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Consolidating your super

Chances are, if you have had more than one job, you will most likely have multiple super accounts.

Having multiple super accounts means more fees and less savings. Consolidating all your super accounts into one account can help you to keep track of your super, reduce unnecessary paperwork, and most importantly, save on costs.

The first step in consolidating your super is selecting a fund to move all of your super savings into. When comparing funds, consider funds with lower fees; suitable investment options; extra benefits; funds which have performed well over the last 5 years; and provide appropriate insurance cover for your needs.

Once you have selected a new super fund, you may need to open an account with the fund and provide your employer with the new details. You will then need to rollover super to your chosen fund either online through myGov or you can transfer your super by using a form and sending it to your chosen fund. Some funds have an online process too.

Before consolidating your super, be sure to check the impact on your retirement benefit if you are in a defined benefit fund. It is also good practice to check that you are not losing benefits, such as insurance, and look up the cost of exit fees of your old fund. If you are unsure if consolidating your super is right for you, seek professional advice.

Posted on 12 April '17 by , under super. No Comments.

New measure to combat franked distributions funded by capital raisings

The Government has announced a new measure in the 2016-17 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook to prevent the distribution of franking credits where a distribution to shareholders is funded by particular capital raising activities.

This new measure is intended to address issues raised by the Tax Office’s Taxpayer Alert 2015/2 regarding arrangements used by companies for the purpose of, or for purposes which include, releasing franking credits or streaming dividends to shareholders.

The ATO have been reviewing arrangements with all or most of the following features:

  • A company with a significant franking credit balance raises new capital from existing or new shareholders, i.e., issuing renounceable rights to shareholders. Shareholders may include large institutional superannuation funds.

  • The company makes franked distributions to its shareholders, at a similar time to the capital raising and a similar amount of capital is raised. This may occur as a special dividend or through an off-market buy-back of shares, where the dividend forms part of the purchase price of the shares.

  • Overall, there is minimal net cash inflow to or outflow from the company; the net asset position of the company remains essentially unchanged but their franking account is significantly reduced, and there is minimal impact on the shareholders (except in some cases they may receive refunds of franking credits, and in the case of buy-backs they may also get improved capital gains tax outcomes.)

The new measure is set to apply to distributions made after 12.00pm (AEDT) on 19 December 2016. The measure has not been enacted and is subject to the normal parliamentary process.

Posted on 12 April '17 by , under tax. No Comments.

Reviewing your trust deed before 30 June

With changes to Australia’s superannuation rules coming into play on 1 July 2017, self-managed super fund (SMSF) trustees would do well to review their fund’s trust deed.

Despite the fact that maintaining an up-to-date trust deed is a vital aspect of managing a SMSF, many trustees fail to do so, usually due to the time and cost restraints associated. However, a SMSF trust deed can only ensure compliance and protect the trustee’s interests if it is regularly updated and reflects current superannuation rules.

As part of the super reforms announced in last year’s Federal Budget, tighter superannuation rules will apply from 1 July 2017, including a $1.6 million super balance cap for after-tax contributions; a maximum of up to $25,000 for concessional contributions; and the removal of the current “bring-forward” rule allowing $540,000 of contributions in one year.

According to some industry analysts, these changes are likely to result in many out-of- date trust deeds. But often changes to superannuation legislation provide the perfect opportunity for trustees to review and upgrade their deed.

One of the major changes to super which will affect traditional SMSF trust deeds is the $1.6 million limit on retirement balances, which the Government also wants to make retrospective. This means those who already have more than $1.6 million saved in their superannuation will need to adjust their strategy and trust deed accordingly to meet the new limit.

Updating a SMSF deed will particularly benefit those SMSF members with money locked in the old term-allocated pension and with a pension balance greater than $1.6 million in a mix of term-allocated pension and account-based pension balances. This is because the term-allocated pension can be converted back (in full or in part) to the accumulation phase to remove any excess over the $1.6 million cap.

Another major change to consider is the deed’s death benefit control mechanisms. The new super rules will allow certain death benefits to be rolled over, so it may be worthwhile reviewing whether the SMSF trust deed has sufficient options in the death benefit payment provisions.

SMSF trustees will also have to consider whether their current trust deed will allow for the terms of the trustee’s pension to change without needing to stop and restart the pension. Many of the upcoming super changes will dramatically affect the strategic landscape of SMSFs in Australia, and some of these changes will challenge old deeds, so, as with any other financial decision, seek professional advice if you are considering updating your trust deed.

