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ATO issues bad debt ruling

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a ruling that clarifies the circumstances in which a deduction for bad debts is allowable.

To obtain a bad debt deduction under section 63 of the Act, a debt must exist before it can be written off as bad. A debt exists for the purposes of section 63 where a taxpayer is entitled to receive a sum of money from another either at law or in equity.

The question of whether a debt is bad is a matter of judgment having regard to all the relevant facts. Generally, provided a bona fide commercial decision is taken by a taxpayer as to the likelihood of non-recovery of a debt, it will be accepted that the debt is bad for section 63 purposes. The debt, however, must not be merely doubtful.

Where a trustee in bankruptcy, receiver or liquidator advises a creditor of the amount expected to be paid in respect of a debt, the remainder of the debt (i.e. the extent to which the amount likely to be received is less than the debt) is accepted as bad when the advice is given.

The bad debt has to be written off in the year of income before a bad debt deduction is allowable under section 63. The writing-off of a bad debt does not necessarily require highly technical accounting entries. It is sufficient that some form of written record is kept to evidence the decision of the taxpayer to write off the debt from the accounts.

The debt must have been brought to account as assessable income in any year or, in the case of a money lender, the debt must be in respect of money lent in the ordinary course of the business of lending of money by a taxpayer who carries on that business.

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Self-managed super funds (SMSF) aren’t just about financial investment

December 3, 2020

Individuals may be looking to opt for an SMSF because these provide entire control over where the money is invested. While this sounds enticing, the downside is that they involve a lot more time and effort as all investment is managed by the members/trustees.

Firstly, SMSFs require a lot of on-going investment of time:

Data shows that SMSF trustees spend an average of 8 hours per month managing their SMSFs. This adds up to more than 100 hours per year and demonstrates that compared to other superannuation methods, is a lot more time occupying.

Secondly, there are set-up and maintenance costs of SMSFs such as tax advice, financial advice, legal advice and hiring an accredited auditor. These costs are difficult to avoid if you want the best out of your SMSF. A statistical review has shown that on average, the operating cost of an SMSF is $6,152. This data is inclusive of deductible and non-deductible expenses such as auditor fee, management and administration expenses etc., but not inclusive of costs such as investment and insurance expenses.

Thirdly, investing in SMSF requires financial and legal knowledge and skill. Trustees should understand the investment market so that they can build and manage a diversified portfolio. Further, when creating an investment strategy, it is important to assess the risk and plan ahead for retirement, which can be difficult if one is not equipped with the necessary knowledge. In terms of legal knowledge, complying with tax, super and other relevant regulations requires a basic level of understanding at the very least. Finally, insurance for fund members also needs to be organised which can be difficult without additional knowledge.
Although SMSFs have the advantage of autonomy when it comes to investing, this comes at a price. Members/trustees need to invest time and money into managing the fund and on top of this, are required to have some financial and legal knowledge to successfully manage the fund.