19th Dec, 2022
In a bid to protect consumers, the Federal Government has released a consultation paper seeking views on options to regulate the “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) market. Currently the BNPL space is unregulated in Australia and thus not subject to responsible lending standards, despite involving financial products that offer credit.
The Reserve Bank of Australia estimates that approximately seven million active BNPL accounts made a total of $16 billion in transactions in the 2021– 2022 financial year – around a 37% increase on the previous year. Low value BNPL products that typically provide a spending limit of $2,000 are the most popular in Australia, although spending limits of up to $30,000 are available from some providers for large ticket items such as home upgrades.
Currently, the BNPL space is unregulated in Australia because it falls under the exemptions available to certain types of credit under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009. This means BNPL products aren’t subject to responsible lending standards or the other requirements of the Credit Act, and BNPL providers don’t need to hold an Australian credit licence.
Consumer advocates argue that this regulatory gap has the potential to create harm – “instant” access to BNPL credit for all sorts of purchases might seem great at first, but the lack of requirements for providers to check your financial status and make sure you understand the terms and fees can make it easy for you to end up in unsustainable debt.
The consultation paper proposes three broad options for regulatory intervention. Option 1 would impose a bespoke affordability assessment for BNPL providers under the Credit Act and address any other regulatory gaps in a strengthened industry code to make it fit-for-purpose. Option 2 would require BNPL providers to hold a credit licence and comply with modified responsible lending obligations and a strengthened industry code. Option 3 would impose the strictest regulation, with BNPL providers needing to hold a credit licence and comply with all its regulations and the responsible lending obligations, including taking reasonable steps to check that their BNPL products are suitable for each person who accesses them.
19th Dec, 2022
In a bid to encourage home ownership in NSW, the state government has introduced the First Home Buyer Choice scheme, which allows eligible first home buyers a choice between paying an annual property tax or the traditional stamp duty. Eligible first home buyers of residential properties valued at up to $1.5 million or vacant land of up to $800,000 will be able to access the scheme, provided other conditions are met.
Eligible buyers can access the scheme from 12 November 2022. These buyers are required to pay stamp duty on purchases made until 15 January 2023, but will be able to apply for a refund of their stamp duty if they choose to opt into the annual fee. From 16 January 2023, purchasers can opt in to the annual fee directly.
As its name suggests, the First Home Buyer Choice scheme is only available to individual first home buyers over 18 years of age who haven’t previously owned residential land in Australia. For individuals with a spouse, it’s also a requirement that the spouse has not at any time owned residential land in Australia. Generally, occupation of the property must occur within 12 months of the first home buyer taking possession and must continue for at least six months.
If the option to pay the annual property tax is elected by the eligible individual, the rate of tax will differ depending on whether the property is owner-occupied or used as an investment after the initial six months occupation requirement. For owner-occupiers, the property tax rates per annum will be $400 plus 0.3% of the home’s land value.
In cases where the property is rented out, the property tax rates per annum will be $1,500 plus 1.1% of land value. While the NSW government has committed to not increasing these rates for the first two financial years of operation, from the 2024–2025 financial year property tax rates will be indexed each year, capped at a 4% maximum.
19th Dec, 2022
Taxpayers could soon be dealing with more paperwork at tax time, or facing the prospect of a lower tax deduction for work from home (WFH) expenses. The ATO has recently proposed a new revised fixed rate method of calculating WFH expenses for the purposes of claiming a tax deduction from 1 July 2022.
The proposed new rate of 67c per hour would replace the previous shortcut method of 80c per hour (which many people have been using during the COVID-19 pandemic) as well as the previous fixed rate method.
Before 1 July 2022, people working from home could use one of three methods for calculating a tax deduction for the expenses incurred:
Given the continual increase in energy bills and other inflationary pressures, this new proposed fixed rate method is likely to yield consistently lower deductions than if the actual cost method was used. Coupled with the abolition of the shortcut method, this seems to mean that taxpayers would either have to accept a lower WFH deduction in the coming years or deal with increased paperwork to be able to claim WFH deductions under the actual costs method.
19th Dec, 2022
Treasury has released draft legislation which proposes two new grounds under which the Registrar of the Australian Business Register may cancel an Australian Business Number (ABN).
The government had earlier announced its intention to “strengthen” the ABN system by imposing new compliance obligations for ABN holders to retain their ABN. Currently, ABN holders are able to retain their ABN regardless of whether they are meeting their income tax return lodgment obligations or the obligation to regularly update their ABN details.
It’s worth noting that there are over nine million active ABN holders on the Australian Business Register.
The proposed changes would allow the Registrar of the Australian Business Register to cancel a person’s ABN if they haven’t lodged their required income tax returns for two or more income years where the period for lodgement has ended. These wouldn’t need to be consecutive income years.
