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Firm Journal

Income stream within an SMSF

Posted on 18 March '19, under super.

One of the best ways to ensure regular, flexible and tax-effective income as a pensioner is through an income stream from your SMSF. As a member, you can receive an income stream in a reoccurring series of benefit payments from your super fund.

Income streams from an SMSF are usually account-based, which means that the amount allocated to the pension comes directly from a member’s account. Once an account-based pension commences, there is an ongoing requirement for the trustees of the superannuation fund to ensure the pension standards and laws are met.

Standards that must be met in order for SMSFs to pay income stream pensions include:

  • The minimum amount must be paid at least once a year.
  • Once the pension has started, the capital supporting the pension cannot be increased by using contributions or rollover amounts.
  • When a member dies, their pension can only be transferred to a dependent beneficiary if they have any.

SMSF trustees may need to amend fund trust deeds to meet the minimum pension standards. For more information on how to do this, you should consult a legal adviser. Records must be kept of pension value at commencement, taxable elements of the pension at commencement, earnings from assets that support the pension and any pension payments made.

PAYG withholding: New penalties for non-compliance

Posted on 18 March '19, under tax.

New penalties for business’s pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding and reporting obligations are to be introduced as a result of legislation commencing 1 July 2019. The law will now prevent businesses from claiming deductions for payments to employees and certain contractors if they fail to comply.

Payments that are impacted include salary, wages, commissions, bonuses or allowances to an employee, payment under a labour-hire arrangement, payment to a religious practitioner, or payments for a supply of service. This measure highlights a key reason why governance over all employment tax is important.

Specifically, the new laws will prevent an employer from claiming a deduction for payments to employees if the employer fails to:
Withhold an amount from the payment as required under PAYG withholding rules; or
Report a withholding amount to the ATO as required.

If you make a mistake by failing to withhold an amount or to report it, your business will not lose its deduction if you voluntarily disclose this to the ATO before an audit or other compliance activity in regards to your tax affairs. Taking early action to ensure your business is compliant to these updated PAYG withholding laws will make a difference to whether you remain eligible for deductions.

Superannuation guide for retirement planning

Posted on 8 March '19, under super.

As the time comes for you to consider leaving the workforce, it is necessary to plan how to make the most of your superannuation in order to strengthen the chances of a financially secure retirement. Careful planning can significantly boost your super and make a big difference to your future lifestyle.

Identify your dependants and non-dependants:
When it comes to planning your retirement and how your super will be used, ensure that you have clear plans about what happens to your super benefits and other assets in the event of your death. Identifying who will receive your super benefits becomes more important if you plan to leave them to a non-dependant for tax purposes, such as financially independent adult children.

Combine your accounts:
Consolidating your super funds could possibly save you thousands of dollars in fees. Other benefits include reducing your paperwork and making it easier to keep track of your super. You could also end up with more superannuation than you realise, as research has found that if all super fund members were to consolidate their multiple accounts, the average Australian account balance would increase by 79%.

Do a financial stocktake:
Another important step when it comes to planning your retirement is to work out what kind of income you would like to have. By planning this ahead of time, you can then calculate how much money is needed to finance your preferred retirement income. This will help in working out how much super and other savings you currently have and estimate what you will have if you continue your current savings strategy.

Determining whether GST is for business or private use

Posted on 8 March '19, under tax.

The goods and services tax (GST) is applied to most goods and services sold in Australia, taxed at a rate of 10%. If you run a business, you are likely to have GST obligations such as claiming credit for any GST included in the price of goods and services that have been purchased for your business.

However, many businesses have expenses that are used privately as well as for business purposes. This means that a business must divide the GST on these costs between private and business use. The ATO allows an annual adjustment for these expenses when it comes to determining exactly how much something is used for business or private purposes.

Common types of purchases that can be made for both business and private use include:

  • Home office costs/home power use
  • Home telephone and internet costs
  • Motor vehicle purchases and running costs
  • Computers and other electronic devices

At the end of the financial year when the business’ income tax return is being finalised, adjustments can be made to account for the reduction in the GST amount for private use that can be claimed back. The adjustment will either increase the amount of GST that businesses are liable to pay or reduce the GST refund for the tax period the adjustment is made in.

SMSF areas being monitored by the ATO

Posted on 1 March '19, under super.

Self-managed super funds are closely monitored by the ATO to ensure regulations are being met across all areas. As SMSF are run by members, it is their responsibility to comply with all related super and tax laws. The independent nature of an SMSF creates an environment that people are confused by or can attempt to exploit.

One area of concern for the ATO regarding SMSFs is that these types of funds are being used to gain access to super before preservation age. Preservation age is dictated by the year in which you were born, super cannot legally be accessed before you reach this age. A growing number of investors in their 30s, far off from their preservation age, are moving their super into an SMSF in an attempt to gain access to their super early. The ATO has noticed an increase in this strategy in the last five years. If found to be doing this, penalties can include funds being wound up, a 45% tax impost being applied, administrative penalties which have a cost attached, or being disqualified from running a fund.

The ATO is also looking into possible problem areas in relation to SMSF contraventions. Loans to SMSF members, in-house assets, investing in related-party assets and failure to keep assets separated account for the bulk of the contravention reports. With that being said, the ATO lists administrative errors, sole purpose breaches, borrowings, operating standards and acquisitions of assets from related parties as categories also seen in contravention reports. To avoid these issues in relation to your funds, make sure your SMSF is accessible in regards to your assets and keep detailed records to help substantiate transactions.

ATOs small business benchmarks

Posted on 1 March '19, under tax.

The ATO small business benchmark guides are designed to help small businesses compare performance with similar companies in the same industry. These guides have been updated to include data from the 2016-2017 financial year.

