COVID-19 and working from home

I have worked from home for over a decade. and I have always claimed my 52 cents for every hour I work. But now all the rest of you have joined me on the short morning walk from the kitchen to the desk… you get 80 cents and hour and I am stuck with my 52 cents…

Today the Commissioner updated the way we claim working from home expenses… he says there are three ways to calculate deductions for the running expenses of working at home:

  • The fixed rate method – 52 cents per work hour for heating, cooling, lighting, cleaning and the decline in value of office furniture, plus the work-related phone and internet expenses ($50 a year as we have no records), consumables, stationery, and depreciation of a laptop .
  • The actual cost method ─ claim the actual work-related portion of all your running expenses, which you need to calculate on a reasonable basis which is way to hard to work out.
  • And now the shortcut method ─ claim a rate of 80 cents per work hour for all additional running expenses

Under this shortcut method taxpayers can claim a deduction of 80 cents for each hour they work from home due to COVID-19 as long as they are:

  • working from home to fulfil your employment duties and not just carrying out minimal tasks such as occasionally checking emails or taking calls,
  • incurring additional deductible running expenses as a result of working from home.

If a taxpayer uses the shortcut method, they cannot claim a further deduction for anything else, including the depreciation of their laptop.

They must keep a record of the number of hours they have worked from home as a result of COVID-19. Examples are timesheets, diary notes or rosters.

If they use the shortcut method to claim a deduction they must include the note ‘COVID-hourly rate’ in their tax return.

So poor me… I don’t work from home due to COVID-19 but because I am slack and lazy, so I just get the 52 cents and hour…



COVID-19 Self Employed, JobKeeper and using Structures

Sorry to spam you with COVID-19 stuff but a fact sheet just came out from the Treasury on the JobKeeper payments and those self employed people who use structures (partnerships, trusts and companies) and it has some strange things… but good things about . In summary it says (see pages 10 and 11 of the factsheet if you want to read the source)…
  • Self-employed individuals will be eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment where they expect to suffer a 30% decline in turnover relative to a comparable a period a year ago of at least a month.
  • The structure used by those who are self-employed does not stop them receiving this payment. The Government has confirmed:
    • If the business is a partnership, one partner can be nominated to receive a JobKeeper Payment along with any eligible employees.
    • Where beneficiaries of a trust only receive distributions, rather than being paid salary and wages for work done, one individual beneficiary can be nominated to receive the JobKeeper Payment.
    • An eligible business can nominate only one director to receive the payment, as well as any eligible employees.
    • An eligible business that pays shareholders that provide labour in the form of dividends will only be able to nominate one shareholder to receive the JobKeeper Payment.
So there may be lots of businesses that don’t pay salaries that you want to register for the JobKeeper payment…

JobKeeper payment in 10 minutes…

Ten minute video on COVID-19 and the JobKeeper payment… Enjoy

And the source documents from the Treasury website


Work Related Deductions & Substantiation

“I just have to have the documentation to prove my work related deductions.” Wrong. If you don’t have the substantiation you don’t have a deduction. Subsection 900-15(1) states…

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To claim a work expense as a deduction you need to pass two tests. The first is the normal deduction rules and the second is you have written evidence. If you are a tax agent and someone who is an employee asks if they can claim a deduction for a work expense, your answer should end with “but only if you have written evidence that proves the expense. No substantiation, no deduction.”

Put simply, without paper and electronic evidence, that shows the name of the supplier, amount of the expense, what was purchased, when it was purchased and the date the document was produced, then the expenses is non-deductible.

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In a recent Ruling, the Commissioner covers the specific exceptions and relief from substantiation provided in Division 900.

The first exception is where the total of work expenses is $300 or less. However, to claim this exemption records must be kept showing how the amount of the claim was calculated – taxpayers cannot just claim $300 without some record of what they spent the $300 on.

The second exemption is where the total of laundry expenses is $150 or less. Just like before, records must be kept showing how the claim was calculated.

The third exemption is where an allowance is received for travel expenses or overtime meal expenses that is less than the amount considered reasonable by the Commissioner. While the normal record keeping rules do not apply, some form of records must be kept showing how the amount of the claim was calculated and that it was incurred.


Covid-19 and tax (cash payments)

Ten minute video on the business credits under the Covid-19. Enjoy


Redback 2020 Yearbook

Redbacks Yearbook 2020


A picture tells a thousand words…

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If you look carefully you can find the amount those dodgy large corporate group dodge their tax affairs (illegally avoiding $2 billion in tax each year), but it is hard to see next to the ridiculously large amounts that small businesses (illegally avoiding $11.1 billion in tax each year – over 70% due to not declaring cash sales), individuals (illegally avoiding $8.4 billion in tax each year – around 80% dodgy work related deduction claims) and GST (illegally avoiding $5.2 billion in tax each year – mostly small businesses not declaring cash payments).

