ATO hotspots this year – do they apply to you?

EVERY year at about this time, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) announces its compliance hotspots for the year ahead.

These are the areas it will be concentrating its audit fire power on.

For those who have made claims in areas which the ATO will be targeting, they can be a wake-up call both to ensure that you get it right this year and that you go back and check that you did it right last year.

So, what is on the ATO’s list this year?

Well, essentially, it will be looking at two main areas – work-related expenses and claims made by investment property owners.

Work-related expenses claims have been on the increase for some years, so it’s no surprise that the ATO is planning to look more closely here.

This year they’ll be looking particularly closely at:

Claims for work-related clothing, dry cleaning and laundry expenses.

Deductions for home office use.

Overtime meal claims.

Union fees and subscriptions.

Mobile phone and internet costs.

 

All these are areas where we know taxpayers make mistakes, often not helped by misleading or vague advice from the ATO about how the law actually works.

H&R Block’s top tip before making any claim is to be confident that you understand what you can and can’t claim and that you have the necessary proof (invoices, receipts, diaries) that you actually incurred the expenditure and that it was work or business related.

The ATO will also be taking a closer look at the booming market in investments in crypto currencies like Bitcoin.

Increasing numbers of taxpayers are jumping on the bandwagon and the ATO believes that some of them are failing to declare the profits (and in some cases the losses) they are making on their investments.

Remember, investing in crypto currencies can give rise to capital gains tax on profits.

The ATO will also be looking closely at those working in the shared economy to ensure that income and expenses are correctly reported.

Examples quoted by the ATO include services such as:

 

Ride-sourcing – transporting passengers for a fare (such as Uber drivers).

Renting out a room or house for accommodation (Airbnb hosts are the obvious example).

Renting out parking spaces.

Providing skilled services – web or trade services (Airtasker workers, for instance).

Supplying equipment, tools.

Completing odd jobs, errands, deliveries.

Renting out equipment such as tools, musical instruments, sports equipment.

 

Property spotlight

The other main focus this year is on people who make claims in relation to investment properties and holiday homes.

More than 1.8 million people – or about eight per cent of the Australian population – own an investment property according to ATO figures, so this is a large and growing population for them to focus on.

The ATO has announced it will be paying close attention to excessive interest expense claims, such as where property owners have tried to claim borrowing costs on the family home, as well as their rental property.

They will also be looking at the incorrect apportionment of rental income and expenses between owners, such as where deductions on a jointly owned property are claimed by the owner with the higher taxable income, rather than jointly.

They will be looking at holiday homes that are not genuinely available for rent.

Rental property owners should only claim for the periods the property is rented out or is genuinely available for rent.

Periods of personal use can’t be claimed.

This is particularly important for holiday homes, where the ATO regularly finds evidence of home-owners claiming deductions for their holiday pad.

This is on the grounds that it is being rented out when in reality, the only people using it are the owners, their family and friends, often rent-free.

They will be keeping a close eye on incorrect claims for newly purchased rental properties.

The costs to repair damage and defects existing at the time of purchase or the costs of renovation cannot be claimed immediately.

These costs are instead deductible over a number of years.

Expect to see the ATO checking such claims and pushing back against claims which don’t stack up.

Don’t forget, the ATO has access to numerous sources of third party data including access to popular holiday rental listing sites such as Stayz and Airbnb, so it is relatively easy for them to establish whether a claim that a property was “available for rent” is correct.

The key tip from H&R Block is to ensure that property owners keep good records.

The golden rule is, if you can’t substantiate it, you can’t claim it, so it’s essential to keep invoices, receipts and bank statements for all property expenditure, as well as proof that your property was available for rent, such as rental listings.

H&R Block Tasmania has been a family business since 1982 and has 10 offices statewide employing up to 60 staff through the year.

It offers the full range of tax and accounting services for individuals and small business.

H&R Block can be contacted on 13 23 25 or at hrblock.com.au.