News

Parliamentary update

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Editor: The ongoing citizenship saga in Parliament has resulted in the Government losing its one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, thanks to the resignations of Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander.

By-elections have been scheduled in the relevant electorates and, in the meantime, some of the cross-benchers have guaranteed the Government’s (current) survival by committing to vote with it on motions of no-confidence and supply.

Tax legislation passed

In other news, the Government has passed changes to the tax legislation that will limit, or deny, deductions for travel expenses and depreciation claims for certain residential premises.

Legislation to impose vacancy fees on foreign acquisitions of residential land has also been passed.

ATO relief for SMSFs reporting ‘transfer balance account’ events

The ATO has announced that, from 1 July 2018, SMSF event-based reporting regarding events impacting a member’s transfer balance account (i.e., via a Transfer Balance Account Report) will be limited to SMSFs with members with total superannuation balances of $1 million or more.

Editor: This new reporting is only required if an event that impacts a member’s transfer balance account actually occurs (e.g., such as starting an account based pension, or commuting such a pension).

This effectively means that up to 85% of the SMSF population will not be required to undertake any additional reporting with respect to a member’s transfer balance cap, outside of current time frames (as SMSFs with members with account balances below $1 million can choose to simply report events which impact their members’ transfer balances when the fund lodges its SMSF annual return).

However, from 1 July 2018, SMSFs that have members with total superannuation account balances of $1 million or more will be required to report any events impacting members’ transfer balance accounts within 28 days after the end of the quarter in which the event occurs.

Editor: Whilst SMSFs are not required to report anything to the ATO until 1 July 2018, SMSF trustees should be mindful that, where the $1.6 million transfer balance cap has been breached in respect of a member from 1 July 2017, any resulting tax liability will continue to accrue until the excess amount is commuted (i.e., irrespective of when reporting that breach is required).

ATO’s annual closure

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This year, the ATO’s annual office closure is between noon Friday 22 December and 8.00am Tuesday 2 January 2018.
Also, the ATO may have systems maintenance on some weekends, so they recommend that lodgments be made as early as possible, as even returns or activity statements lodged in early December may not be finalised until after 2 January 2018.

Reforms to stop companies avoiding employee entitlements

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The Government will introduce new laws to stop corporate misuse of the Australian Government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) scheme.

The FEG scheme is an avenue of last resort that assists employees when their employer’s business fails and the employer has not made adequate provision for employee entitlements, but it is clear that some company directors are misusing the FEG scheme to meet liabilities that can and should be paid directly by the employer, rather than passed on to Australian taxpayers.

The proposed changes will:

  • Penalise company directors and other persons who engage in transactions which are directed at preventing, avoiding or reducing employer liability for employee entitlements;
  • Ensure recovery of FEG from other entities in a corporate group where it would be just and equitable and where those other entities have utilised the human resources of the insolvent entity on other than arm’s length terms; and
  • Strengthen the ability under the law to sanction directors and company officers with a track record of insolvencies where FEG is repeatedly relied upon.

These changes will be targeted to deter and punish only those who have inappropriately relied on FEG, and so should not affect the overwhelming majority of companies who are doing the right thing.

Editor: The Government has separately released a ‘Comprehensive Package of Reforms to Address Illegal Phoenixing’, which will assist regulators to better target action against those who repeatedly misuse corporate structures and enable them to take stronger action against those entities and individuals.

These reforms will include (for example) the introduction of a Director Identification Number (DIN) (to identify all directors with a unique number), and making directors personally liable for GST liabilities as part of extended director penalty provisions.

Reporting of transfer balance account information

Editor: The recent superannuation reforms introduced the concept of a ‘transfer balance account’, to basically record the value of member balances moving into or out of ‘retirement phase’.

In order to monitor these amounts, the ATO is introducing new reporting requirements and forms.

The ATO has released the new Transfer Balance Account Report (‘TBAR’), which is now available on ato.gov.au, and the ATO plans to have an online TBAR form available from 1 January 2018.

The TBAR is the approved form to provide data relating to transactions associated with the payment of retirement phase income streams to the ATO.

Reporting on events that affect a member’s transfer balance account is vital to minimising the taxation consequences if the transfer balance cap is exceeded.

While SMSFs will not be required to report anything until 1 July 2018, SMSFs can use the TBAR to report events that affect an individual member’s transfer balance account from 1 October 2017.

SMSFs with relatively straightforward affairs are likely to have only a few events per member to report over the life of the fund, including the commencing values of any retirement phase income streams to which an SMSF member is entitled (e.g., account based pensions, including reversionary income streams), and the value of any commutation of a retirement phase income stream by an SMSF member.