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Workplace giving versus salary sacrifice donations

24th Aug, 2021

Have you made donations either through workplace giving or salary sacrifice arrangements with your employer? If so, and you want to claim a deduction in your tax return, it’s important to know that the tax treatment differs depending on which method you used to make the donation.

Essentially, workplace giving is a streamlined way for employees to regularly donate to charities and deductible gift recipients (DGRs). Usually a fixed portion of your salary is deducted from your pay each pay cycle and your employer forwards the donation on to the DGR. However, the amount of your gross salary remains the same and, depending on your employer’s payroll systems, the amount of tax you pay each pay period may or may not be reduced to take into account the donation.

On the other hand, under a typical salary sacrificing donation arrangement, you agree to have a portion of your salary donated to a DGR in return for your employer providing you with benefits of a similar value. Your gross salary is reduced by the salary sacrificed amount and the amount of tax you pay each pay period will be reduced. Your employer makes the donation to the DGR.

If you’ve made a donation under workplace giving, you can claim a deduction in your tax return. This is regardless of whether or not your employer reduced the amount of tax you paid each pay cycle to account for the amount of the donation. Your employer will give you a letter or email stating the total amount donated to DGRs, and the financial year in which the donations were made. Alternatively, your employer will provide the total amount of donations you made for the year in your tax time payment summary, under the “Workplace giving” section.

If you’ve made a donation to a DGR under a salary sacrifice arrangement, however, you’re not entitled to claim a deduction in your tax return, since it’s your employer that is making the donation to the DGR – not you.

If you make donations outside the workplace, remember that for a donation to be deductible it must be made to a DGR and truly be a gift or donation of $2 or more. You can still claim a deduction if you receive a token item in recognition of your donation (eg a lapel pin, wristband or sticker).

TIP: It’s important to note that many crowdfunding campaigns and sites are not run by DGRs, so any donations made to those causes should be carefully examined before claiming them – it’s likely they won’t be deductible.

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Private health insurance rebates frozen

01st Jul, 2021

Is your private health insurance getting more expensive every year? Part of the reason could be that the government has once again introduced legislation to freeze the related income thresholds, which were originally meant to be indexed with inflation on 1 April each year.

While the government likes to blame the funds for hikes adding to the cost of living, the reality is that the income thresholds for the private health insurance incentive have also not been indexed to keep pace with inflation since the 2014–2015 income year, and the rebate percentage is staying the same this year as for the 2019–2020 income year.

Most people with private health insurance take the private health insurance incentive in the form of reduced premiums on their cover, although it can also be taken as a tax offset.

For individuals and families with private health insurance, the rebate adjustment factor remaining the same as in the 2019–2020 income year will translate into a real-life cut in the rebated amount.

For example, private health insurance for basic (Bronze) hospital cover plus extras for two adults and two young children ranges from $300 to $600 per month. At an average figure of $450 per month, the annual cost of the insurance would equate to roughly $5,400. Assuming the adults are under 65 and earning less than $180,000 as a family, the total rebate on the yearly premium would be $1,354.

If the family applies the rebate to reduce the premiums for their cover, instead of paying $450 per month they would pay $337 per month. However, because indexation is now frozen until 1 July 2023, if private health insurance prices increase next year in line with previous average increases, the same family earning the same amount of money will end up paying more for their private health insurance, because the rebate percentage will stay the same.

The average 2021 price increase for health insurance premiums was 2.74%, the lowest increase since 2001. However, most large insurers increased their prices more, with the maximum increase by a fund listed as 5.47%. According to some figures, health insurance premiums have increased by 57% in the last decade, while the consumer price index (CPI, or inflation) has only grown by 20%.

Extending from our example, if the average price of $450 per month increases by 5% for 2022, the family will pay $22 extra per month before the rebate is applied. The total annual premium would be $5,670 and the total rebate on the yearly premium would be $1,420.

Again, if the family applies the rebate to reduce their premiums, they will end up paying $354 per month in 2022, which equates to $17 a month extra for the same policy with the same benefits, while they are earning substantially the same amount due to stagnant wages growth.

TIP: In a time when household budgets are coming under increasing strain, it’s good to know about changes on the horizon. If you’d like to know more specifically about how this freeze could affect you, contact us today.

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PERSONAL TAXATION

20th May, 2021

Personal tax rates unchanged for 2021–2022

In the Budget, the Government did not announce any personal tax rates changes, having already brought forward the Stage 2 tax rates to 1 July 2020 in the October 2020 Budget. The Stage 3 tax changes will commence from 1 July 2024, as previously legislated.
The 2021–2022 tax rates and income thresholds for residents are therefore unchanged from 2020–2021:

  • taxable income up to $18,200 – nil;
  • taxable income of $18,201 to $45,000 – 19% of excess over $18,200;
  • taxable income of $45,001 to $120,000 – $5,092 plus 32.5% of excess over $45,000;
  • taxable income of $120,001 to $180,000 – $29,467 plus 37% of excess over $120,000; and
  • taxable income of more than $180,001 – $51,667 plus 45% of excess over $180,000.

Stage 3: from 2024–2025

The Stage 3 tax changes will commence from 1 July 2024, as previously legislated. From 1 July 2024, the 32.5% marginal tax rate will be cut to 30% for one big tax bracket between $45,000 and $200,000. This will more closely align the middle tax bracket of the personal income tax system with corporate tax rates. The 37% tax bracket will be entirely abolished at this time.

