BUSINESS EXPENSES AND DEDUCTIONS

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1 03 BUSINESS EXPENSES AND DEDUCTIONS Claim deductions for your business expenses when you lodge your income tax return, see page 18. To claim deductions for your business expenses when you lodge your income tax return you need to know how to claim, as well as some specifi c rules relating to whether your business: has motor vehicle expenses claim deductions for these expenses, see page 19 uses diesel fuel you may be eligible for grants or rebates, see page 19 is based at your home you may be entitled to deductions for expenses relating to the area you use, see page 20 has travel expenses, such as fares, car hire and accommodation these can generally be claimed as deductions, see page 21 uses plant, such as machinery, tools or computers you can claim a deduction for the decline in value (depreciation) of this plant, see page 22. TAX BASICS FOR SMALL BUSINESS 17

2 HOW DEDUCTIONS FOR BUSINESS EXPENSES WORK Under income tax law, a person carrying on a business can generally claim an immediate deduction for outgoings that are incurred in carrying on their business to produce assessable income, provided these expenses are not of a private, domestic or capital nature. Capital nature means the expenses of establishing, replacing, enlarging or improving the business structure, as distinct from working or operating expenses. Some capital expenses are deductible over time see Decline in value (depreciation) on page 22. Some expenses may not be deductible if the tax rules relating to personal services income apply to you see page 15. The following are examples of common expenses that can generally be deducted from gross income: rent or lease of business premises hire or lease of plant and equipment trading stock decline in value of depreciating assets (depreciation) tools employee expenses registered tax agent fees interest on borrowed money motor vehicle expenses repairs telephone expenses bank fees and charges transport and freight, and light and power. Record keeping For all business deductions it is important that you are able to substantiate your claim. Income tax works on a selfassessment principle, which means the Tax Office initially accepts your information but may later ask you to show records to support your claims. Records to verify claims for deductions include: business books evidence of transactions (such as invoices and receipts), and evidence of usage (such as motor vehicle logs and airline tickets). Keep records of your business transactions for five years, or five years after you last used them to prepare a return. For example, a log book may be relied on for up to five years after it was last used to prepare a return. Minor expenses of individuals and partnerships For certain work, car and business travel expenses it is not always possible to get a receipt. In such cases, you can claim the expense as long as you record your expenses (in a diary, for example), each expense is no more than $10, and they add up to no more than $200. If it was unreasonable to expect to get a receipt and the expense was more than $10, you can still claim the expense as long as you record it. This type of expense is not counted towards the $200 overall limit for small expenses. Each expense entry in the diary must contain all the details that would be required of a valid receipt and you must sign each entry. Record keeping for small business (NAT 3029) Prepaid expenses A prepaid expense is expenditure incurred for something that will not be wholly provided during the current income year for example, a 12-month subscription or insurance premium that overlaps the end of the income year (30 June for most taxpayers). An immediate, full deduction may not be allowed for such prepaid expenses instead, part of the deduction may need to be apportioned to each income year of the service period. However, there are transitional concessions that allow a larger deduction in the first year if the service period ends within 13 months of the expense being incurred If your business is in the simplified imputation system (STS), you can generally claim an immediate, full deduction for prepaid expenditure if the service period is 12 months or less (even if the 12 months overlaps the end of the income year). Deductions for prepaid expenses (NAT 4170) BUSINESS TIP: GST AND INCOME TAX DEDUCTIONS You can t claim an income tax deduction for the GST included in the price of something you purchased if you can claim it as a GST credit in your activity statement. See TaxPack (NAT 0976) for information about business expenses and deductions. 18 TAX BASICS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

