The 2021 Federal Budget. Once in a lifetime.

 

The Australian Federal
 Budget 2021


Once in a lifetime…

 Last night – Tuesday, May 11, 2021, the Treasurer handed down the budget for the 21/22 year.

While the government won’t describe it this way, it is clearly an election budget – given the next election is due by Mid May 2022, so unless they go with a February 2022 budget announcement, there is no time for a follow up before we next go to the polls.

And in the current environment, and with a Government hooked on announcements and re-announcements, rather than significant new action, there is very little in the budget that was not already announced, or simply a continuation of what was already in place but dressed up as a ‘new initiative’.

Many of the forecasts and expectations in the budget are predicated on the assumption that ‘everything will go so very well’ in terms of the vaccine roll-out – despite actual vaccination numbers being less than one-third of the way to what was originally planned. The Federal Government expects interstate borders to remain open, while international borders will stay closed until at least July 2022. (and probably much later).  

And they hope and expect that we will all feel good about everything and get back into the shops (and interstate holiday resorts) and spend like there is nothing to worry about!

They don’t expect wages to rise (they have given up on that fallacy) but that spending will increase, and unemployment will reduce (which it will if you define employment as one hour per week of any gainful activity). The economy is expected to rebound with a 4.5% growth in the coming year (off the low 2020 base, mind you), with growth of around 2.5% p.a. after that.

And, at the end of the budget forecast period, the total Federal Debt is expected to exceed one TRILLION dollars, an amount Dr Evil would not be able to get his head around. And this from the party that wants us to believe ‘are the better economic managers’. That debt will be 40%+ of GDP by 2025 (compared to 10% of GDP under Wayne Swan in 2013). This is a government of high tax, high spending and higher deficits – at least until they get re-elected again in 2022 (and 2025 if they have played their cards right with this budget). In summary the Australian Economy is facing a decade or more of budget deficits, no matter who is in power. or what their historical (or hysterical) philosophical viewpoint is. Goodbye Mr. Freidman, Welcome back Mr. Keynes, come and sit at the big table again!

 Andrew Probyn on the ABC described it as  “the Hot Chocolate Budget – Everyones a winner”. 

I see it much more as a Talking Heads one. Once in a lifetime… 

And you may ask yourself.

Let’s go through the main details related to individuals, professionals, creatives, small business operators, investors, and Super funds.

 

Personal Income Tax changes

Low and Middle Income Tax Offset for the 2022 year.


This is the first of the Talking Heads announcements. i.e. it is not a new change to the tax rate; it is a continuation of a previously announced rebate that was due to expire on June 30, 2021.

What this will mean is that a tax offset of UP TO $1,080, that applies to low and middle-income levels, will continue on, and avoids what would have been a tax increase applying to these income levels on the 21/22 year


                                                        Proposed LMITO for 2022


$37,000 or less

Up to $255

$37,001 to $48,000

$255 + 7.5% of excess over $37,000

$48,001 to $90,000

$1,080

$90,001 to $126,000

$1,080 3% of excess over $90,000

$126,001 +

Nil


This tax offset is not made in regular wages – it is paid out when the tax returns are lodged and based on your net taxable income once all income and deductions are taken into account.

And, again, it only applies for ‘one more year’. So after July 1, 2022, this offset is currently due to expire. But the tax cuts legislated for incomes above $120,000 will continue beyond that date.

Same as it ever was.

Medicare Levy Low-income thresholds.

The Government will increase the Medicare levy low-income thresholds for singles, families and seniors and pensioners for the 2021 income year, as follows:

  • The threshold for singles will be increased from $22,801 to $23,226.
  • The family threshold will be increased from $38,474 to $39,167.
  • The threshold for single seniors and pensioners will be increased from $36,056 to $36,705.
  • The family threshold for seniors and pensioners will be increased from $50,191 to $51,094.
  • For each dependent child or student, the family income thresholds increase by a further $3,597, up from the previous amount of $3,533.

 Tax residency rules being changed.

This is being touted as a ‘simplification’. What it really is doing is capturing a lot more people under the definition of Australian Residence for Tax Purposes.

The primary test will be a simple ‘bright line’ test – a person who is physically present in Australia for 183 days or more in any income year will be an Australian tax resident.

Individuals who do not meet the primary test will be subject to secondary tests that depend on a combination of physical presence and measurable, objective criteria.

