Tax Facts

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  • division 7A proposed amendments - consultation paper released by treasury

    In brief:    Treasury this week released a Consultation Paper on the Division 7A amendments proposed to commence on 1 July 2019. There are some significant changes from what has previously been mooted, with some of the main points now proposed including:

    •   a single 10 year model for complying loans, with equal annual principal repayments and interest at a Reserve Bank published indicator rate for small business overdrafts (currently 10.3%, compared to the current Division 7A rate of 5.2%)
    •   except for the initial year of the advance, loan interest will be calculated for a full year regardless of when any repayment is made during the year
    •   25 year loans existing on 30 June 2019 must adopt the new interest rate immediately, but the new 10 year loan rules will not apply until 30 June 2021
    •   7 year loans existing on 30 June 2019 will retain their existing outstanding term, but must otherwise comply with the new loan model
    •   loans made before 4/12/97 must adopt the 10 year repayment model from 30 June 2021
    •   the concept of ‘distributable surplus’ will be removed, so that Division 7A will always apply to the whole value of any loan or other benefit extracted from a private company
    •   all outstanding UPEs after 15/12/09 will effectively be subject to the 10 year repayment model from 1 July 2019, although no decision has yet been made to also bring in UPEs from before 16/12/09.

    More:    The Consultation Paper also outlines some further amendments that the Government proposes. Perhaps the most significant is the proposal of a 14 year review period during which assessments can be amended in respect of Division 7A matters. In addition, a self-correction mechanism is proposed for taxpayers to rectify inadvertent breaches of Division 7A. Taxpayers will be permitted to self-assess their eligibility for this relief, under which they will be obligated to convert any relevant benefit into a complying loan agreement. Affected taxpayers will also need to make catch-up payments of both principal and interest (on a compound basis) that would have been required, had they properly complied with Division 7A in the first place.

    Other proposed amendments include a safe harbour formula that may be adopted in the case of an asset (other than a motor vehicle) provided by a company for use by a shareholder or their associate, confinement of the exclusion for loans made in the ordinary course of an entity’s business to loans made in the ordinary course of a moneylending business, and a ‘but for’ test for the application of s 109T to loans, payments or other benefits provided to a taxpayer indirectly from a private company. (Targeted amendments to the Division 7A integrity rules: Consultation Paper, October 2018)

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    24 Oct 2018

    Topic: Income tax/Trusts

  • Beware the email trail - evidence from revealing correspondence

    In brief:    A recent ex parte application in the Federal Court for freezing orders and other interlocutory relief against several taxpayers starkly illustrates the importance that email correspondence may play in disputes. Evidence supporting the application included an affidavit from ‘a computer forensics officer employed in the Forensics and Investigations team of the ATO.’ The evidence of that ATO officer was that documents purportedly made in 2003 had actually been created in 2015, subsequent to the commencement of an ATO audit and associated notice issued to the taxpayers’ accountant to provide information under (former) s 264 ITAA36. Further evidence based on email correspondence involving personnel from the taxpayers’ accountants was alleged to support the fact that the relevant documents ‘were created in February 2015 and backdated to give the appearance that the documents came into existence in May 2003.’

    More:    This case involved fairly extreme circumstances, where total tax and penalties at issue exceeded $34M and documents had ultimately been seized from premises associated with the relevant accounting firm under search warrants executed by the Federal Police. However, the point is that email correspondence does not have the confidentiality that we intuitively attribute to it. Best practice is to approach the writing of any document or correspondence with the attitude that it may ultimately be viewed by a range of people, including regulatory authorities.

    Such incriminating evidence sometimes becomes unveiled from unrelated circumstances. For example, there have been reported cases where a taxpayer has been practically obliged to produce financial evidence, showing much greater business income than what has been reported to the ATO, to defend against an allegation of misrepresentation by a subsequent purchaser of the taxpayer's business. And the discovery process in proceedings for professional negligence against a professional advisor may also throw up incriminating evidence about an understatement of taxable income, perhaps even involving criminal acts. Whether or not the primary matter before the court involves taxation, the Judge will usually make orders for it to be passed on to the ATO. (DC of T v Advanced Holdings Pty Ltd [2018] FCA 1263)

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    24 Oct 2018

    Topic: Income tax/State taxes/Other news