Within this system, there are two benchmarks businesses can use. Performance benchmarks apply to all industries and businesses. This area consists of the financial ranges so you can make comparisons and improvements to your business performance. Ranges you can look into are income tax, which is information provided by businesses on their tax returns, and activity statements which are provided using financial year activity statements. Input benchmarks only apply to tradespeople working on projects and purchasing their own materials. Within this benchmark, you can receive an expected range of income based on labour and materials used in a project. This is designed to help estimate turnover and ensure records accurately reflect income.

The small business benchmark system is also designed to aid the ATO in identifying businesses that may be avoiding tax obligations by not reporting elements of their income. The information reported by a business is compared to key elements of the benchmark for their industry, ensuring all activity is in line with the regular work practices.

Do you know where your super is?

Posted on 21 February '19, under super.

If you’re not close to retiring, you may not be thinking about your super or where it is. Even if you are a way off from retiring, you should be keeping track of where your super has gone. $17.5 billion of super was lost in 2017-18, $420 million down from the previous year. If you are not paying attention to your super contributions, accounts and insurances, you may have lost super. You may also have unintentionally lost track of super if you have ever changed your name, address, job or lived overseas.

It is not uncommon for people to have multiple super accounts they have acquired over the years of working at different companies. Having multiple unused accounts can result in high fees that drain your untouched super or you could lose track of it completely. It is in your best interest to consolidate all super into one account that suits your retirement goals. When closing unused accounts, you should be mindful of any termination fees, insurance policies, investment options, and ongoing service fees.

If you have lost track of your super it may be held by either your super fund as a lost account or as an ATO-held account. The easiest way to consolidate super is through the myGov website, linking the ATO to records of your super funds

STP extension for small businesses

Posted on 21 February '19, under tax.

The ATO has released a statement in relation to transitioning to Single Touch Payroll (STP) for small employers. Parliament has passed legislation to extend STP to include employers with fewer than 20 employees from 1 July 2019. STP is payday reporting by employers to the ATO as it happens.

The initiative is designed to help keep up with advances in technology and firmly establish business reporting. As some small employers do not currently use commercial payroll software, the ATO is working with software providers to develop low and no-cost reporting solutions including simplifying payroll systems.

It has been highlighted that to further assist in the transition, the ATO is offering:

  • micro employers (1 to 4 employees) help to transition to STP and a number of alternative options.
  • Small employers can start reporting any time from the 1 July start date to 30 September 2019. Deferrals will be granted to small employers who request additional time to start STP reporting.
  • No penalties for mistakes, missed or late reports for the first year.
  • Exemptions can be provided from STP reporting for employers experiencing hardship, or in areas with intermittent or no internet connection.

“Building a Better Tax system” What does this mean for you?

Posted on 14 February '19, under tax.

The Australian government has launched the Better Tax campaign in order to help inform the public of tax reforms coming into effect. Designed to “better Australia”, here is a look at what this plan means for you.

Individual Tax:

  • New low to middle-income tax offset: Offering immediate relief of up to $530 after an individual lodges their tax return for each income year from 2018-19 until 2021-22.
  • Increase to income tax rate thresholds: Changing over the next seven years so less tax is paid by Australian taxpayers. The first change took effect on 1 July 2018 with future changes in 2022-23 and 2024-25.
  • Reduction in the number of tax brackets: In order to simplify the system, in 2024-25 the tax system will move from five tax brackets to four.

Business Tax:

  • Tax cuts for incorporated small and medium businesses, with a turnover of less than $50 million per annum. These companies will move to a 25 per cent tax rate by 2021-22.
  • The small business income tax offset; increasing the rate of the tax discount for unincorporated small businesses with a turnover below $5 million
  • Increasing the instant asset write-off threshold from $20,000 to $25,000 and extending it until 30 June 2020. The increased threshold will apply from 29 January 2019, with legislation to be introduced.
  • Increasing the small business entity turnover threshold from $2 million to $10 million per annum, extending access to a range of tax concessions.

Superannuation tips for each stage of your working life

Posted on 14 February '19, under super.

A 2018 study revealed that almost 40% of Australians think they won’t have enough money to retire on – and that number is on the rise. Managing your superannuation fund can be confusing but it was found that 50% of us do not consult a financial planner. As we face different financial challenges at different points in our lives, how do you ensure you have enough to retire on?

20s to 30s:
It is not uncommon for many people in their 20s and 30s to have multiple superannuation fund accounts accumulated through years of youth part-time work or otherwise. Now is the time to chase up on lost super. With one superannuation account, you not only can save on fees but it may also give you better investment returns. When combining and comparing your active accounts, be mindful of any termination fees, insurance policies, investment options, and ongoing service fees.

40s to 50s:
You may find yourself earning more than you’ve ever earned before, but it is also a time where you may be juggling more living costs – from your mortgage to your growing family’s fees. Experts advise against decreasing your mortgage payments and encourage voluntary payments to your superannuation fund. If you have a partner, he or she may be able to help grow your super by making a ‘Spouse Contribution’ to your super account or consider if contribution splitting is viable for you. You may also be thinking about your retirement plan at this stage, and now is a good time to review your superannuation’s insurance and beneficiary policies.

60+:
This is the time many consider leaving the workforce but this decision doesn’t have to be as daunting or finite as it may seem. An alternative to this is the Transition to Retirement (TTR) income stream, where you can concurrently decrease your working hours while withdrawing money from your super once you reach your preservation age. There are a few regulations on how you can access your super and how you will be taxed so it is best to seek financial advice for your situation. In your 60s, you may be eligible to apply for a government age pension or withdraw a tax-free lump sum from your super fund. Your 60s might also be a period where you can consider your estate planning strategies.