So, what this means is that people from overseas who are in Australia for 183 days or more, say on a working visa – are treated as Australian Residents for tax purposes – meaning that any income earned overseas (i.e. in their ‘homeland’) will also be subject to Australian tax.

This is significantly different from past arrangements, where people who had a ‘permanent abode’ and family overseas would be seen as non-resident for tax purposes. As Australian Residents, they may also be liable to the Medicare levy – even if they are not entitled to Medicare entitlements! We await the detail of this announcement once legislation is put into place.

Self Education deductions – removing the $250 exclusion

Currently, the first $250 of a prescribed course of education expense is not tax-deductible.
Removing this $250 exclusion is expected to reduce compliance costs for individuals claiming self-education expense deductions. In reality, this ‘exclusion’ is commonly covered by deduction claims in other areas (like vehicle use or home office expenses anyway)
This measure will have effect from the first income year after the date of Royal Assent of the
enabling legislation. This will inevitably mean that this will not apply until the year BEGINNING July 1 2022, so it will not be able to be claimed on your tax return until after June 30, 2023.


Employee Share Scheme changes – ‘cessation of employment’ no longer a taxing point

The Government will remove the ‘cessation of employment’ taxing point for tax-deferred Employee Share Schemes (‘ESS’) that are available for all companies.
This change will apply to ESS interests issued from the first income year after the Royal Assent of the enabling legislation. (So not likely to occur before July 1 2022)
Currently, under a tax-deferred ESS, where certain criteria are met, employees may defer tax until a later tax year (‘the deferred taxing point’). The deferred taxing point is the earliest of:
(a) cessation of employment;
(b) in the case of shares, when there is no risk of forfeiture and no restrictions on disposal;
(c) in the case of options, when the employee exercises the option and there is no risk of forfeiting the resulting share and no restriction on disposal; and
(d) the maximum period of deferral of 15 years.
This change will remove the ‘cessation of employment’ taxing point (i.e., point (a) above) and result in tax being deferred until the earliest of the remaining taxing points (i.e., points (b) to (d) above).
So, should you receive shares under an ESS from an employer and then leave the employer before the shares become ‘available’ to you, then leaving the employer will not automatically mean that the share issue is now subject to Income Tax. Of course, this does not necessarily change the scheme’s rules (nor will it have any impact on shares already issued under the current rules) – which may have an ‘automatic issue or default’ clause in the scheme that will take effect on your departure anyway.

Business Taxpayers – Changes And Continuations

Temporary Full expensing Extended

In the prior year (2020/21) Federal Budget, the Government announced amendments to allow businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $5 billion to access a new temporary full expensing of eligible depreciating assets until June 30 2022. Temporary full expensing became law on October 14 2020.
In the 2021/22 Federal Budget, the Government has announced that temporary full expensing will be extended by 12 months to allow eligible businesses with aggregated annual turnover or the total income of less than $5 billion to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets of any value, acquired from 7:30 pm AEDT on October 6, 2020, and first used or installed ready for use by June 30 2023. All other elements of temporary full expensing will remain unchanged, including the alternative eligibility test based on total income, which will continue to be available to businesses.
Same. As. It. Ever. Was. If they repeat this again in the following tax year, they won’t be able to call it ‘temporary’ any more – it might even qualify for a permanent emplyment contract!
So, if you did not buy the equipment you needed for your business (any ABN registered business with a turnover up to $5 Billion p.a. – so we know who this is really aimed at), you can safely look to order that equipment now and up to June 30, 2022, and have it installed and ready to use on or before June 30, 2023, to be able to claim 100% of the purchase price against your business income in the same tax year. June 26 to 30 will be frantic days at the likes of Officeworks, Harvey Norman, Commercial vehicle yards and various plant and equipment places!

So can you buy a Porsche and get a 100% deduction? – only if it is under the luxury car limit and can show enough business use! Maybe that EV order might finally be possible though – so long as it does not ruin your weekends.