3 MOTOR VEHICLE EXPENSES Sole traders and partnerships All expenses for business purpose vehicles are generally deductible. These are vehicles such as trucks or vans that have a dedicated business use, and some smaller vehicles (such as utilities or panel vans) where private use is restricted to home-towork travel. Special substantiation rules apply to claims for car expenses. The car must be owned, leased or hired under a hire purchase agreement by the taxpayer, and have a carrying capacity of less than one tonne and fewer than nine passengers (this may include certain panel vans and utility trucks). You may choose one of four methods to calculate car expenses: cents-per-kilometre method 12% of original value method one-third actual expense method, or log book method. The following do not qualify as a car for these purposes: motorcycles or similar vehicles taxis taken on hire, and motor vehicles hired intermittently. FUEL SCHEMES The energy grants credits scheme The energy grants credits scheme provides a grant for eligible fuel used in eligible activities including road transport, mining, agriculture, forestry, fishing, rail transport, marine transport, electricity generation for residential premises, the operation of hospitals, nursing and aged care homes and other medical institutions as well as other activities. Eligible fuels include diesel fuel and some alternative fuels. Petrol is not an eligible fuel. NOTE Do you use diesel or alternative fuels in your business? You may be eligible for energy credit grants. For more information or to register for the energy grants credits scheme. See Energy grants credits scheme (NAT 8890). phone If you wish to claim expenses for such vehicles, you will have to comply with the general work-related expense substantiation rules (see page 18). Companies and trusts The above methods of calculating income tax deductions for motor vehicles do not apply for companies and trusts. Companies and trusts don t have private expenses, so all vehicle costs are tax deductible to the business. Private use of vehicles owned by a company or trust is generally subject to fringe benefits tax (see page 31). If you are a director of your own company you are an employee for fringe benefits tax purposes. BUSINESS TIP: TRAVELLING FROM HOME TO WORK Except in certain limited situations, travel between your home and place of business is not deductible. See TaxPack (NAT 0976) for information about motor vehicle expenses. TAX BASICS FOR SMALL BUSINESS 19

4 WORKING FROM HOME If you do work relating to your business at home you may be able to claim a deduction for phone rental and business calls, depreciation of office furniture and equipment, and any additional heating, cooling and lighting expenses. If part of your home is used exclusively as your place of business you may also deduct a portion of such expenses as rent, mortgage interest and insurance. The table below summarises the allowable deductions for the three ways that a person may carry out work at their home: home is the principal place of business the business is run from home and a room is set aside exclusively for business activities home work area a room is set aside exclusively for business activities but the home is not the principal place of business, or work at home but no home work area the work is done at a time when others are not present in a living area or garage but the home is not the principal place of business and there is not a room set aside primarily or exclusively for business activities. What you can claim Home is the principal place of business Home work area Cost of owning or Yes No No renting the house Cost of using a room Yes Yes Yes (utilities) Business telephone Yes Yes Yes Decline in value (depreciation) of assets Yes Yes Yes Work at home but no home work area In determining allowable deductions, the emphasis is on additional costs you incur because you conduct business activities from home, and excluding any private portion of expenses. You need to have a reasonable basis for apportioning business and private costs for example, you might allocate heating and lighting costs based on the floor area of the business part of your home relative to the total floor area. BUSINESS TIP: CAPITAL GAINS TAX If your home is a place of business there may be capital gains tax implications when you come to sell your home. It s best to contact the Tax Office now to find out. EXAMPLE Alex All Electrical (sole trader) Alex s house is his principal place of business he runs his business from home, though he usually works on customer premises. He has converted his garage into a workshop and his spare room into an office both are now used exclusively for his business. Alex works out that the dedicated workshop and office constitute 15% of the floor area of his house. On this basis, he claims deductions for 15% of the house s costs for gas, electricity, insurance premiums, council rates and mortgage interest. Based on a review of his itemised home phone bills, he estimates that 10% of calls from his house are for business purposes. On this basis he claims 10% of his total call costs and line rental fees for his home phone. Alex also claims deductions for the decline in value of depreciating furniture that he uses for the business. For his income tax return, Alex works out his deductions as follows: Utilities, rates, insurance $10,500 Business floor area 15% X $1,575 Home phone costs $800 Business use of phone 10% X $80 Decline in value of business $100 $100 furniture Total deductions $1,755 As with all claims for deductions, it is important to keep records to substantiate your claims. 20 TAX BASICS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