Therefore, from 1 July 2024, there will only be three personal income tax rates: 19%, 30% and 45%. From 1 July 2024, taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000 will face a marginal tax rate of 30%. With these changes, around 94% of Australian taxpayers are projected to face a marginal tax rate of 30% or less.

Low income offsets: LMITO and LITO retained for 2021–2022L

Low and middle income tax offset

The Government also announced in the Budget that the low and middle income tax offset (LMITO) will continue to apply for the 2021–2022 income year. The LMITO was otherwise legislated to only apply until the end of the 2020–2021 income year, meaning low-to-middle income earners would have seen lower tax refunds in 2022.

The amount of the LMITO is $255 for taxpayers with a taxable income of $37,000 or less. Between $37,000 and $48,000, the value of LMITO increases at a rate of 7.5 cents per dollar to the maximum amount of $1,080. Taxpayers with taxable incomes from $48,000 to $90,000 are eligible for the maximum LMITO of $1,080. From $90,001 to $126,000, LMITO phases out at a rate of 3 cents per dollar.

Consistent with current arrangements, the LMITO will be received on assessment after individuals lodge their tax returns for the 2021–22 income year.

Low income tax offset

The low income tax offset (LITO) will also continue to apply for the 2021–2022 income year. The LITO was intended to replace the former low income and low and middle income tax offsets from 2022–2023, but the new LITO was brought forward in the 2020 Budget to apply from the 2020–2021 income year.

The maximum amount of the LITO is $700. The LITO will be withdrawn at a rate of 5 cents per dollar between taxable incomes of $37,500 and $45,000, and then at a rate of 1.5 cents per dollar between taxable incomes of $45,000 and $66,667.

Self-education expenses: $250 threshold to be removed

The Government will remove the exclusion of the first $250 of deductions for prescribed courses of education. The first $250 of a prescribed course of education expense is currently not deductible.

Background

A limitation on deductibility exists under s 82A of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (ITAA 1936) regarding deductions that would otherwise be allowable under s 8-1 if the self-education expenses are necessarily incurred for or in connection with a course of education provided by a place of education (eg a school, uni, college, etc) and undertaken by the taxpayer for the purpose of gaining qualifications for use in the carrying on of a profession, business or trade or in the course of any employment.

In those circumstances, currently only the excess over $250 may be deductible.

Primary 183-day test for individual tax residency

The Government will replace the existing tests for the tax residency of individuals with a primary “bright line” test under which a person who is physically present in Australia for 183 days or more in any income year will be an Australian tax resident.

People who do not meet the primary test will be subject to secondary tests that depend on a combination of physical presence and measurable, objective criteria.

The new residency rules are based on recommendations made by the Board of Taxation in its 2019 report Reforming individual tax residency rules: a model for modernisation.

Child care subsidies to change 1 july 2022

The Budget confirmed that the Government will make an additional $1.7 billion investment in child care. The changes will commence on 1 July 2022 (that is, not in the next financial year). This measure was previously announced on 2 May 2021.

Commencing on 1 July 2022, the Government will:

  • increase the child care subsidies available to families with more than one child aged 5 and under in child care by adding an additional 30 percentage point subsidy for every second and third child (stated to benefit around 250,000 families); and
  • remove the $10,560 cap on the Child Care Subsidy (which the Government expects to benefit around 18,000 families).

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Tax relief for drought-stricken farmers

06th Dec, 2019

With drought sweeping across the country, farmers are being offered access to concessional loans, grants and special allowances to help ease the immediate financial burden. While it is difficult to predict when the drought will break, for those who are in the process of navigating their way out of immediate financial strain, there are ways to future proof your farm or primary production business by taking advantage of various tax concessions.

Some of the immediate assistance measures include concessional loans and the farm household allowance, through which lump sum payments of up to $12,000 can be paid to eligible farm households.

The allowance can also be in the form of fortnightly payments for a maximum period of four cumulative years at the same rate as the Newstart allowance. This allowance may be available to both the farmer and their partner, provided certain conditions are met. An activity supplement of up to $4,000 to pay for study, training or professional financial advice may also be available to eligible households.

In addition to the immediate assistance, primary producers can obtain ongoing benefits of various tax concessions, including the instant asset write-off, immediate deductions for fodder storage assets, and income averaging to assist with cash flow.

TIP: If you’re experiencing hardship due to drought, we can contact the ATO on your behalf or assist with your application for farm household allowance to ease the immediate financial burden.

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Top mistakes to avoid this tax time: ATO

17th Aug, 2019

The ATO has revealed some of the most common mistakes people make at tax time. Top mistakes include lodging before all prefill data is available or failing to report all income and claiming the wrong thing – work-related expenses is one area where people commonly make mistakes. To help taxpayers work out what they can claim, the ATO has developed 30 occupation guides for specific occupations; forgetting to keep receipts; and claiming for something never paid for.

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Rental deductions: ATO audits to double

10th May, 2019

The ATO has warned that it will increase its scrutiny of rental-related deductions this year. It says some people are still claiming travel to residential rental properties, but from 1 July 2017 taxpayers (aside from excluded entities) have no longer been permitted to claim tax deductions for travel expenses related to inspecting, maintaining or collecting rent for a residential rental property.

The ATO expects to more than double the number of its in-depth audits this year to 4,500, with a specific focus on over-claimed interest, capital works claimed as repairs, incorrect apportionment of expenses for holiday homes let out to others and omitted income from accommodation sharing.

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