Posted on 4 April '17 by , under super. No Comments.

Lump sum payments received by healthcare practitioners

The ATO has provided further guidance for healthcare practitioners dealing with lump sum payments from healthcare centre operators.

The Tax Office is concerned with some practitioners who have received lump sum payments and have incorrectly treated the payments as a capital gain. These practitioners have then applied the small business CGT concessions to reduce the capital gain, in many instances reducing it to nil.

The ATO has clarified that a lump sum payment from a healthcare centre operator is more likely to be ordinary income of the practitioner for providing services to their patients from the healthcare centre rather than a capital gain. Practitioners are required to include the full amount of the lump sum payment in their assessable income.

Healthcare practitioners who are considering any arrangements that relate to a lump sum payment for commencing or providing ongoing healthcare services should note that the ATO is looking closely at these arrangements to determine if they are compliant with income tax laws and whether the anti-avoidance provisions may apply.

The Tax Office is aware that some practitioners are using a private ruling that was issued to another taxpayer, however, you can only rely on a private ruling if you applied for it.

Healthcare practitioners entering or planning to enter into an arrangement of this type are encouraged to seek independent professional advice, ask the ATO for a private ruling or make a voluntary disclosure to reduce any penalties. Please contact our office if you have any questions about these arrangements.

Posted on 4 April '17 by , under tax. No Comments.

Who is a ‘related party’ in an SMSF?

Self-managed super funds (SMSFs) have a number of investment restrictions which apply to transactions conducted within the fund.

One such restriction applies to transactions involving ‘related parties’ of the fund and ‘relatives of members.’

No one associated with the SMSF should obtain a present-day benefit from the fund’s investments. The fund needs to meet the ‘sole purpose test’ of providing death or retirement benefits to the SMSF members or their dependents.

A breach to the investment restrictions may result in significant penalties, such as the disqualification of a trustee and even prosecution.

The Tax Office considers a ‘related party’ as:

  • all members of the fund

  • associates of fund members, including:

           – relatives of each member

           – the business partners of each member

           – any spouse or child of those business partners

           – any company the member or their associates control or influence

           – any trust the member or their associates control

  • standard employer-sponsors, which are employers who contribute to your super fund for the benefit of a member, under an arrangement between the employer and a trustee of the fund

  • associates of standard employer-sponsors, which include business partners and companies or trusts the employer controls (either alone or with their other associates) and companies and trusts that control the employer.

The ATO considers a ‘relative of a member’ as a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, lineal descendant or adopted child of the member or their spouse; or a spouse of any individual specified previously.

Generally, SMSFs cannot borrow money and cannot buy assets from, or lend money to, fund members or other related parties (although there are exceptions to this rule).

Posted on 29 March '17 by , under super. No Comments.

ATO to report unpaid debts to credit agencies

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2016-17 (MYEFO) announced that from 1 July 2017, the ATO will disclose tax debt information of businesses who have not effectively engaged with the ATO to credit reporting bureaus.

The new measure is aimed at enhancing the integrity of the tax system and ensuring businesses who are not compliant do not gain an unfair competitive advantage over those businesses who are.

The ATO will initially pass on unpaid debts from businesses with an Australian Business Number and with a tax debt of more than $10,000 which is at least 90 days overdue.

In addition, the Government will provide $1.6 million to establish a Black Economy Taskforce to develop an innovative, whole-of-government policy response to this problem. Black economy activities disadvantage honest taxpayers, undermine the integrity of Australia’s tax and welfare systems and reduce the amount of revenue collected by governments.

Posted on 29 March '17 by , under tax. No Comments.

Investing on arm’s length

Running a self-managed super fund requires trustees to adhere to complex laws and follow a number of onerous rules.

One of the most fundamental investment rules for SMSFs is that the trustees must transact on an arm’s length basis to ensure no conflict of interest arises. An arm’s length transaction requires trustees to conduct on a commercial basis as if there was no relationship between the parties.

This means the purchase and sale price of fund assets should always reflect the true market value of the asset, and the income from the assets held by the fund should always reflect the true market rate of return.

SMSF trustees must obtain independent valuations for assets which are not listed on a public market. Furthermore, if a SMSF sells an asset to a related party or member of the fund, the sale price must be at market value.