Temporary Loss Carryback extension

In the 2020/21 Federal Budget, the Government announced amendments to introduce a temporary loss carryback measure. Broadly, this initial measure allowed ‘corporate tax entities’ with an aggregated turnover of less than $5 billion to carryback tax losses made in the 2020, 2021 and/or 2022 income years to claim a refund of tax paid (by way of a tax offset) in relation to the 2019, 2020 and/or 2021 income years. The rules relating to the temporary loss carryback regime have been enacted and are contained in Division 160 of the ITAA 1997.
In the 2021/22 Federal Budget, the Government has announced that the loss carryback measure will be extended to allow eligible companies (i.e., with an aggregated turnover of less than $5 billion) to also carry back (utilise) tax losses from the 2023 income year as well to offset previously taxed profits as far back as the 2019 income year when they lodge their tax return for the 2023 income year.
So, again, this is not a new provision. It is a continuation of what has already been in place. This was announced in the 20/21 budget – In October 2020, and is yet to take effect as the first year in which the loss carryback can be claimed is the (current) 20/21 tax year. So this is effectively a re-announcement of an announcement with an extension. Olympic diving trials, anyone?
This policy has been in place in the past – Wayne Swan as the Labour treasurer, implemented this in 2012 to take effect from the 2014 year – and this was repealed in Joe Hockey’s ‘leaners and lifters’ budget!
Still, it may benefit businesses (not sole traders though – they are not eligible) who have been impacted by the Covid lockdowns in the 2021 and 2022 years, where they can reclaim some or all of the the tax paid in past years. Review your business position when preparing your 2020/21 tax returns later this year.
Coupled with the instant asset write off and ‘temporary full expensing’ provisions, there is scope for businesses to purchase large equipment items (perhaps on finance arrangements) before June 30 and use the losses to claim back tax previously paid. Again, seek advice on this and get an accurate poicutre of your business’ operating results before taking action.

Digital economy strategy (including self-assessing the effective life of intangible depreciating assets)

The Government will provide $1.2 billion over six years from 2022 for the Digital Economy Strategy, ‘to support Australia to be a leading digital economy and society by 2030’. From an income tax, investment incentive perspective, the Digital Economy Strategy includes the following:
(a) The Government will allow taxpayers to self-assess the tax-effective lives of eligible intangible depreciating assets, such as patents, registered designs, copyrights and in-house software. This measure will apply to assets acquired from July 1 2023, after the temporary full expensing regime has concluded. (So its impact is still years away in terms of investment potential)
The tax-effective lives of such assets are currently set by statute. Allowing taxpayers to self-assess the tax effective life of an asset will allow for a better alignment of tax outcomes with
the underlying economic benefits provided by the asset. It will also align the tax treatment of
these assets with that of most tangible assets.
Taxpayers will continue to have the option of applying the existing statutory effective life to
depreciate these assets.
(b) The Government will provide $18.8 million over four years from 2022 for a Digital Games Tax Offset to provide a 30% refundable tax offset for qualifying Australian digital games expenditure ongoing from July 1 2022, with the criteria and definition of qualifying expenditure to be determined through industry consultation.
(c) The Government will provide $200.1 million over two years from the 2022 income year to develop and transition government services to a new, enhanced myGov platform, providing a central place for Australians to find information and services online.
Well, it’s a start.

Where innovations or ‘new work’ creates assets like patents and copyright, the traditional approach was that the cost of developing these assets was written off over a legislated ‘life’.

For most copyright (like music copyright), this was over a 25 year period. With these changes – which will not apply until after July 1, 2023 (after the next election again) the creator can’ self assess’ the life of the patent or copyright etc. This will have benefits in claiming the cost of developing or creating the patent or copyright over a shorter period of time, which is ’a start’.

The Digital Games offset – well, all I can say is that it is about time!

The video game industry globally is bigger than Film and TV ($250 BILLION p.a. annually). The cost of developing high-quality material is akin to a Movie or TV production. The benefits for digital artists, music composers, film crew, computer programmers and the like is self-evident. Australia has some incredible people ion these fields, and compared to extractive and other industries, they have ben chreonically undersupported, leading to much of this talent going over seas to continue careers – and build busineses. This is among the many ‘new industries’ that virtually did not exist just a few decades ago, that need to be developed, enhanced and enabled to grow in Australia. The future is creating new things, not digging up fossilised dinosaurs and burning them. 

