Businesses use activity statements to report and pay a number of tax obligations, including GST, pay as you go (PAYG) instalments, PAYG withholding and fringe benefits tax. Non-business individuals who need to pay quarterly PAYG instalments also use activity statements.
Activity statements are personalised to each business or individual to support reporting against identified obligations.
Activity statements for businesses may be due either quarterly or monthly. Generally, businesses can lodge and pay quarterly if annual turnover is less than $20 million, and total annual PAYG withholding is $25,000 or less. Businesses that exceed one or both of those thresholds will have at least some monthly obligations. Non-business individuals are generally required to lodge and pay quarterly.
Businesses or individuals with small obligations may be able to lodge and pay annually. Some taxpayers may receive an instalment notice for GST and/or PAYG instalments, instead of an activity statement.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) web site provides instructions on lodging and paying activity statements. Detailed instructions are provided for each of the different tax obligations:
The Australian business number (ABN) is a single business identifier that allows businesses to deal with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and other government departments and agencies with one identifier.
An ABN is not compulsory and not everyone is entitled to an ABN. The following entities will need an ABN to comply with other tax obligations:
Other eligible entities may choose to register for an ABN:
If an entity makes supplies of goods or services to a business, the supplier entity generally needs to quote an ABN. If the supplier does not quote an ABN, the payer may need to withhold tax from the payment.
Deductions for the decline in value of depreciating assets are available under the Uniform capital allowance (UCA) system. In addition to the rules for depreciating assets, deductions are allowed for certain other capital expenditure. Small business entities have the option of choosing simplified depreciation rules.
Land, trading stock and most intangible assets (excluding exceptions such as intellectual property and in-house software) are not depreciating assets.
The decline in value is calculated by spreading the cost of the asset over its effective life, using one of two methods:
For most depreciating assets, taxpayers can either self-assess the effective life, or use estimates published by the ATO. Taxpayers can recalculate, either up or down, the effective life of an asset if the circumstances of use change and the effective life initially chosen is no longer accurate. An improvement to an asset that increases its cost by 10% or more in a year may result in an obligation to recalculate the effective life of the asset.
Decline in value of cars is restricted to the car limit. Luxury car leases are treated as a notional sale and purchase, with decline in value restricted to the car limit.
The decline in value of certain depreciating assets with a cost or opening adjustable value of less than $1000 can be calculated through a low-value pool. The decline in value for depreciating assets in the pool is calculated at an annual diminishing value rate of 37.5%.
Capital gains tax (CGT) generally applies to CGT events that happen to CGT assets acquired after 19 September 1985. CGT is not a separate tax, it forms part of income tax.
The most common CGT event is the disposal of an asset by selling it or giving it away. A full list of CGT events is available here.
A CGT asset is any kind of property, or a legal or equitable right that is not property. CGT assets include:
Where a taxpayer owns an interest in a CGT asset and then acquires a further interest, the interests remain separate CGT assets. Buildings, structures and other capital improvements to land may be treated as separate CGT assets to the land. A car is a CGT asset, but any capital gain made from it is exempt from CGT (the gain may be taxable under other provisions).
Special rules apply to some kinds of CGT assets, including collectables, personal use assets, certain investments, leases and options.
For most CGT events, a capital gain arises if the capital proceeds from the CGT event exceed the cost base of the CGT asset. Conversely, a capital loss arises if the reduced cost base of the CGT asset exceeds the capital proceeds from the CGT event.
The amount of a capital gain is reduced by the CGT discount if the taxpayer is an individual, trust or complying superannuation entity, and the taxpayer acquired the CGT asset at least 12 months before the CGT event. The discount percentage is as follows:
Taxpayers can choose the indexation method, rather than the CGT discount, if that results in a lower capital gain. Companies are generally not eligible for the CGT discount, but can use the indexation method. Discount capital gains made by trusts can generally be passed through to presently entitled beneficiaries, who can claim the discount percentage as above. Where the trustee is taxed on a capital gain, the availability of the discount depends on the particular circumstances of the trust.
