ATO cracks down on utes

There’s a rumour swirling from the Australian Taxation Office that its employees like to go to weekend footy – but not to watch the game .The rumour is that the ATO goes to the footy at the weekend and checks the number plates of all the utes because it is a giveaway that they are being used for private use

Unlike regular cars  utes, with a 1 tonne capacity or more, are exempt from fringe benefit tax for minor private use, including travelling to and from work and irregular use such as dumping domestic rubbish at the tip.

But if a ute is found to be used privately for more than just minor use then  fringe benefit tax does apply.

An ATO spokesman said the office was cracking down on “unusually high work-related expense claims, including work travel across all industries and occupations”, and was using a “much wider approach than in previous years”.

Living away from home reforms deferred

Legislation introducing the Living Away From Home (LAFH) reforms has been introduced to parliament, but won’t be passed until the August sitting. The biggest change from the previous draft is that the new rules won’t apply until 1 October 2012.

Some other changes have also been made. Here we outline the proposals as they stand now.

  • Generally, LAFH cash allowances are to be treated as assessable income of the employee rather than as a fringe benefit, from 1 October 2012.
  • However, FBT will remain on LAFH cash allowances to the extent they related to “ordinary weekly food and drink expenses” of employees who satisfy the requirements to claim an income tax deduction and have provided their employer with a declaration (this is a change from the earlier draft).
  • Income tax deductions are to be allowed for reasonable expenses incurred for accommodation costs and food and drink costs above the ordinary weekly expenses amount.
  • FBT is to remain on LAFH benefits (ie. the direct provision of accommodation and food or expense payments) provided to employees who would not be eligible to claim an income tax deduction had they incurred the expenses directly. Where employees would be entitled to the deduction, a declaration will be required to ensure no FBT applies.
  • Employees will be required to own or rent another (usual) home in Australia that they are living away from – which cannot be rented out in their absence.
  • The tax concessions are to be limited to a 12 month period for any employee in a particular work location. For arrangements entered into prior to 1 October 2012, the 12 months starts from October 2012, rather than the earlier date of the relocation (this is a change from the earlier draft)
  • Fly-in/fly-out arrangements will be exempt from the 12 month rule and the changes will not impact employees travelling on business (generally up to 21 days, but possibly more).