But the amount allocated so far is pitiful. Breaking this down, they are estimating $4.7 million p.a. in offsets will be paid – again starting from July 1, 2023. Based on a 30% offset, this equates to $15.6 million p.a. in Digital Games production costs. And, like the Film Production offsets, the minimum spend to make a claim appears to be $500,000. (Note that the Film offset threshold is also being lifted to $1 million as of July 1, 2021.) Lets see the detial and how this wil be maanged – as it is we have to wait over 15 months before it starts to take effect, and potnetially 3 yesrs before it has an impact on the tax revenues of the government.

So, while it is good that the Federal Government is starting to recognise the value of the Digital Games industry and following the lead (again) of states like South Australia and Victoria in this area, the announcement itself is well short of what it needs to be.

And when you compare it to the $100 million p.a. being allocated to actually making MyGov useful, it gives greater context on this as well. Hopefully, this is just a starting point, and we see this industry being developed and supported in the same way as film and TV production has been supported over the years, even though much more needs to be done there.

Superannuation changes

Removing the work test for voluntary contributions

The Government has announced that it will allow individuals aged 67 to 74 years (inclusive) to make or receive non-concessional contributions (including under the bring-forward rule) and salary sacrifice contributions without meeting the work test, subject to existing contribution caps. (i.e. the annual caps and the total balance caps) Individuals aged 67 to 74 years (inclusive) will still have to meet the work test to make personal deductible contributions.
The measure will have effect from the start of the first income year after Royal Assent of the  enabling legislation, which the Government expects to have occurred before July 1 2022. 
Currently, individuals aged 67 to 74 years (inclusive) can only make voluntary contributions (both concessional and non-concessional) to their superannuation fund or receive contributions from their spouse if they satisfy the work test (subject to a limited work test exemption). Generally, to satisfy the work test, an individual must be working for at least 40 hours over a period of not more than 30 consecutive days in the income year the relevant contribution is made.

Removing the requirement to meet the work test when making non-concessional or salary sacrifice contributions will simplify the rules governing superannuation contributions and will increase flexibility for older Australians to save for their retirement through superannuation.

Reducing the age limit for downsizer contributions – sell your house and add to your super!

The Government will reduce the age limit from which downsizer contributions can be made by eligible individuals, from 65 to 60 years of age.
The measure will have effect from the start of the first income year after Royal Assent of the enabling legislation, which the Government expects to have occurred before July 1 2022. (So this would take effect from July 1, 2022, if Royal Assent is received.)
The downsizer contribution allows eligible individuals to make a one-off, after-tax contribution to their superannuation fund, of up to $300,000 per person, following the disposal of an eligible dwelling, where certain conditions are satisfied.

Under the current requirements, an individual must be at least 65 years of age at the time of making the relevant contribution for the contribution to qualify as a downsizer contribution.

Removing the $450 per month threshold for Superannuation Guarantee (‘SG’) eligibility

The Government will remove the current $450 per month minimum income threshold, under which employees do not have to be paid SG contributions by their employer.

The measure will have effect from the start of the first income year after Royal Assent of the
enabling legislation, which the Government expects to have occurred before July 1 2022. (so again, it is likely to commence from 22/23, not in the coming tax year.

This means for small business and the self-employed (through companies and trusts) that superannuation payments will be compulsory for ALL employees – full or part-time – no matter what the monthly or annual income levels are. This will have implications regarding payments made to business owners as directors fees or ‘end of year bonuses’ from profits, where super had not been paid during the year. An SGC’ trap’ can occur for business owners, so tax planning and cash flow budgeting will be important to ensure that business owners do not fall foul of these implications.

While it is a good move to ensure that all employees are eligible for superannuation contributions, regardless of the number of hours worked or monthly salaries paid, proper planning will be required in the lead up to this being implemented.

“The Women’s Budget”

With the uproar around Canberra, following the Brittany Higgins disclosures (and a certain former minister who has been on medical leave that no one can refer to, for fear of litigation), much was touted before the budget about the increased level of support for ‘women’s services and issues’. And the numbers on a broad level look substantial – but break it down and compared to other measures, and you are left wondering.

There’s $8 billion on residential aged care and $7.5 billion on aged care home packages (both over a 5 year period – 2 elections!) with another $6 billion on infrastructure (women still like roads) and $2 billion-sized chunks disbursed to mental health, vaccines and child care.

