Tax Facts

Tax Facts contains news and alerts relating to tax practice, for the benefit of accountants and other professionals in public practice. Please click on the links below for recent issues. You may also like to peruse Tax Facts by topic category - topics are listed below to the right.

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  • A fatal lack of evidence about purported loans

    In brief:    A tax practitioner has failed to overturn the assessment of funds received over several years from companies of which he was the sole director or otherwise controlling mind. His contention was that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal had found that he genuinely believed that the receipts constituted loans from the companies, and that that belief should be imputed to those companies, given his control of them. The taxpayer submitted that such common belief was sufficient to establish the character of the receipts as loans. The Federal Court, however, dismissed his appeal, finding no error of law by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in upholding the Commissioner’s assessments.

    More:    The law has long recognised that a director (including a sole director) may contract with their company, although necessarily doing so as agent for their company. However, this case is a salutary lesson – perhaps counterintuitively to what some practitioners would regard as the effect – that the subjective intentions of the director may not be sufficient to stamp any transaction between them with the character desired. The taxpayer failed because he had not proved that the receipts were the proceeds under loan contracts, thus failing to discharge his onus of showing that the Commissioner’s assessments were excessive. Rather than evidence merely of the taxpayer’s state of mind, it was an objective assessment of all the circumstances surrounding the receipts that was determinative. No interest was paid on the purported loans or recorded in any books or tax returns and there was a lack of other documentary evidence, apart from loan agreements entered into well after the receipts. (Rowntree v C of T [2018] FCA 182)

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    07 Mar 2018

    Topic: Income Tax

  • SMSF decision hinged critically on trusts law

    In brief:    Much has been said about the Aussiegolfa decision (now on appeal to the Full Court), in which the Federal Court determined that an SMSF had breached the sole purpose test and also exceeded the 5% threshold for in-house assets. The relevant investment was in a unit of student accommodation, acquired under the DomaCom Fund, and a daughter of the SMSF’s sole member was one of 3 students who leased the unit. The member is a state manager for DomaCom and it was admitted that the arrangements were intended to test the use of residential property under the DomaCom system for related parties of SMSFs.

    More:    The sole purpose test was breached because a purpose of the SMSF in acquiring units in the DomaCom Fund was to provide accommodation for the sole member’s daughter. But, in relation to the in-house assets breach, it was a critical finding that the sub-fund established for the property acquisition under the DomaCom Fund constituted a separate trust. The members of the sub-fund were wholly entitled to all the income and capital of the sub-fund, to the exclusion of all other members of DomaCom. Further, it was held that the DomaCom responsible entity owed no fiduciary duties to those other members in respect of the sub-fund. So the sub-fund, even though constituted under a single managed investment scheme and governed by the constitution of the scheme, was held to be a separate trust. This decision serves as a good reminder of the versatility of trusts law. Even though we are accustomed in practice to specific types of trusts (e.g. discretionary trust, child maintenance trust, etc), each typically constituted under a single document, these are not precise species recognised in trusts law. Trusts can be created in many ways and there is enormous flexibility in the terms that can be encompassed. This is part of the reason for the special place of trusts in common law countries and their particular attraction to tax practitioners. (Aussiegolfa Pty Ltd v C of T [2017] FCA 1525)

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    07 Mar 2018

    Topic: SMSFs/Trusts