Capital losses can only be offset against capital gains, they cannot be offset against other income. Care should be taken when applying capital losses to ensure the optimum reduction of capital gains for the CGT discount and small business CGT concessions. A net capital loss in an income year is carried forward to be offset against capital gains in later income years.
On or after 12 December 2006, a foreign resident makes capital gains only on the disposal of taxable Australian property. Temporary residents are subject to the same CGT rules as foreign residents, however some specific rules apply. Special rules apply on becoming a resident or ceasing to be an Australian resident.
Excise duty is a tax on certain types of goods that are made in Australia including alcohol, tobacco, fuel and petroleum products.
Customs duty is imposed at an equal rate on imported alcohol, tobacco, fuel and petroleum products to ensure imported and local goods are treated consistently. These goods are referred to as Excise Equivalent Goods (EEGs).
Entities who manufacture or store excisable goods must hold an appropriate licence.
MORE: See the Excise section of the ATO web site for more information.
Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) is paid on particular benefits employers provide to their employees or their employees' associates instead of salary or wages. Benefits can be provided by an employer, an associate of an employer, or a third party by arrangement with an employer. An employee can be a former, current, or future employee.
FBT is separate from income tax and based on the taxable value of the various fringe benefits provided. The rate corresponds to the top marginal income tax rate for individuals, including the Medicare Levy (47% for the FBT year ending 31 March 2015). A complicated gross-up factor is applied in calculating the tax - the general principle is that the FBT payable should equal the income tax otherwise payable by an employee on the top marginal tax rate, on the cash salary needed to purchase the benefit (including GST) from after-tax income.
The FBT year runs from 1 April - 31 March. Annual FBT returns must be lodged and tax paid by 21 May each year. Returns lodged through tax agents may qualify for extended due dates. Annual FBT liabilities of $3,000 or more are paid by quarterly instalments as part of the employer's business activity statement.
If the taxable value of certain fringe benefits provided to an employee exceeds $2,000 in an FBT year, the 'grossed-up' taxable value must be reported on the employee's payment summary for the corresponding income tax year. The value of reportable fringe benefits is taken into account in income tests for certain taxes and government benefits.
The following categories of fringe benefits apply, with specific valuation methods applicable to each category:
Concessional valuation rules apply to 'in-house' fringe benefits. Benefits provided as part of a salary packaging arrangement do not qualify for the concessional treatment.
The taxable value of certain fringe benefits can be reduced by employee contributions towards the cost of the benefit. Making such contributions can result in a lower overall tax liability, depending on the particular employee's tax situation and the valuation method that applies to each benefit received.
Fuel schemes provide credits and grants to reduce the costs of some fuels or provide a benefit to encourage recycling of waste oils. There are various types of schemes:
The former Energy grants credits scheme that applied to alternative fuels and diesel no longer operates for new purchases of fuel.
The General value shifting regime (GVSR) applies to arrangements that shift value between assets, causing discrepancies between the market values and tax values of the assets. Most value shifts happen when parties don't deal at the market value, causing one asset to decrease while the other increases.
Three scenarios are targeted under the GVSR. Exclusions apply to small values in each of the scenarios, as follows:
Generally, the GVSR does not apply to normal commercial dealings conducted at market value, or dealings within consolidated groups. There are several other exclusions and safe harbours in the rules.
Goods and services tax (GST) is a tax of 10% on most goods, services, and other items sold or consumed in Australia. The general principle is that only the end consumer bears the economic cost of GST. Registered entities bear the liability of collecting GST in the price of sales to their customers, but can offset credits for GST included in the price of business purchases.
An entity (including an individual) must register for GST if the entity's annual turnover is $75,000 or more ($150,000 for non-profit organisations). An entity may choose to register if the entity's turnover is below the threshold. Related entities may form a GST group and be treated as a single entity for GST. A single entity may register separate branches for GST.
A registered entity is generally required to charge GST on all sales of goods and services in Australia, unless a supply is GST-free or input taxed. The entity must provide its customers with a tax invoice for all taxable sales above a threshold of $82.50 ($75 + GST).