There’s a billion dollars for “women’s safety”, which breaks down into $261 million towards domestic and sexual violence prevention programs with the states (over 2 years), resulting in, amongst other things, an additional $10 per day per resident for residential daycare (How many chicken nuggets is that going to provide?) a $164 million trial of cash-and-kind grants for women fleeing violence, $90 million on consent education, and $320m for women’s legal services and children’s contact centres for the safer management of children in families undergoing separation or dispute.

But that is not per annum.

That is “over the forward estimates”, meaning that is the funding generally for the next 3 – 4 years. Compared to spending on other areas (like defence equipment and support for fossil fuel industries or the Diesel Fuel Rebate), it is paltry and will not go very far towards improving the health and safety of many women and families impacted by Domestic Violence. It is likely that more will be spent on political advertising over this time than will be spent helping to stop family violence.

It has also been stated that the elimination of the $450 per month Superannuation threshold will ‘substantially assist women with their ability to build up their retirement incomes.” Let that sink in. The way to help women is to provide super to them when they are earning less than $103 per week. Interesting outlook!

JobSeeker Increase (already in place).

It was mentioned again that the base JobSeeker payment has been increased by $50 per fortnight – but that increase was announced and started on April 1, at the end of JobKeeper, so it’s a bit disingenuous to have it mentioned as a ‘new increase’. (and what it really was, was a reduciton form the ‘temporary Covid inspiroed boost” that applied for 6 months and was phased out in line with the JobKeeper arrangmeents.

What IS increasing is the need to apply for 20 jobs per month – up from 15 – as of July 1, 2021!

A good way to increase activity in the economy is to bring people up from below the poverty line and give them the ability to survive and get out to find work. The increase does not do enough to achieve this.

Childcare changes

Subsidies for second and subsequent children in Childcare will be increased to 95 per cent. The annual cap of $10,560 per child (or $203 per week) will be removed, benefitting higher-income earners impacted by the Income threshold. Again, this will not apply until July 1, 2022. This applies to Child care (or early learning), not after school care – so those with Primary school children won’t get additional support from this announcement.

Infrastructure

Break out the HiViz vests! $110 Billion in the announcements. But this is over 10 years, with very little actually being undertaken in the next 12 months. Victoria has been allocated $3.3 Billion over the 10 years – but only $397.7 million over the next 4 years. Even the much-vaunted ‘inter-modal hub’ is more than 4 years away. So what has been allocated will be announced to us many times over the coming years. Over and over again.

The Unannounced Budget items.

An area that has had little or no discussion in the main press is the ‘allocated but unannounced’ component of the budget. Over 9 Billion dollars of funding has been allocated in the budget process, but what that is for and how it will be allocated, is yet to be announced. Apparently, $3.75 BILLION of this is to be ‘announced’ over the next 12 months
This is the spending that will likely be targeted – one way or the other – for promises to be made leading up to the 2022 and possibly the 2025 election campaigns. Stand by for a raft of ‘community programs’ support schemes and targeted funding aimed at marginal electorates in the coming 6 – 12 months.
So, we face 6 months or more of additional announcements aimed squarely at keeping eyes distracted from what is not happening in regards to renewable energy matters, climate change, education, universities, returning Australians, Quarantine in Hotels and of Refugees, bushfire remediation, flood and reef repairs and the like. Instead, there will be a succession of ‘big cheques’, road and rail announcements in the regions, sports halls and barbeques, HiViz vests, Rugby Tops and Baseball caps. all the way to the next election – which will probably be announced when we finally get to over 15 million people vaccinated ‘at least once.’
While some are praising this budget – bascially because the Government has abandoned austerity and continued some benefits in the hip pocket areas, there are many, missed opportunities. When a Government is incurring a $160 Billion+ deficit, and not looking at significant reductions in that level for many years, the money can be better spent on improving the society (not just the economy) and providing a significant reset for many areas. Accept that this is a long term plan – not just look over the horizen to the next political cycle – and plan for the major changes that are needed.
You know, like a well managed business, corporation or dictatorial regime woud do. Make your own choices about the comparision you prefer.
So as David Byrne or Kermit would say:
‘You might ask yourself – how did I get here?’

Lets leave it to Kermit to explain…Once in a Lifetime

To discuss any matters arising out of the Budget, or relating to your business, investment, taxation or related financial matters, please call us at Fiscal Artisans on

0409 788 399

or email to

stuart.smith@fiscalartisans.com.au

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