Any non-arm’s length income is taxed at the highest marginal tax rate. The ATO considers non-arm’s length income as income which is derived from a scheme in which the parties were not dealing with each other at arm’s length and if it is more than the SMSF might have been expected to derive (if the parties had been dealing on a arm’s length basis).

Posted on 23 March '17 by , under super. No Comments.

Preparing for the FBT year-end

With the fringe benefits tax (FBT) year ending 31 March 2017, now is the time for business owners to get their FBT affairs sorted.

When calculating FBT liability, employers must gross-up the taxable value of benefits provided to reflect the gross salary employees would need to earn at the highest marginal tax rate (including Medicare levy) to buy the benefits after paying tax.

To calculate fringe benefits taxable amounts, employers must use two separate gross-up rates:

  • Type 1: Higher gross-up rate is used where employers (or other benefit providers) are entitled to a GST credit for GST paid on benefits provided to an employee. The type 1 gross-up rate for year ending 31 March 2017 is 2.1463.

  • Type 2: Lower gross-up rate is used where there is no entitlement to a GST credit. The type 2 gross-up rate for year ending 31 March 2017 is 1.9608.

The FBT rate for the year ending 31 March 2017 is 49 per cent.

Whether the benefits provided to the employee are type 1 or type 2, only the lower gross-up rate is used for reporting on employees’ payment summaries.

Posted on 23 March '17 by , under tax. No Comments.

Transitional CGT relief for SMSFs

Self-managed super funds can access Capital Gains Tax (CGT) relief to provide temporary relief from certain capital gains that might arise as a result of individuals complying with the transfer balance cap, and Transition to Retirement Income Stream (TRIS) reforms, commencing on 1 July 2017.

The transitional CGT relief is designed to preserve the income tax exemption for certain, accrued capital gains which would have been exempt, if the underlying CGT assets had been disposed of before the changed treatment of TRIS’s and before a member transfers to comply with the transfer balance cap starting.

CGT relief is available for certain CGT assets held by a complying SMSF at all times between the start of 9 November 2016, to ‘just before’ 1 July 2017. However, the CGT assets eligible for the relief depends on whether they stopped being segregated current pension assets during this period, or whether the fund continued using the proportionate method for the 2016-17 income year.

Trustees need to be aware that CGT relief is not automatic – it must be chosen by a trustee for a CGT asset. SMSF trustees will need to review their fund’s circumstances and determine if CGT relief is available and appropriate. If trustees do decide to obtain CGT relief, trustees must advise the ATO in the approved form on, or before, the day they are required to lodge their fund’s 2016-17 income tax return.

As the decision is irrevocable, careful planning is required. Trustees should seek professional advice if they are unsure if CGT relief is suitable for their circumstances.

Posted on 14 March '17 by , under super. No Comments.

Easier GST reporting for food retailers

Many small food retailers buy and sell products that are both taxable and GST-free. Depending on the point-of-sale equipment used, identifying and recording these sales can be difficult for business owners.

The ATO has introduced a series of simplified accounting methods (SAMs) to make it easier to account for GST and work out the amount of GST that is liable at the end of each tax period.

There are five SAMs to choose from. The SAM you choose will depend on your business’ turnover, the nature of your business and the nature of your point-of-sale equipment (except for the purchases snapshot method).

These methods help you work out the information you need to correctly complete the GST section of your activity statement. However, they can only be applied to sales and purchases of trading stock.

Here is a summary of the five SAMs you can choose from:

  1. Business norms

Turnover threshold: SAM turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You apply the standard percentages to your sales and purchases.

  1. Stock purchases

Turnover threshold: SAM turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You take a sample of purchases and use this sample.

  1. Snapshot

Turnover threshold: SAM turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You take a snapshot of your sales and purchases and use this.

  1. Sales percentage

Turnover threshold: GST turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You work out what percentage of GST-free sales you made in a tax period and apply this to your purchases.

  1. Purchases snapshot

Turnover threshold: GST turnover of $2 million or less.
How you estimate your GST-free sales and/or purchases: You take a snapshot of your purchases and use this to calculate your GST credits.

After electing to use a SAM, you cannot change your method of GST accounting in the first 12 months.

Posted on 14 March '17 by , under tax. No Comments.