, effective from 1 July 2018 – if your superannuation account balance (or combined balances if you have more than one superannuation account) is $500,000 or less at the end of a financial year, then you will have the opportunity to utilise the unused portions of your concessional caps from previous years (up to 5 years worth) in the following financial year, or future years. These are known as catch up concessional contributions.

Carrying forward unused portions of concessional contributions may benefit many individuals, especially those who have had breaks in employment and wish to catch up on previous years.

For example – Jessica has a combined superannuation balance of $200,000 but did not make any concessional contributions in the 2018/2019 financial year as she took time off work to care for her newborn child.

In the 2019/2020 financial year she has the ability to contribute up to $50,000 of concessional contributions into her superannuation account – $25,000 under the annual concessional cap and $25,000 from her unused 2018/2019 cap which has been rolled over.

PRO TIP:

Catch up concessional contributions can be particularly effective to reduce income tax payable in higher income years – for instance when a capital gain exists following the sale of an asset.

Author: Natasha Woodvine
Email: natasha@faj.com.au

The sharing economy and taxation

What is the sharing economy?
The sharing economy connects buyers (users) and sellers (providers) through a facilitator who usually operates an app or a website. There are many sharing economy websites and apps.

Common platforms/situations include:
• Uber and other ride sourcing services
• Uber Eats
• Airtasker
• Deliveroo
• Air BnB
• Stayz
• Privately renting out a room or your whole home
• Renting out parking spaces
• Creative and professional services – eg graphic design or creating websites

What are your income tax obligations?
If you use any of the above platforms or have similar situations you are obliged to declare the income in your tax return. The flipside to this is when you declare the income you can also claim expenses incurred to produce this income.

Do I need to register for GST?
If your annual turnover is below $75,000 you do not need to register for GST. If your turnover is, or is projected to be, $75,000 or more per year, you will need to get an ABN and register for GST. However an exception to this rule is if you are carrying on a ride sourcing service. These are considered a taxi service and subsequently you must register for GST as soon as you start operating, i.e. from the first $1 you earn.

What deductions can I claim?
You can claim income tax deductions relating to income you earn.
To claim a deduction:
• you must have spent the money and not been reimbursed
• the costs must relate to doing your job and can’t be a private expense (such as travel from home to the job)
• work out how much of the total expense is for your business and how much is for personal use
• you must keep appropriate records to prove your claim.

Any fees or commissions charged by a sharing economy facilitator can be claimed as a deduction.

Other deductions will depend on the goods or services you are providing.

What records do I need to keep?
• statements showing income from your facilitators
• receipts of any expenses you want to claim deductions for
• logbooks of odometer readings

Consider using the FAJ app to maintain digital copies of deductions. This can be downloaded from the Play Store and the App Store.

Author: Tessa Jachmann
Email: tessa@faj.com.au

Reducing FBT with the otherwise deductible rule

Non-cash benefits given to an employee by their employer are known as fringe benefits. These benefits are generally subject to Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) which the employer pays but will often factor into the employee’s package. However there are exemptions and concessions that can reduce or eliminate the amount of FBT payable. An example of one of these concessions is known as the otherwise deductible rule.

The otherwise deductible rule allows the FBT to be reduced to the extent that the employee would have been entitled to claim a tax deduction for the benefit, had the employer not paid for it.

Examples of benefits that the otherwise deductible rule might apply to include expense payments, loan interest, airline transport, board, property, and residual fringe benefits. For instance, your employer might pay for the interest on a loan that relates to your rental property.

In most cases, to be able to utilise the otherwise deductible rule a logbook or some other declaration is required to be maintained and provided to the employer for lodgment of the annual FBT return.

The true benefit of using the otherwise deductible rule can come about in a situation where an employee has a high amount of negatively geared property or investments. Investment losses are added back by the ATO for the purposes of Div 293 tax, health insurance rebates and a number of other income thresholds, which can result in a higher tax assessment.

In some circumstances an employee may be able to save tax by salary sacrificing wages and asking their employer to pay interest on an investment loan. This results in no change to your taxable income, but eliminates the “add-backs” for the adjusted income used for the various thresholds.

PRO TIP:
A crucial part of the application of the otherwise deductible rule is that the tax deduction must be a once only deduction – meaning a deduction spread over a number of years won’t qualify. Therefore if an employee would have claimed a deduction for depreciation for a benefit provided by their employer, the otherwise deductible concession won’t be available for that benefit.

Author: Tessa Jachmann
Email: tessa@faj.com.au