Quiet on the tax front, for now.
For once, tax measures took a back seat in a Federal Budget, with the second version for this year being billed as a “solid and sensible Budget suited to the times”.
The October 2022 Budget resisted the recent trend to continually tinker with our tax system, but it seems likely this steady-as-she-goes approach won’t last long, with the new Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, repeatedly referring to the need for tax reform in the days prior to delivering his first Budget.
Tax was not entirely forgotten, however, with the ATO to extend many of its tax compliance programs, a new focus on multinational corporate tax and higher fines for tax breaches.
ATO compliance focus
The ATO was a big winner in the Budget, receiving extra funding to help it achieve higher levels of tax compliance.
The tax regulator will receive $80.3 million to extend its current Personal Income Tax Compliance Program for two years from 1 July 2023. This program will focus on overclaiming tax deductions and incorrect reporting of income.
The ATO also received additional funding for its Shadow Economy Program and Tax Avoidance Taskforce, with additional compliance activities in these areas expected to raise $3.7 billion over four years.
Tax penalty increases
Fines for breaches of the tax and financial laws will rise from 1 January 2023.
The current fine of $222 per penalty unit will rise to $275 per penalty unit, with fines to be indexed in line with the CPI again from 1 July 2023. This increase is expected to raise an additional $31.6 million over four years.
Multinational tax measures
The Budget included measures designed to close tax loopholes and ensure multinationals pay their fair share of tax in Australia. The multinational tax integrity package is expected to raise around $1 billion over 4 years.
The government also intends to focus on working with other countries to reform the international corporate tax system to “better address the challenges arising from digitalisation and globalisation”.
Electric vehicle buyers
More small businesses may be tempted to go electric with their vehicles, with the $345 million Electric Car Discount to exempt eligible electric vehicles from fringe benefits tax (FBT) and the 5 per cent import tariff.
On an electric car valued at about $50,000, the new FBT exemption will save an employer up to $9,000 a year. For individuals using a salary sacrifice arrangement, the saving could be up to $4,700 a year. As an additional sweetener, customs duties of up to $2,500 are also being removed if the vehicle was previously subject to an import tariff.
Supporting small business well-being
Small businesses have not been forgotten entirely, with the Budget providing $15.1 million in additional funding to extend the small business mental health and financial counselling programs, NewAccess for Small Business Owners and the Small Business Debt Helpline.
Almost $63 million in new grants will also be available to small and medium-sized businesses so they can improve their energy efficiency and reduce their energy usage by investing in energy efficient upgrades.
Lower eligibility age for downsizer contributions
The super system was given a break from its endless reforms, with only a minor tweak to the existing rules.
The Budget included a measure to allow more people to make downsizer contributions into their super accounts by reducing the minimum eligibility age from the current 60 to 55 years of age. Older Australians will also be encouraged to downsize by exempting their home sale proceeds from pension asset testing from the current 12 months to 24 months.
End of tax offsets and low-income payments
A noticeable absence from the Budget was new tax offsets and payments to lower-income earners.
There was no extension of the previous Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO), which means eligible taxpayers will no longer receive the offset when lodging their annual tax return. The Coalition’s one-off $420 cost-of-living offset was also not renewed.