A registered entity can claim an input tax credit for GST included in the price of goods or services purchased for the entity's business. A credit cannot be claimed for:
A range of special rules apply to sales and purchases by entities operating in specific industries, or certain types of transaction entered into by any entity. Details are available here.
The reporting periods for GST are called tax periods and can be quarterly or monthly. GST is reported and paid on the entity's activity statement for its tax period. Entities with an annual turnover of less than $20 million generally have quarterly tax periods, but can choose to have monthly tax periods. Entities with an annual turnover greater than $20 million are required to have monthly tax periods and lodge their activity statements electronically.
In limited circumstances, entities can choose to report and/or pay GST annually. This may involve quarterly instalments plus an annual GST return to reconcile actual transactions for the year.
The rules for attributing GST payable and input tax credits to tax periods differ according to whether GST is accounted for on a cash or accrual basis. An entity can account for GST on a cash basis if any of the following applies:
The imputation system provides a way for Australian and New Zealand corporate tax entities that pay Australian tax, to pass on to their members a credit for Australian income tax they have paid. This prevents the same income from being taxed twice - once when the income is earned by the entity, and again when the income is distributed to members.
The franking account is a record of franking credits and franking debits that arise in an income year. All corporate tax entities are required to maintain a franking account, which is a notional account for tax purposes that is separate to the entity's financial accounts. Corporate tax entities are taxed at the company income tax rate (currently 30%). Typically a franking credit would arise in the franking account when the corporate tax entity pays income tax or receives a franked distribution. A franking debit would arise when the corporate tax entity pays a franked distribution or receives a refund of income tax it has paid. There are numerous other events that may give rise to franking credits or franking debits.
At the end of an income year, an entity that has a deficit in its franking account is liable to pay franking deficit tax.
The general rule for individuals receiving a franked distribution (either directly, or indirectly through interposed entities) is called the "gross-up and credit" approach. The member who receives the $70 franked dividend must include $100 in assessable income ($70 + $30 franking credit), and is entitled to a tax offset of $30. If the individual's tax on the dividend (at marginal rates) is more than $30, the individual will need to pay the difference on assessment. If the individual's tax on the dividend is less than $30, the net amount is refundable.
The "gross-up and credit" approach also applies to corporate tax entities who receive a franked distribution, with some differences. Because the company tax rate is 30%, the $30 franking credit generally cancels out the entity's tax on the distribution. However, if the entity has offsetting expenses, such that the entity's overall tax liability is less than $30, the net amount is not refundable. Rather, the excess franking credit is converted to a tax loss that can be deducted against income in later years. As noted above, the franking credit attached to the distribution also creates a franking credit in the recipient entity's franking account, which it can pass on to its members.
The trans-Tasman imputation system allows a New Zealand company to choose to enter the Australian imputation system. This will allow the New Zealand company to maintain an Australian franking account and pay dividends franked with Australian franking credits. Reciprocal rules have been introduced by the New Zealand government to allow an Australian company to elect into the New Zealand rules.
Income tax is levied on taxable income, which is calculated as assessable income less allowable deductions. Gross tax on taxable income is reduced by tax offsets, to arrive at net tax payable or refundable.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) publishes lists of assessable income, allowable deductions and tax offsets for individuals. Sole traders declare business income in their individual income tax return, they are not required to complete a separate return for their business. Tax on individuals is charged at marginal rates. You can use the tax tables to determine how much you are taxed.
Resident tax rates 2016-17
|Taxable income||Tax on this income|
|$0 - $18,200||Nil|
|$18,201 - $37,000||19c for each $1 over $18,200|
|$37,001 - $87,000||$3,572 plus 32.5c for each $1 over $37,000|
|$87,001 - $180,000||$19,822 plus 37c for each $1 over $87,000|
|$180,001 and over||$54,232 plus 45c for each $1 over $180,000|
Non-resident tax rates 2016-17
|Taxable income||Tax on this income|
|$0 - $87,000||32.5c for each $1|
|$87,001 - $180,000||$28,275 plus 37c for each $1 over $87,000|
|$180,001 and over||$62,685 plus 45c for each $1 over $180,000|
The temporary budget repair levy adds an additional 2% tax on that part of an individual's income above $180,000, for the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 income years.