5 NOTE To help you work out your expenses relating to a home work area, we have developed an electronic calculator. To access the calculator, visit our website at au and search for Home office expenses calculator. Do you work from home? Keep records to substantiate your claims for deductions for example: electricity and telephone bills rental receipts, and obtain a reasonable estimate of your home s value at the time you start working there you will need this to calculate capital gains tax when your home is sold. For more information about working from home expenses: see TaxPack (NAT 0976) see Tax and the home-based business (NAT 10709) phone BUSINESS TRAVEL EXPENSES The term business travel expenses means travel expenses incurred in producing income other than salary or wages. These expenses are only deductible if special substantiation rules are met: written evidence of all expenses (this is not required if there is no overnight stay away from home), and travel records, if the business travel is for six or more consecutive nights away from home. The travel records must record the particulars of each business activity before it ends, or as soon as possible afterwards, in a diary or similar document. The particulars that must be specified are: the nature of the activity the day and approximate time when it began how long it lasted, and where (the place) you engaged in it. BUSINESS TIP: KEEP YOUR PLANE TICKET A plane ticket may show all the details that are required to substantiate your expenses relating to air fares. For expenses incurred on or after 1 July 1994 you need to keep the records for five years. If only part of your trip was for business purposes, you can claim only the part that related to your work. TAX BASICS FOR SMALL BUSINESS 21

6 DECLINE IN VALUE (DEPRECIATION) You may be able to claim a deduction for the decline in value of your depreciating assets. A depreciating asset is an asset that has a limited effective life and can reasonably be expected to decline in value over the time it is used for example: computers electrical tools furnishings carpet and curtains, and motor vehicles. You can claim a deduction for part of the value of these assets in each year of their effective life that is, the length of time the asset can be expected to be used for business purposes. The Tax Office publishes a comprehensive list of assets and their effective lives to help you work out these claims or you can selfassess the effective life of your depreciating assets. To assist business taxpayers the Commissioner of Taxation has released PS LA 2003/8. Subject to certain criteria, this allows business taxpayers who purchase an asset costing $100 or less to assume it is a revenue expense and claim an immediate full deduction. Also, under the uniform capital allowance rules, assets costing less than $1,000 (low cost assets) or assets with an adjustable value of less than $1,000 (low value assets) can be pooled together and deducted at 37.5% per year. For assets with an adjustable value of $1,000 or more, you work out decline in value using either the prime cost or diminishing value method. Both methods are based on the effective life of the asset. Alternatively, most small businesses are eligible to enter the simplified tax system, which has simpler and more generous treatment of depreciating assets. Simplified tax system depreciation rules Eligible taxpayers have the option of joining the STS (see page 13). In the STS, you can claim an immediate full deduction for assets with an adjustable value of less than $1,000. Most assets with an adjustable value of $1,000 or more are pooled and deducted at 30% per year. See Guide to depreciating assets (NAT 1996) for information about the uniform capital allowances system. See Simplified tax system: simplified depreciation (capital allowance) rules (NAT 4824) for information about the treatment of depreciating assets in STS. EXAMPLE Renee Renee Fashions Pty Ltd Decline in value of depreciating assets simplified tax system Renee Fashions Pty Ltd is eligible to enter STS and elects to do so in its first year of business ( ). During the company purchases a shop fit-out ($90,000), computer ($2,000), used car ($15,000), used cash register ($900) and computer printer ($400). Under STS rules, depreciating assets worth $1,000 or more are pooled and deducted at 30%; assets worth less than $1,000 are immediate full deductions. The company works out its claim for depreciating assets as follows: General pool (assets worth $1,000 or more) Shop fit-out $90,000 Computer $2,000 Car $15,000 Closing balance of general pool $107,000 Deduct at general pool rate 30% $32,100 Immediate full deductions (assets worth less than $1,000) Cash register $900 Printer $400 $1,300 Total claim for $33,400 The opening balance of the general pool for the next income year is $74,900 ($107,000 less the general pool deduction of $32,100). If no further assets are added to the pool, the deduction for that income year will be 30% x $74,900 = $22,470. BUSINESS TIP: NON-BUSINESS USE A deduction for the decline in value of a depreciating asset is not allowable if the depreciating asset is used solely for private purposes. If an asset is partially used for private purposes, only the business-use proportion can be deducted. Your deduction for the decline in value of the asset must be apportioned accordingly. 22 TAX BASICS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

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