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Business assets personally used by owners and staff


Private use of business assets is an area that crosses across a whole series of tax areas: FBT, GST, Division 7A and income tax.


Take the ATO’s example of the property company that claimed deductions for a boat on the basis that it was used for marketing the company. Large deductions were claimed relating to running the boat. This attracted the ATO’s attention, and a review was carried out.


The ATO discovered the boat was used by the director and other employees for private trips, and to host parties for people who had paid to attend the company's property seminars.


When looking at the overall business activities, the ATO determined the director had purchased the boat primarily for their own private use. As a result, they disallowed the deductions, and the private use of the boat was a fringe benefit for the employees of the company. The company had to lodge an FBT return and pay the resulting FBT liability, as well as the income tax shortfall, interest, and penalties.


Not lodging FBT returns

The ATO is concerned that some employers are not lodging FBT returns or lodging them late to avoid paying tax. The ATO will normally pay close attention to any employer that:

  • Is registered for FBT but lodges late. If your business is likely to face delays in lodging the FBT return, it’s usually a good idea to get in touch with the ATO early and ask for an extension request; or

  • Is not registered for FBT. If your business employs staff (even closely held staff such as family members), and is not registered for FBT, it’s essential you have reviewed your position and are certain that you do not have an FBT liability. If the business provides cars, car spaces, reimburses private (not business) expenses, provides entertainment (food and drink), employee discounts etc., then you are likely to be providing a fringe benefit. Make sure you have reviewed the FBT client questionnaire we sent you!


Travelling or living away from home

The ATO have recently finalised their guidance on travel costs and will be looking closely at transport, meal, and accommodation benefits.


Travel allowances often cause confusion for many businesses. If your business provides travel allowances to employees, you will normally need to consider whether they are living away from home or just travelling overnight in the course of work.


Where your employees are travelling overnight in the course of work, these travel allowances are normally assessable to your employees. However, they might be entitled to personally claim deductions for some of their travel expenses.


For workers that are living away from home, these allowances are dealt with instead through the FBT system as a fringe benefit. While the taxable value of the benefit is usually the amount paid, there are some generous concessions that can allow for some or all of the allowance to be FBT exempt if certain conditions are met.


As a result, getting the distinction right between travelling overnight for work or living away from home is important.


The ATO explains in TR 2021/4 when allowances should be classified as a travel allowance or a living away from home allowance. Helpfully, the ATO has also finalised a ‘safe harbour’ style approach in PCG 2021/3 which can be used specifically for this purpose.


FBT housekeeping

It can be difficult to ensure the required records are maintained in relation to fringe benefits – especially as this may depend on employees producing records at a certain time. If your business has cars and you need to record odometer readings at the first and last days of the FBT year (31 March and 1 April), remember to have your team take a photo on their phone and email it through to a central contact person – it will save running around to every car, or missing records where employees forget.

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