For the decades I have been involved in tax policy in this country, the biggest problem with our tax system is not loopholes or large business structuring… It has been dodgy small businesses not declaring cash and dodgy individuals (and sometimes their dodgy tax agents – the most recent research in Australia shows tax agent prepared returns make more mistakes on work related deductions than self prepared returns) making up deductions.

Lets not increase rates or bring in new taxes. Lets just fix the dodgy individuals and small businesses.


Traveling while “on call”

I’m “on call” so my travel to and from work is not private… Wrong… Sometimes…

According to Draft Taxation Ruling TR 2019/D7, titled “Income tax: when are deductions allowed for employees’ transport expenses?”, travel of an employee while ‘on call’ may not be private, even if it is between home and a regular place of work. Importantly, just awaiting a call from their employer to attend a regular place of work, does not stop the travel to work being private. To not be private, the employee’s duties must have “substantively commenced at their home and the employee is required to travel to a regular place of work to complete those particular duties.”

For example…

Christine is a highly trained computer consultant who is involved in supervising a major conversion in computer facilities which her employer provides for its customers. This requires her to be on call 24 hours a day. In order to assist in diagnosing and correcting computer faults while she is at home after her normal work hours, Christine’s employer installs specialised equipment at her home. Typically, matters can be resolved by Christine at home with the use of this equipment but if the problem cannot be resolved at home, Christine travels to the office in order to progress the matter further.

Christine’s travel between her home and the office every day is private travel between her home and her regular work location. The costs of this travel are not incurred in gaining or producing her assessable income. However, in circumstances where Christine is called to correct a fault after hours and where she commences work on that fault at home but has to travel to her employer’s premises because she cannot rectify it at home, the cost of travel between her home and the office will be deductible. Although this travel is between her home and a regular work location, the cost of these abnormal journeys are deductible because Christine commences substantive work prior to leaving home and then completes that work once she attends the office. Christine does not choose to do part of the work of her job in two separate places, but rather the two places of work are a fundamental part of Christine providing specialised support arising from the nature of her special duties. The expenses she incurs in travelling to the office in such circumstances are incurred in gaining or producing her assessable income.

But travel remains private where an employee awaits at home for advice from their employer whether they are required to work, in a sense on ‘standby’, and does not commence any substantive duties at the place where they receive the call or request from their employer.

Linda is a nurse. Sometimes Linda is required to be on standby duty. If Linda is called by her employer while she is on standby duty, she travels from her home to the hospital and starts her shift once she gets there. Linda’s travel is between her home and a regular work location with short notice of her start time. The travel does not occur on paid work time and accordingly, the expenses are a prerequisite to Linda’s income earning activities. The transport expenses Linda incurs in travelling from her home to the hospital are private and not deductible.

At call to work where you are (business) or at call to come into work (private). You can’t just say its not private because I am “on call”.


Imputation and Base Rate Entities

How many franking credits can I attach to this dividend, 30% or 27.5%?

I have been asked this question countless times since we introduced Base Rate Entities and the lower company tax rate of 27.5%. It is not a hard question to answer, but the Commissioner has made the answers easier by finalising Law Companion Ruling LCR 2019/5 Base rate entities and base rate entity passive income.

Have a look at these examples (all starting from para 53):

59. Kookaburra Co was founded on 1 July 2017.

60. As Kookaburra Co did not exist in the prior income year (the 2016-17 income year), its 2017-18 corporate tax rate for imputation purposes is 27.5%.

If the company did not exist in the prior year, you can frank at 27.5%.

But if the company did exist in the prior year then it works out its corporate tax rate for imputation purposes by assuming that its aggregated turnover, BREPI and assessable income are the same as in the previous income year.

61. Swan Co has been carrying on a business since 1 July 2014.

62. In the 2016-17 income year, Swan Co was dormant and had no aggregated turnover. Swan Co’s 2016-17 assessable income was nil, and so its BREPI was nil.

63. As Swan Co existed in the 2016-17 income year, the corporate tax rate for imputation purposes of Swan Co for the 2017-18 income year is determined as the corporate tax rate for the 2017-18 income year based on the assumption that its aggregated turnover, BREPI and assessable income are the same as the 2016-17 income year.

