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Legislation in Limbo

A budget, an election and the legislation that hasn’t made it through.

The February 2019 Parliamentary sitting days were the last opportunity before the Federal Budget for the Government to introduce or push through new legislation. Next month, on 2 April, Parliament reconvenes for the Federal Budget and it’s likely that an election will be called very soon after that (18 May 2019 is the last possible date for the election of the House of Representatives). Any legislation that has not passed when the election is called basically goes back to the drawing board and may never be enacted.

With the focus of politicians firmly on the impending election and the asylum seeker debate, and the Government now in an untenable position following the loss of its majority in the lower house, tidying up outstanding business legislation was not the priority in February, and as a result, several key pieces of legislation are in limbo.

Extension of the $20k instant asset write-off

Originally introduced in the 2015-16 Budget, the popular $20k instant asset write-off has been extended across consecutive years. At present, small businesses are able to immediately deduct purchases of eligible assets costing less than $20,000 that are first used or installed ready for use by 30 June 2019.

In a pre-election sweetener, the Government announced that the threshold for the small business instant asset write-off will increase to $25,000 and the timeframe to claim the increased write-off extended from 29 January 2019 until 30 June 2020.

The Bill enabling the changes was rushed into Parliament in February. While the upcoming Budget will provision for the measure, the outcome of the next election may determine whether the change comes to fruition.

Employer Superannuation Guarantee amnesty

Back in May 2018, the Government announced an amnesty for employers who had fallen behind with their superannuation guarantee (SG) obligations. Under the amnesty, employers could catch up or “self-correct” outstanding SG payments for any period from 1 July 1992 up to 31 March 2018. The intent was to reduce the estimated $2.85 billion owed by employers in late or missing SG payments.

Running from 24 May 2018 for 12 months, the amnesty was to provide relief from some of the punitive penalties that normally apply to late SG payments. To take advantage of the amnesty, employers were to make voluntary disclosures to the ATO about outstanding payments.

But, the legislation enabling the amnesty has stalled in the Senate. Up until recently, the ATO was encouraging employers to make voluntary disclosures with the view that when the legislation passed Parliament, the amnesty would be applied. However, any employer who made a voluntary disclosure to the ATO will not benefit from the reduced punitive penalties unless the legislation passes, which at this stage, is highly unlikely in its current form. Further, the Tax Commissioner has no discretion under the law to reduce the penalties applied to employers in this scenario, so if the legislation doesn’t pass, then there isn’t much the ATO can do to soften the blow.

SMSF membership limit changes

Rushed into Parliament before the break was a bill enacting the Government’s 2018-19 Budget measure increasing the maximum number of allowable members in a Self-Managed Superannuation Fund from four to six. The measure is before the Parliament but unlikely to be addressed before the election.

Superannuation guarantee and salary sacrifice

The Bill amending how superannuation guarantee is calculated, to ensure that an individual’s salary sacrifice contributions cannot be used to reduce an employer’s minimum superannuation guarantee (SG) contributions, appears to have stalled. The Bill has not progressed since November 2017. At present, the minimum amount of SG an employer is required to pay is based on an employee’s ordinary time earnings. As entering into a salary sacrifice arrangement reduces the employee's ordinary time earnings, it reduces the amount of SG that an employer is required to pay.

If you have any questions about how the legislation in Limbo may affect your business, the team at Active Accounting Group can help. 

Right now, Active Accounting Group are also offering free tax reviews. Click the button below to take your first steps towards being tax smart. 

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Tags: Accountant

06 Mar 2019

Brett Walker

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