What employers need to know about FBT 2017

FBT
We know that no one likes to pay tax and certainly no more tax than they should.  But very few people want to be on the wrong side of an Australian Taxation Office (ATO) audit where fees and penalties are paid for neglecting your obligations.

The Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) year ends on 31 March which means the ATO will be looking closely at whether or not every employer who should be paying FBT is, and whether they are paying the right amount.

Housekeeping

If your business has cars and you need to record odometer readings at the first and last days of the FBT year (31 March and 1 April), have your team take a photo on their phone and email it through to a central contact person – it will save running around to every car.

Should I be registered for FBT?

If you have employees (including Directors of a company) then it’s possible your business needs to register for FBT.  Generally, your business needs to register for FBT if you are providing benefits to employees that are not exempt from FBT.  So, if you provide cars, car spaces, reimburse private (not business) expenses, provide entertainment (food and drink), employee discounts etc., then you are likely to be providing a fringe benefit.

There are exemptions to FBT, such as portable electronic devices like laptops and iPads (although there are rules around how many), protective clothing, tools of trade etc,. If your business only provides these exempt items, or items that are infrequent and valued under $300, then you are unlikely to have to worry about FBT.

 The FBT rate is changing

The FBT rate will decrease on 1 April 2017.  The rate change is because of the 2% Debt Tax (Temporary Budget Repair Levy) on high income earners which imposes a 2% levy on every dollar of a taxpayer’s annual taxable income over $180,000 from 1 July 2014 until 30 June 2017.  The FBT rate was brought into line with the Debt Tax to discourage high income earners from using the FBT system to lower their taxable income.  Assuming the Debt Tax does end on 30 June 2017 as anticipated and not extended, the FBT and gross up rates will decrease to previous levels from 1 April 2017.

 The FBT rate is changing

Managing the log book just got easier

Log books need to be kept by employers using the operating cost method for FBT purposes so that they can estimate and validate the business use percentage of a car.  The more personal use the more tax paid.  Anyone who has been through this process knows it is time consuming, particularly where there are multiple cars.  The ATO has now made the process simpler where employers have 20 or more ‘tools of trade’ cars.  A tool of trade car is a car required for the job – like for a sales representative required to travel extensively for business purposes.

There are a few conditions to access the simplified method:

  • Valid log books need to be kept for at least 75% of the cars in the log book year;
  • The employer (not the employee) chose the make and model of the car;
  • Each car in the fleet has a value less than the luxury car limit when purchased;
  • The cars are not provided as part of an employee’s remuneration package (e.g., under a salary packaging arrangement); and
  • Employees cannot elect to receive additional remuneration in lieu of the use of the cars.

If these conditions are met, the employer can apply an average business use percentage to all ‘tool of trade’ cars held in the fleet in the log book year and the following four years.  Employers who can access this simplified method can apply this approach for 5 years assuming the key details remain the same.

 What the ATO are targeting this FBT year – businesses that have bought cars

Data matching has become more sophisticated over the years to the point where there very few transactions you can make without the ATO knowing about it.  While the team at the ATO don’t go through data line by line they do look at anomalies.  These anomalies, or exception reports, narrow down who should come under scrutiny.  If you or your business comes up on one of these lists the first thing that will happen is that the ATO will reach out and start asking for more information to validate your position.  This is why having your documentation in place is so important.  If you don’t have records validating your position the next step might be an audit.

One of those anomalies this FBT year is where a business has purchased vehicles but fringe benefits have not been reported to the ATO.  While this position might be legitimate, it’s important to have the documentation backing up your position.

If you are uncertain about your FBT obligations or the most effective method in dealing with FBT please contact our office on 1300 761 541.

Drive Accountants
1300 761 541 | admin@driveaccountants.com.au

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