This has been a difficult year, and your business may have made a tax loss.
A tax loss is when the total deductions you can claim, excluding gifts, donations and personal super contributions, are greater than your total income for an income year.
If your business makes a tax loss, you may be able to:
- offset the loss in the same income year against other assessable income; or
- carry forward the loss and claim it as a business deduction in a later year.
If you’re a sole trader or in a partnership and want to offset a tax loss, first check if the business activity meets at least one of the “commerciality” tests under the non-commercial loss rules. (Those rules do not apply to losses made by primary producers and professional artists whose income from other sources is less than $40,000.)
If you do meet one of the “commerciality” tests, then you can offset the loss against other assessable income (such as salary or investment income) in the same income year.
If you don’t meet the “commerciality” tests, you can defer the loss or carry it forward to future years. For example, you can offset it when you next make a profit.
Non-commercial losses made by an individual with adjusted taxable income exceeding $250,000 are quarantined.
If your business is a company, you can generally choose the year you want to claim a loss.
If your business has made more than one tax loss in a year, you will need to consider each tax loss separately.
The rules for record keeping still apply when it’s related to business losses. You need to keep records for five years for most transactions. However, if you fully deduct a tax loss in a single income year, you only need to keep records for four years from that income year.
Personal services income
If you operate your business through a company or a trust, income earned by the company or trust from the provision of your personal services (personal services income or PSI) will be attributed to you unless:
- the company or trust is carrying on a personal services business (PSB); or
- the PSI was promptly paid to you as salary or wages.
The company or trust will be conducting a PSB if at least one of a number of tests are satisfied. These are:
- the results test (the most important test) – this is based on common law criteria for characterising an independent contractor (in contrast to an employee/employer relationship);
- the unrelated clients test – this requires the PSI to be earned from at least 2 unrelated clients who contract your services as a direct result of an advertisement or other public offer of your services. A recent Full Federal Court case has confirmed that the test can be satisfied if your services are advertised through LinkedIn and the work is obtained as a direct result of that advertising;
- the employment test – this requires at least 20% (by market value) of your work to be performed by employees who are not your associates;
- the business premises test – this requires you to use business premises that meet certain conditions (eg you have exclusive use of the premises and the premises must be physically separate from any premises you use for private purposes).
If 80% or more of your PSI (with certain exceptions) is income from one client (or the client and their associate(s)) and the results test is not met, the company or trust will need to obtain a PSB determination from the ATO. Otherwise, the company or trust will not be conducting a PSB.
The company or trust cannot deduct amounts that relate to gaining or producing your PSI, unless you could have deducted the amount as an individual or the company or trust received the PSI in the course of carrying on a PSB.
If the company or trust does not conduct a PSB, additional PAYG withholding obligations can arise.
Even if you don’t use a company or trust to derive your PSI, there are limitations on the deductions that you may claim against your PSI. For example, you may not be able to deduct certain home office expenses, eg occupancy expenses such as mortgage interest or rent.
Tip! The PSI rules are complicated so talk to your tax adviser if you provide your services through a company or trust.
A lot more people are working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you operate your business from a home office, you can deduct the expenses of running that office. A home office is a room in your home that is used exclusively (or almost exclusively) for business activities.
Expenses you can claim a deduction for include:
- occupancy expenses – these include rent, mortgage interest, water rates, land taxes and house insurance premiums. Occupancy expenses are usually calculated by apportioning the expenses between the home office and the rest of the property on a floor area basis;
- running expenses – these are the increased costs from using your home for your business, including electricity or gas charges for heating, cooling and lighting, cleaning costs and the decline in value and the cost of repairs of deprecating assets such as furniture, furnishings and equipment; and
- work-related phone and internet expenses, including the decline in value of the handset – an apportionment will be required if the phone or computer is not used exclusively for work.
If you are an employee working from home, you may be able to claim a portion of your running expenses and work-related phone and internet expenses.
To make it easier for people to claim deductions for working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ATO will allow a rate of 80 cents per hour from 1 March 2020 until 30 September 2020 for all additional running expenses. This also applies to anyone working from home, even if not operating a business.
This is different from the 52 cents per hour claim that covers fewer types of expenses. Talk to your tax adviser about what method is most appropriate for your circumstances.
If your business has received a grant or payment from the Australian Government or a State or Territory government, you will need to include it in your tax return if it is assessable.
Grants and payments that are assessable income include:
- JobKeeper payments;
- fuel tax credits and product stewardship for oil benefit;
- wine equalisation tax producer rebate;
- grants, such as an amount you receive under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program; and
- subsidies for carrying on a business.
There are some government grants and payments that you do not need to pay tax on. One example of this is the cash flow boost.
Company tax rate
The 2019-20 tax rate for a company whose total annual turnover is less than $50m (called a “base rate entity”) is 27.5%. This rate reduces to 26% for 2020-21.
However, if more than 80% of the company’s assessable income is “base rate entity passive income” (eg dividends, rent, interest, royalties and net capital gains), the standard 30% rate applies.
Small business tax offset
A sole trader, an individual who is a partner in a partnership or an individual who is a beneficiary of a trust may qualify for the small business tax offset if the sole trader, partnership or trust qualifies as a small business entity (total annual turnover less than $10m). The offset is not available to an individual acting as a trustee of a trust.
The offset for 2019-20 is equal to 8% of the income tax payable on the sole trader’s or other individual’s taxable income that qualifies as their net small business income (the offset rate is 13% for 2020-21). The offset is capped at $1,000.
Taxable payments annual report
Businesses that pay contractors for certain services may need to lodge a taxable payments annual report (TPAR) with the ATO. This is the first year that businesses that pay contractors to provide road freight, information technology, security, investigation, or surveillance services may need to lodge a TPAR with the ATO. This is in addition to those businesses providing building and construction, cleaning, or courier services that are already required to report.
The TPAR for 2019-20 should have been lodged by 28 August 2020.
Read our complete September 2020 Taxwise Business Newsletter here