64. As Swan Co’s assessable income and BREPI for the 2016-17 income year are nil, it has no more than 80% of its assessable income as BREPI. As Swan Co has no connected entities or affiliated entities in the 2016-17 income year, Swan Co’s aggregated turnover for the 2016-17 income year is nil, its aggregated turnover is less than the relevant threshold for the 2017-18 income year. Therefore, its corporate tax rate for imputation purposes for the 2017-18 income year is 27.5%.

And yes, it is possible that the company tax rate for a year is different to the imputation or franking rate for the year.

68. In the 2017-18 income year, Cockatoo Co had an aggregated turnover of $48 million. Cockatoo Co’s 2017-18 assessable income was 82% BREPI.

69. In the 2018-19 income year, Cockatoo Co had aggregated turnover of $46 million. Cockatoo Co’s 2018-19 assessable income was 75% BREPI. Cockatoo Co’s 2018-19 aggregated turnover was below the aggregated turnover threshold of $50 million, and its BREPI was below the 80% threshold. Therefore, it was a base rate entity, with a 2018-19 corporate tax rate of 27.5%.

70. Cockatoo Co has a 2018-19 corporate tax rate for imputation purposes of 30%. This is because it is assumed its aggregated turnover, BREPI and assessable income are the same as the previous income year. As such it is assumed that, for the purposes of determining the corporate tax rate for imputation for the 2018-19 income year, Cockatoo Co’s aggregated turnover is the same as the 2017-18 income year, being $48 million, of which 82% is BREPI. Although the aggregated turnover is below the threshold of $50 million, its BREPI is above the 80% threshold. Accordingly, its corporate tax rate for imputation purposes is 30%.





Gloxinia dies – finally

In my small town (Canberra) we love property development which we can sell to well paid public servants. But there is something strange about Canberra (more than one thing but stay on point Ken). We don’t own our land, we lease it off the government for 99 year.

And after the Gloxinia case (Commissioner of Taxation v Gloxinia Investments (Trustee) [2010] FCAFC 46) developers thought they were on a GST winner.

These developers often do their developments on land they have acquired under a long-term Crown lease that is automatically renewable, with the Commonwealth holding the reversion. They are set up like this:

  • A developer enters into a contract for sale with a government agency to acquire a Crown lease over land in the ACT for a monetary purchase price.
  • On completion of the contract (that is, once the developer has paid the full monetary purchase price to the government agency), a government agency is required to grant the Crown lease to the developer.
  • The contract is contingent upon the developer entering into a project delivery agreement (PDA) with a government agency prior to or at the same time of entering into the contract.
  • The Crown lease and the PDA provide that the developer must complete building works within a specified time period, for example, within 48 months from the date of the commencement of the Crown lease.

When the developers sell the land, they generally use the margin scheme, being the difference of what they bought the land for, against what they paid for it. But what is the “purchase price”? Everyone agrees it includes the case the developer pays for the lease of the land. But what about the costs of the developer building the houses, roads, drains… on the land?

People have argued that, under a contract that requires them to build all these (the PDA), it is consideration for the purchase of the land. And that makes the margin very small. The example in the draft Determination released recently (GSTD 2019/D1) has the developer buying the land for $5 million, doing $100 million of work on the land and let say selling it for $150 million. This would mean the margin is not $145 million (with about $14 million of GST payable), but rather is $50 million (with about $5 million of GST payable) – with the developer paying $9 million less in GST.

I know you are screaming that for the margin scheme to apply, they can’t claim input tax credits on the purchase price of the land. So if they spent $100 million on the building, they will have to give back all the GST. You are 100% right except, unfortunately for the Commissioner, the developer claimed all the GST on the development and now 4 years have past so they can’t amended their BAS to give it all back.

Effectively, we claim all the GST incurred on doing the development and they when we sell the property we don’t have to add GST when selling most of the development.

BUT IT DOES NOT WORK – In Draft Goods and Services Tax Determination GSTD 2019/D1 Goods and services tax: development works in the Australian Capital Territory the Commissioner states…

5. However, the building works and the associated site works a developer completes under a building arrangement are not consideration for the supply of the Crown lease by the government agency under section 9-5. While the developer is required to complete these works within a certain time period after acquiring the Crown lease, this stipulated timeframe does not make these works non-monetary consideration for the supply of the Crown lease.

What does this mean for my client who has treated the development costs as consideration for the supply of the Crown lease?

When the final Determination is issued, it is proposed to apply both before and after its date of issue. However, the Determination will not apply to taxpayers to the extent that it conflicts with the terms of settlement of a dispute agreed to before the date of issue of the Determination.

If you a private ruling or a settled dispute, you don’t have to do anything. If not, the margin you used is wrong and you should amend (if it is within the four year amendment period).

But most importantly, can we stop saying “Gloxinia” randomly at people we see walking down the street that we think might be property developers?