This ground for cancellation would apply for failures to lodge tax returns beginning with income years commencing on 1 July 2022, so the earliest the Registrar could cancel an ABN would be in the second half of 2024, if the ABN-holder failed to lodge tax returns for the income years beginning on 1 July 2022 and 1 July 2023.
The proposed changes would also allow the Registrar to cancel an ABN if the holder hadn’t given a notification within the past 12 months that they still require the ABN and that the information on the Register is current and correct.
This power would be available to the Registrar after 1 July 2024. In effect, this would require ABN holders to check their ABN details and notify the Registrar at least once in the period between the commencement of these provisions and 1 July 2024, and then at least once annually.
19th Dec, 2022
Yes, it’s that time of year again! As the so-called “silly season” gets underway, and with many employers reverting to pre-pandemic norms around meal entertainment, it is the perfect time to consider what benefits your business is going to provide to staff and how, with a little planning, employers might be able to avoid an FBT hangover.
During this time of the year, in addition to the typical end-of-year party, we generally see a marked increase in expenditure across meal and recreational entertainment, as well as gifts.
Employers must choose how they calculate their FBT meal entertainment liability. Most use either the “50/50” method or the “actual” method.
Using the “50/50” method
Rather than apportioning meal entertainment expenditure based on the proportion received by employees (and their associates) and non-employees (who aren’t associates of employees) and by reference to where food and drink is actually consumed under the actual method, many employers choose to use the simpler “50/50” method. Under this method, irrespective of where the meal entertainment occurs or who attends, 50% of the total expenditure is subject to FBT and 50% is deductible for income tax purposes.
Using the “actual” method
Under the “actual” method, only the entertainment provided to employees and their associates is subject to FBT. In addition, where food and drink are consumed by employees on the employer’s premises, there will be no FBT due to the property exemption -– this takes care of Friday night drinks in the office! But usually, the greatest reduction in FBT when using the actual method will come from the “minor benefits” exemption. Outside of a handful of exceptions, where a benefit with a notional taxable value of less than $300 (including GST) is provided to an employee or an associate, the minor benefits exemption will generally apply to exempt the benefit from FBT.
Usually, employers would save a considerable amount of FBT using the “actual” method; however, they usually don’t have the time to determine precisely who received the benefit in order to apply the exemption.
A common trap is where an employer has an employee who is considered a “frequent entertainer” for meal entertainment purposes and then is automatically considered a frequent entertainer for recreational entertainment, such that the minor benefits exemption doesn’t apply.
Accordingly, we recommend reassessing which employees should be eligible for the minor benefits exemption with respect to recreational entertainment.
Gifts provided to employees, or their associates, will typically constitute a property fringe benefit and therefore be subject to FBT unless the minor benefits exemption applies.
Gifts, and indeed all benefits associated with the end-of-year function, should be considered separately to the party itself in light of the minor benefits exemption.
For example, the cost of gifts such as vouchers, bottles of wine or hampers given at the function should be looked at separately to determine if the minor benefits exemption applies.
Gifts provided to clients are outside of the FBT rules, but may be deductible if they are being made for the purposes of producing future assessable income.
19th Dec, 2022
Businesses that provide FBT car parking benefits should be aware that the ATO has recently released an updated consolidated draft taxation ruling that incorporates proposed changes to FBT car parking benefits. Broadly, the ATO is saying that for FBT purposes from 1 April 2022, it will consider the “primary place of employment” as a broad test that isn’t limited to the specific place at which an employee’s duties are performed on any one day.
Relevant considerations will include the employee’s conditions of employment, such as rostering, allowances and car parking, as contained in their employment contract or industrial instrument.
This follows the decision in Commissioner of Taxation v Virgin Australia Regional Airlines Pty Ltd, where the Full Federal Court looked at the concept of “primary place of employment” and ultimately found that Virgin Airlines provided FBT car parking benefits to its flight and cabin crew in various airports.
The Virgin employees parked at (or near) a “home base” airport and undertook travel as part of their work, including staying overnight at other locations, while their home base car parking continued.
Virgin originally argued successfully in the Federal Court that the employees were carrying out their duties in many different places (on planes and in other airports) from where the parking occurred, so the parking location shouldn’t be considered the “primary place of employment” and the car parking shouldn’t be considered a Virgin-provided benefit subject to FBT.
The ATO appealed to the Full Federal Court, which in the end concluded that a Virgin employee’s relevant home base airport was their “primary place of employment”, even on days when the employee didn’t attend or work at the home base airport at all, for example because they were working on flights or had a rest period in another location. The car parking was therefore an employer-provided FBT benefit because the employees’ cars were parked at, or in the vicinity of, their primary place of employment.