MORE: See the ATO web site for more information on Individual Income Tax Rates.
A company is a distinct legal entity with its own income tax liability, and is required to lodge a Company income tax return. The company tax rate is generally 30%. Special rates apply to certain types of companies, or companies in certain industries.
A partnership carrying on a business must complete a Partnership tax return to show all income earned and deductions claimed for the income year, and how the net income or loss was shared between the partners. The partnership itself is not a taxable entity. Rather, each partner includes a share of the partnership's net income or loss in the partner's taxable income.
Partnerships where the only income is from joint investments (for example, jointly owned shares or rental properties) are not required to lodge a Partnership income tax return. Rather, each partner's share of the joint income is declared in the partner's own tax return.
Where a beneficiary (not under a legal disability) is presently entitled to a share of net income of a trust, the trustee is not taxable. Rather, each such beneficiary includes a share of the trust's net income in the beneficiary's taxable income. A trust cannot distribute a net loss to the beneficiaries, the loss is carried forward to offset against net income in later years.
Where a presently entitled beneficiary is under a legal disability (for example, under 18 years of age, a non-resident, or incapable of managing his/her own affairs), the trustee is taxable on the beneficiary's share of the trust's net income. The tax rates correspond to the tax rates that would otherwise be payable by the beneficiary.
Where no beneficiary is presently entitled to part of the trust's net income, the trustee is taxable. The tax rates depend on the trust's particular circumstances, for example income of deceased estates attracts a different tax rate depending on the stage of administration of the estate.
A superannuation fund is a distinct legal entity with its own income tax liability and is required to lodge an income tax return. Different income tax return forms are used by self-managed superannuation funds and other superannuation funds. The superannuation fund tax rate is generally 15%. Higher rates apply to net non-arm's length income, and contributions by or on behalf of a member who has not quoted his/her tax file number to the trustee.
The Medicare Levy is a tax Australian residents pay to cover health care charges. It is payable on taxable income, in addition to income tax. Individuals and families on higher incomes who do not have an appropriate level of private hospital cover may have to pay the Medicare levy surcharge.
For the 2014-15 and later income years, Medicare Levy is usually calculated at 2% of taxable income. A reduction in the rate is available for people on low incomes and an exemption is available for people in certain categories.
A Medicare Levy Calculator is available on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) web site to help you work out your obligation.
MORE: See the Medicare Levy Essentials section of the ATO web site.
The government-funded Paid Parental Leave scheme provides financial support for parents to take up to 18 weeks off work following the birth or adoption of a child, with pay at the National Minimum Wage. From 1 January 2013 the scheme was expanded to include Dad and Partner Pay, which provides eligible working dads or partners with up to two weeks of pay at the National Minimum Wage.
Employers receive funds from the Department of Human Services and pay eligible employees in the same way they would normally pay salary or wages.
Pay As You Go (PAYG) Instalments is a system for paying instalments during the income year towards an entity's or individual's expected tax liability on business and investment income. The actual tax liability is worked out at the end of the income year when the annual income tax return is assessed. PAYG instalments paid during the year are credited against the assessment to determine whether the entity or individual owes more tax, or is owed a refund.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will contact entities and individuals who are required to pay PAYG instalments, notifying them of their instalment rate. This is calculated according to information in the last assessed income tax return. PAYG instalments may be included as part of an activity statement, or a separate instalment notice may be issued.
The default option is for the instalment to be calculated as the instalment rate multiplied by business and investment income for the instalment period. The main advantage of this method is that instalments are based on income as the entity or individual earns it, instead of a projection based on the previous tax situation. Some entities, and all individuals, may however choose to pay an instalment amount calculated by the ATO, which is based on the most recent tax assessment plus an uplift factor. This decision needs to be made before the due date for payment of the first instalment for each income year, and then applies for the remainder of that year.
