ATO’s FAQ helps to clarify coronavirus impacts
The ATO’s COVID-19 frequently asked questions (FAQ) is a resource tool for people and businesses in the community who need clarifications in relation to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The FAQ is broken into common questions for individuals, employers, businesses (including internationals) and self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs).
Common questions centre around issues relating to the nationwide shutdown – late or deferring payment obligations; deductibles from working from home; residence status due to travel restrictions; GST and FBT impacts from cancellations; and SMSF losses and strategies.
TIP: The ATO will update this FAQ regularly and welcomes suggestions and more questions. See www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Dealing-with-disasters/In-detail/Specific-disasters/COVID-19/.
Working from home: what can I deduct?
Have you been directed by your employer to work from home to limit the spread of COVID-19? While working from home has its benefits, there may be extra expenses too, ranging from printing costs to the need for more internet data and perhaps even additional equipment. You may be able to claim a deduction for the additional running costs you incur. The costs you may be able to claim include the work-related portion of any heating, cooling and lighting for the area you’re working from, work-related phone and internet costs, and work-related decline in value of a personally owned computer and associated office equipment. To claim these expenses, you must keep specific records ranging from diary entries to receipts.
Scams targeting natural disaster victims
Victims of the recent natural disasters beware: there is an SMS scam circulating that purports to give you “a bonus” on your 2020 tax return. The scam urges victims to start the process by filling out a form and provides a link to a what looks like the genuine myGov website. According to the ATO, this is a classic case of scammers impersonating the ATO in an effort to collect personal information including names, birth dates, addresses, emails, phone numbers and online banking login details.
Once this information is obtained, scammers can use it to commit identify theft, including porting your phone, accessing your bank account, obtaining a loan in your name, lodging tax returns, stealing your superannuation and committing other types of fraud, or they could on-sell the information to others who may commit these offences.
If you receive a call from someone saying they are from the ATO but you aren’t sure, the best course of action is to hang up and call the ATO back on the appropriate number listed on its website, or to call your tax agent directly on their listed number to seek advice. While the ATO does send SMS messages and emails and calls taxpayers, it’s important to remember that the ATO will never:
- send an SMS message or email asking you to click on a hyperlink to log into myGov or other government websites;
- ask for personally identifying information in order for you to receive a refund;
- use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with immediate arrest, jail or deportation;
- project its number onto caller ID; or
- request that you make payments of debt via cardless cash, iTunes or Google Play cards, prepaid Visa cards, cryptocurrency, or direct credit to a personal bank account.
If you’ve fallen victim to this or other tax-related scams, don’t be ashamed, but contact the ATO as quickly as possible. The sooner you notify the ATO, the better the outcome is likely to be.
Independent review of ATO audit position: small business pilot extended and expanded
The ATO has advised that it has extended and expanded its pilot program which offers an independent review service to eligible small businesses disputing income tax related audits. The pilot will continue until 31 December 2020.
The independent review is conducted by an officer from the ATO’s Review and Dispute Resolution business line. This officer will not have been involved in the audit and will bring an independent “fresh set of eyes” to the review. The independent reviewer will consider the documents setting out the taxpayer’s position and the ATO audit position. They will schedule a case conference with the taxpayer and the ATO audit officer generally within one month of receiving the taxpayer’s review request. The case conference is an opportunity for all parties to assist the independent reviewer with understanding the facts and contentions.
The audit case officer will contact a taxpayer if it is eligible for an independent review. A written offer of independent review will also be included in the audit finalisation letter.
TIP: The ATO emphasises that taxpayers will retain their full dispute and objection rights even if they seek an independent review. Taxpayers will also retain these rights if they are not eligible for an independent review or if they choose not to seek an independent review.
Super guarantee amnesty for employers
An amnesty is now on for employers in relation to unpaid employee superannuation entitlements from 1 July 1992 to 1 January 2018. There are certain conditions which have to be met for employers to qualify. The amnesty will allow employers to self-correct super guarantee (SG) underpayments without incurring additional penalties that would normally apply.
During the amnesty period, employers can also claim a tax deduction for payments of SG charge or contributions. The amnesty will end on 7 September 2020, at which time the ATO is set to take a tougher stance on SG underpayments.
To qualify, employers must first disclose the super guarantee shortfall to the ATO in the approved form between 24 May 2018 and 7 September 2020. The shortfall must not have been previously disclosed to the Commissioner, however, additional amounts of SG shortfalls disclosed during the amnesty period may be subject to beneficial treatment.
Contact your Bentleys adviser today to discuss your next steps.