With COVID-19 dominating everyone’s thoughts, employers are being offered a brief window of opportunity to get their tax affairs in order with the new Superannuation Guarantee (SG) amnesty. There is also a range of virus related assistance on offer to help affected business and individual taxpayers.
Here’s a roundup of some of the latest tax developments and support measures.
New amnesty for unpaid SG contributions
Employers are being offered a one-off opportunity to disclose and pay any unpaid Superannuation Guarantee (SG) amounts stretching back to the beginning of compulsory super, with legislation for the long-awaited SG amnesty finally in place.
The amnesty (which runs until 7 September 2020), allows employers to lodge an SG amnesty form to disclose super contribution shortfalls for their employees for any quarter from 1 July 1992 to 31 March 2018.
To encourage employers to take advantage of the amnesty, it will not incur the normal interest, administration charges and non-payment penalties of up to 200 per cent. Employers can also claim a tax deduction for any SG payments, provided they are made by the September 7 cut-off date.
As legislation for the amnesty doesn’t allow any deadline extensions, the ATO has announced it will offer deferred payment plans to eligible businesses affected by COVID-19.
This brief amnesty also comes with a warning. The regulator has reminded businesses that the new Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting system gives it more information on payment of employee entitlements and this will increasingly be used to identify non-compliant employers in future.
Assistance for taxpayers affected by COVID-19
In light of the challenging business conditions created by the coronavirus lockdown, the ATO is offering measures to assist taxpayers experiencing financial difficulties.
Unlike the bushfire tax relief, COVID-19 assistance measures will not be automatic. If you are affected, the ATO is encouraging you to get in touch to discuss relief options and a tailored support plan.
Support may include deferring payment of your PAYG instalments, business activity statement (BAS) liabilities and assessment amounts for income tax and excise, by up to four months.
If your business is on a quarterly reporting cycle, you may also opt into monthly GST reporting to get quicker access to your GST refunds. You may also be permitted to vary your PAYG instalment amounts to zero for the March 2020 quarter and claim refunds for instalments you paid for the September and December 2019 quarters.
However, employers still need to meet ongoing SG obligations for their employees.
The ATO will also work with individuals experiencing financial hardship and may offer tax relief if you are in serious and exceptional circumstances, such as being unable to pay for food or accommodation.
Fringe benefits tax deferred
Due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 lockdown, the ATO has also deferred lodgment of all 2019–20 fringe benefits tax (FBT) annual returns.
This means your business is not required to lodge your annual return or pay your FBT liability until 25 June 2020.
Directors liable for unpaid tax
Company directors need to remember that from 1 April 2020 they are personally liable for their company’s unpaid GST, luxury car tax or wine equalisation tax liabilities.
The new Treasury Laws Amendment (Combating Illegal Phoenixing) Act 2019 has extended the existing director penalty notice (DPN) regime, which is designed to protect employee entitlements such as PAYG withholding and SG contributions.
If you are a company director on the final day of a tax period or GST instalment quarter, you become personally liable for any GST remaining unpaid by the due date. If your company does not lodge a return, the ATO can estimate the amount of unpaid tax.
Claims for residential rental properties
The ATO has provided landlords with new guidance on tax deductions if they have tenants who are temporarily not paying rent, or paying reduced rent, due to COVID-19.
If landlords are still incurring normal expenses on the property, they can continue to claim these expenses in their tax return.