Entities and individuals can vary an instalment if they believe the instalment rate, or the ATO calculated instalment, will result in paying more or less than the expected tax liability for the year.
PAYG instalments for individuals are generally paid quarterly. Where the most recent annual tax liability on business and investment income is less than $8,000 and certain other conditions are met, individuals can choose to pay an annual instalment. For more information see Introduction to annual PAYG instalments. A special two instalment option is available to some primary producers and special professionals (e.g. sportspersons, artists, inventors and authors).
Corporate tax entities with annual turnover above a threshold are required to pay monthly PAYG instalments. The threshold is $1 billion from 1 January 2014 and $100 million from 1 January 2015. Other corporate tax entities are required to pay quarterly instalments. Companies can choose to pay an annual instalment if they meet the criteria that apply to individuals noted above, plus some additional conditions.
PAYG instalments for superannuation funds are generally paid quarterly. Superannuation funds can choose to pay an annual instalment if they meet the criteria that apply to individuals noted above.
Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding is a system for withholding amounts from payments to employees and businesses. An entity will have withholding obligations if the entity:
If you are an employer or run a business and withhold amounts from payments, you need to:
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) provides a variety of rate tables, tax calculators, and other tools on many topics, including the following:
MORE: To access these tools, navigate to the Calculators & Tools section of the ATO web site.
Small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $2 million may qualify for a range of tax concessions. If your business is eligible you can use the concessions that suit you. You may have to satisfy additional conditions and will need to check whether you qualify for the concessions each tax year.
Eligible businesses can use the concessions outlined in the table.
|CGT 15-year asset exemption||If you are 55 or older and retiring and your business has owned an asset for at least 15 years, you won't pay capital gains tax when you sell the asset.|
|CGT 50% active asset reduction||If you have owned an asset to conduct your business you will only pay tax on 50% of the capital gain when you sell the asset. For individuals (including partners in partnerships and beneficiaries of trusts), this reduction applies in addition to the standard* 50% CGT discount, thereby reducing the taxable amount to 25% of the capital gain.
* For foreign or temporary residents, a reduced CGT discount between 0-50% applies depending on individual circumstances.
|CGT retirement exemption||There is CGT exemption on the sale of a business asset (up to a lifetime limit of $500,000). If you are under 55, money from the sale of the asset must be paid into a complying superannuation fund, or retirement savings account.|
|CGT rollover||If you sell a small business asset and buy a replacement, you can roll over your CGT liability to the value of the replacement asset. This means you won't pay any CGT owing until you sell the replacement asset.|
|Simpler depreciation rules||You can usually pool your assets to make depreciation calculations easier. You can also claim an immediate deduction for most assets that cost less than $1,000*.
* For assets acquired between 1 July 2012 and 31 December 2013, the immediate deduction was available for assets that cost less than $6,500, and a special accelerated deduction of $5,000 was available for motor vehicles.
|Simpler trading stock rules||If the value of your trading stock has not increased or decreased by more than $5,000 over the year, you can choose whether or not to do an end-of-year stock take.|
|Immediate deduction for certain prepaid business expenses||You can claim an immediate deduction for prepaid business expenses if the payment covers a period of 12 months or less and ends in the following income year.|
|Two-year amendment period||The time limit for the Commissioner or the taxpayer to amend an income tax assessment of an individual or small business is two years, instead of the standard four years.|
|Accounting for GST on a cash basis||You don't need to account for GST on a sale you make until you receive payment for the sale. Equally, input tax credits for purchases can only be claimed when you have paid for the purchase.|
|Annual apportionment of GST input tax credits||If you purchase items you use partly for private purposes, you can claim full GST credits for these on your activity statements. You can then make a single adjustment to account for the private use percentage at the end of the year.|
|Paying GST by instalments||You can pay GST by instalments the ATO calculates for you and can vary this amount each quarter if required.|
|FBT car parking exemption||In some cases you may be exempt from FBT for employee car parking.|
|PAYG instalments based on GDP amount||To save you working out your instalments based on actual income each quarter, all individuals and small business entities can pay fixed quarterly instalment amounts as calculated by the ATO based on their business and investment income in their most recently assessed tax return.|
MORE: For more information, see the Small business entity concessions essentials section of the ATO web site.
