STAGE 3 TAX CUTS – A TAX SAVING OPPORTUNITY?

Legislation giving effect to the government’s revised settings for the Stage 3 tax cuts has been passed by both houses of Parliament with the support of the Coalition.

The stage 3 tax cut changes:

  • Reduce the 19% tax rate to 16% for incomes between $18,200 and $45,000.
  • Reduce the 32.5% tax rate to 30% for incomes between $45,000 and the new $135,000 threshold.
  • Increase the threshold at which the 37% tax rate applies from $120,000 to $135,000.
  • Increase the threshold at which the 45% tax rate applies from $180,000 to $190,000.

A Permanent Tax Saving

Many taxpayers and their advisers focus on timing issues around year-end by deferring income and bringing forward deductions. Legitimate steps can be taken to shift taxable income from one year to the next and most people would prefer to pay tax next year rather than this year. However, any benefit gained reverses in the following year when you have to do it all again just to stand still. It’s a lot of effort for a once off timing advantage.

The difference with the 1 July 2024 tax rate changes is that reducing your taxable income in 2023-24 and increasing it in 2024-25 (where it is taxed at a lower rate) produces a permanent saving over the two-year period – a saving you get to keep. That may make such timing issues worth another look.

How Much Can You Save?

That depends on your where you sit on the income scales and how much taxable income is shifted. High income earners will have a marginal tax rate of 45% regardless of whether they shift income and deductions around, and those on lower incomes don’t pay much tax to begin with, so their potential savings are less.

But for anyone who expects to fall in the taxable income range of $120,000 to $135,000, for example, there is a permanent saving of 7% on up to $15,000 in taxable income that is shifted from 2023-24 into 2024-25.

Take someone in that income range who owns a rental property which is in need of a $15,000 paint job, and who was planning to get it done by Christmas. They could save themselves $1,050 by arranging to have the job done in May or June. Not a fortune, but not chickenfeed either.

So, How Can You Go About Shifting Taxable Income Into 2024-25?

Before looking at various options, it is necessary to point out that the tax laws include anti-avoidance rules that prevent tax planning strategies which have as their sole or dominant purpose the gaining of a tax advantage. However, if you are simply bringing forward ordinary business-related purchases that you would have made anyway, those rules are unlikely to be triggered. To make certain you stay on the right side of the tax rules you should check with us before taking any action.

Bringing Deductions Forward

Subject to that necessary reservation, and depending on your expected taxable income, bringing deductions forward into the 2023-24 income year offers the widest range of options for achieving a permanent tax saving. Bear in mind that bringing purchases forward does involve an earlier than planned cashflow impact that you would need to fund. Options include:

Rental properties

If you have a rental property that is in need of any sort of maintenance or repairs, why not get on to it now? You’ll be bringing the deduction into 2023-24 and keeping your tenants happy at the same time. There can sometimes be a fine line between repairs (deductible immediately) and improvements (deductible over time). We can help you sort out which is which.

Gifts and donations

If you have a tradition of gifting and donating, maybe to telethons and appeals that occur later in the year, consider making those donations to the charities before the end of June 2024. Charities are more than happy to receive donations at any time of the year, and if the taxman can give it an extra boost, why not? Double check that your chosen charity is a deductible gift recipient.

Superannuation

Consider making after-tax contributions into your super fund. But be mindful of contribution caps and the additional 15% tax on contributions made by high income earners. You should seek financial advice prior to taking any action.

Sole traders and partnerships

Do you have a small business which you operate through your own name or in partnership? Consider some of these possibilities:

  • Depreciation: Could you do with a new laptop or other tools and equipment? Or even a modest motor vehicle? Legislation that is expected to pass Parliament before 30 June 2024 will set the small business threshold for claiming an outright deduction for the cost of depreciating assets to $20,000. If you’re planning to make these purchases anyway, you would be better off with that sort of deduction falling into the 2023-24 year where the tax rate is higher. So consider paying a visit to JB Hi-fi, Bunnings or the nearest car yard and start looking around.
  • Bad debts: Have a receivable you know isn’t going to pay, but you just haven’t wanted to admit it? Consider writing it off and take the deduction now. But remember, the debt must be more than simply doubtful and there are certain other requirements which must be met. We can help you with those.
  • Obsolete stock: Is that box of polaroid cameras really going to move anywhere other than to a museum? Write it out of stock before 30 June 2024 and take the deduction.
  • Bring forward deductible expenses: Buying two boxes of printer paper? Buy three instead. Stock up on printer ink, you never know when you’re going to have that big print run you hadn’t anticipated. Consider what other consumables you use and stock up for your short term needs before 30 June 2024.
  • Prepay deductible expenditure: All taxpayers are entitled to claim deductible prepaid expenditure where the expenditure is below $1,000 (excluding GST) or the expenditure is required by law (e.g., car registration fees). Where the expenditure is $1,000 or more, small business entities can deduct the full amount of prepaid expenditure if it relates to a period of 12 months or less. Note that this is also available to non-business expenditure of individuals (e.g., work-related expenses or rental property expenses).
  • Employee bonuses: Confirm commitments to pay employee bonuses are made by 30 June 2024, and don’t forget that PAYG withholding must be withheld when the bonuses are paid.
  • Skills and training: Take advantage of the small business entity skills and training boost before it ends on 30 June 2024. The Boost enables small businesses to deduct an additional 20% of expenditure that is incurred for the provision of eligible external training courses to their employees by registered providers in Australia.
  • Energy incentive: Take advantage of the small business entity energy incentive which provides a bonus deduction of 20%. Eligible assets include heat pumps and electric heating or cooling systems, and demand management assets such as batteries or thermal energy storage. Eligible assets or upgrades will need to be first used or installed ready for use by 30 June 2024.
    Note: this incentive is provided for in the same Bill as the $20,000 instant asset write-off provisions, which is currently before Parliament and is expected to pass before 30 June 2024.

Deferring Income

Options for shifting income into the 2024-25 year are more limited, but include:

Salary sacrifice

Consider salary sacrificing into super before 30 June 2024. As mentioned above, be mindful of the contribution caps, the additional tax for higher income earners and seek financial advice before taking any action.

Interest

Ensure term deposits mature after 30 June 2024.

Need help?

Please consider engaging your business advisor if any of these options are relevant to your business. We are here to help you work through any of these options.

This information has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation, or needs. Because of this, you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness, having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Content in partnership with the Institute of Financial Professionals Australia (IFPA).