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ATO introduces new working from home deduction scheme

COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to work from home, meaning that you now have to pay for expenses such as heating and lighting that were previously covered by employers.

The ATO has introduced a new ‘shortcut method,’ where you can claim additional running expenses at a rate of 80 cents for each hour you work from home as a result of COVID-19.

Deductible running expenses include:

The shortcut will apply from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. A record of hours worked such as timesheets or rosters must be kept as proof. If you only undertake minimal work tasks from home such as occasionally checking emails or taking calls, then you are not eligible for the deduction. To claim the deduction, you must specify your claim with the note “COVID-hourly rate” when lodging your upcoming 2019-20 tax return.

There are two pre-existing alternative methods to claim working from home deductions that individuals may choose to use, however, they are generally more tedious:

These deductions are only eligible for the proportions of the expenses that are actually used for work purposes. For example, if you’re using your own phone to make work calls, then only the portion of the bill that was incurred due to work calls can be claimed. If the room you are working in is shared with others, you can only claim electricity expenses for the hours you were exclusively using that room for work purposes.

Expenses such as rent, mortgage and insurance cannot be claimed unless you have a permanent home office.

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SMSF property investment regulations to keep in mind

June 2, 2020

Property is a common investment option for SMSFs, however, the ATO has a number of regulations SMSF owners need to be wary of. The ATO is particularly concerned with those using SMSF assets to invest in property in a way that is detrimental to retirement purposes.

To ensure you do not breach provisions of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (SISA), here is a breakdown of the ATO’s common regulatory concerns:

Also keep in mind that you cannot improve a property or change the nature of a property while there is a loan in place. While you can look to make additional contributions to your SMSF to speed up the loan repayment process, you will be precluded from making further contributions to your SMSF if any outstanding loans in your super balance exceed $1.6 million.

In the case that any of the ATO’s regulatory concerns apply to you and your SMSF’s involvement with property investment, confirm your situation and report your circumstances to the ATO. Additional regulatory matters regarding income tax such as non-arm’s length income (NALI) provisions as well as GST need to be reported as well.