Payroll tax is a state tax on the wages paid by employers when the total wages exemption threshold is exceeded. Exemption thresholds vary between states. The definition of wages generally includes employer superannuation contributions and fringe benefits, although the definition also varies between states.
NOTE: Payroll tax is not the same as PAYG withholding tax collected by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). PAYG is the tax deducted from an employee's income and forwarded to the ATO.
The following organisations are generally exempt from payroll tax, provided specific qualifying conditions are met:
All landowners, except those in the Northern Territory, may be liable for land tax. In the Australian Capital Territory land tax is levied on lessees under a Crown lease, because land generally cannot be acquired under freehold title. Landowners are generally liable for land tax when the unimproved value of taxable land exceeds certain thresholds (excluding the ACT).
In some states, deductions and rebates are available, depending on how the land is used. Principal places of residence are generally exempt from land tax, however this depends on particular qualifying criteria (these vary between jurisdictions).
Land owned and used by the following types of organisations might be exempt from land tax:
Stamp duty is levied on particular written documents and transactions, including:
Particular deductions and exemptions vary between states for all duties. For additional state-specific information, visit the applicable state web site:
In addition to employees' salaries and wages, employers are required to pay superannuation contributions on behalf of all eligible employees. This compulsory contribution is called the superannuation guarantee. The definition of employee for this purpose includes certain contractors. The minimum contribution from 1 July 2014 is 9.5% of each eligible employee's earnings base (usually their ordinary time earnings) and must be paid within 28 days after the end of each calendar quarter. Employers must also provide employees with a choice of superannuation fund.
The minimum contribution rate will remain at 9.5% until 30 June 2021. After that date, the rate will increase by 0.5% each financial year until it reaches 12% from 1 July 2025.
Employers are generally required to pay superannuation contributions for employees if they are:
If an employer fails to make the minimum contributions for a quarter by the due date, the employer is liable for the Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC). The SGC comprises the unpaid contributions calculated on a higher earnings base, plus an interest charge (which is credited to the employee's superannuation account) and an administration fee. The employer cannot claim an income tax deduction for the SGC.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) provides the following tools to help you understand and meet your obligations:
Taxpayers who do not meet their tax obligations may face penalty or interest charges. To avoid these charges, ensure you pay the full amount of tax you owe by the due date.
The main charges for failing to meet tax obligations are the:
Additional penalties include failing to:
If a taxpayer is audited and an amended assessment is raised, further penalties of up to 75% of the additional tax levied may be applied, depending on the severity of the offence. Examples include making a false or misleading statement, not taking reasonable care, or taking a position that is not reasonably arguable in a tax return or other document.
Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) is a tax on wine levied at 29% of the taxable value of wine. The taxing point is the last wholesale sale, or a retail sale or application for own use (e.g. tastings) when there is no wholesale sale. The taxable value is the actual sale price (excluding WET and GST) for wholesale sales, or a notional equivalent value in the other situations.
WET affects wine manufacturers, wholesalers, and importers. Retailers do not have a WET liability unless they make their own wholesale wine. WET is paid as part of the entity's activity statement, the tax period is the same as the entity's tax period for GST (which may be monthly, quarterly or annually).
The producer rebate scheme entitles wine producers to a rebate of WET for up to $500,000 of domestic sales each financial year. There is a modified producer rebate scheme for New Zealand wine producers.
Generally, WET is included in the price that retailers such as bottle shops and restaurants pay when purchasing wine. The retailer is not entitled to claim back the cost of the WET, as the WET is built into the price the retailer pays and then passed on to the consumer.
WET applies to the following alcoholic beverages: