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Budget 2004: Small business tax simplification.

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The Government has tonight announced a package of taxation measures aimed at reducing compliance costs for small business and providing greater flexibility to taxpayers in managing their affairs.

The measures cover the goods and services tax (GST) system; the pay as you go (PAYG) system; the Simplified Tax System (STS); the Simplified Imputation System; fringe benefits tax (FBT); family trust and interposed entity elections; and the non-commercial loan rules.

Details of the amendments

Goods and services tax system

The Government will make changes to reduce the GST compliance costs of small business.

● First, small businesses and non-profit organisations that voluntarily register for GST will be

allowed to report and pay GST on an annual basis. This change will reduce the compliance burden for up to 740,000 small businesses and 30,000 non-profit organisations that are voluntarily registered and currently pay GST on either a monthly or quarterly basis. While GST registration is voluntary for these entities, the Government recognises that commercial realities make it advantageous for them to register in order to be entitled to claim input tax credits. This change will result in a deferral of GST revenue, including $330 million in 2004-05 and around $16-18 million in subsequent years.

● Secondly, small businesses with an annual turnover of $2 million or less will be allowed to

apportion their private and business use of assets (such as motor vehicles) on an annual basis for GST purposes, rather than on a quarterly or monthly basis.

● Thirdly, the annual election requirement for the GST instalment option will be simplified so that no

annual re-election will be required for eligible entities wishing to continue with the GST instalment option.

These changes are subject to the unanimous agreement of the states and territories, as required by the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Reform of Commonwealth-State Financial Relations. The Australian Government will offer to compensate the states and territories for the impact on GST revenue of the measure to report and pay GST on an annual basis.

Pay as you go system

The Government will increase certainty for taxpayers and the Australian Taxation Office by allowing taxpayers who become ineligible to pay annual PAYG instalments during an income year to commence paying quarterly instalments in the first quarter of the following income year.

Simplified Tax System

The Government will extend the optional roll-over relief in relation to STS depreciating asset pools to ensure consistent treatment between taxpayers that operate under the uniform capital allowances regime and taxpayers that have an STS pool.

Simplified Imputation System

The Government will provide greater flexibility to private companies by allowing them, in certain situations, to make franked distributions in their first profitable year of operation. This will be facilitated by waiving the franking deficit tax limited offset rule where the private company anticipates franking credits based on a reasonable estimate of the company’s expected tax liability for that income year.

Fringe benefits tax

The Government will extend a number of FBT exemptions to ensure they remain relevant and accessible to small business. In particular, the FBT exemption for employer-provided remote area housing will be extended by removing the requirement for small businesses to establish that such housing benefits are ‘customary’ in a particular industry.

Further, the existing FBT exemption for work-related items such as laptop computers will be extended to include portable printers as well as personal digital assistants. Finally, the existing FBT exemptions for relocation costs will also be extended to cover the engagement of relocation consultants.

These changes will ensure that the FBT laws do not inhibit the uptake of new products and services by small businesses.

Family trust and interposed entity elections

The Government will respond to concerns raised by tax professional bodies that the current requirements to make a valid family trust election are too inflexible.

To provide greater flexibility and remove the possibility of any ongoing uncertainty, the Government will allow family trust elections to be made at any time in relation to an earlier income year, subject to certain conditions.

Non-commercial loan rules

The Government will modify the non-commercial loan rules to allow private companies until the due date of lodgement of their tax return to repay loans or put loans on a commercial footing. This will ease the compliance burden for these private companies whilst still maintaining the integrity of the non-commercial loan rules.

These measures represent practical changes to the tax system that will benefit a great deal of small business taxpayers without posing a risk to the revenue or to compliance.

CANBERRA 11 May 2004

Treasurer’s Office: David Alexander 02 6277 7340

Minister Hockey’s Office: Sasha Grebe 0408 974 349