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Be wary of unregistered tax preparers

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning taxpayers to keep an eye out for people posing as tax agents who are not registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB). Only a registered tax agent can charge a fee to prepare and lodge your tax return.

There are concerns from the ATO about the number of people claiming to be tax agents, often promising refunds that sound too good to be true, or providing discounted services much cheaper than registered, legitimate tax agents. Unregistered preparers will often use a taxpayer’s personal login details to access their ATO Online account through myGov to lodge tax returns.

To protect yourself from a large tax bill or from facing penalties, check that your tax agent is registered on the TPB website or ask to see their Certificate of Registration of Tax Agent. Protecting your myGov login details and password will also ensure safety as a legitimate tax practitioner will never ask for your myGov credentials. Registered tax agents can access the information they need themselves through ATO online services dedicated to lodging returns for their clients.

Individuals should also be aware that if you use an unregistered tax or BAS agent and they are negligent, you will not be protected under the safe harbour provisions set out in the Taxation Administration Act 1953.

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Expert advice on early superannuation access as a result of COVID-19

April 2, 2020

Under the coronavirus stimulus package released and revised by the Australian Federal Government on 22 March 2020, individuals in financial trouble due to the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 will be able to access their superannuation funds early. However, while the option is available, it is recommended that individuals only consider withdrawing from their super in the case of absolute emergencies and treat it as a last resort.

With the new rules on superannuation, workers whose incomes are reduced by at least 20% due to the COVID-19 outbreak are allowed to take $10,000 out of their super for the 2019-20 financial year and another $10,000 for 2020-21. Individuals will also not need to pay tax on any withdrawn amounts and existing welfare payments will not be affected either.

While the introduced early access to superannuation funds may be inviting for newly unemployed workers, it is important to consider whether the temporary relief is necessary and worth foregoing super funds available for long term investment. For example, even when accounting for Australia’s slowing economy in the coming years, $10,000 is predicted to be worth over $65,000 in another 30 years.

Especially for younger workers who are less likely to have access to other savings, the choice to give up future savings for current comfort is a difficult one. Experts instead are recommending Australians to apply for the other payments and benefits made available to vulnerable Australians through the coronavirus stimulus package, such as added $550 fortnightly supplements to Australians on JobSeeker payments and other welfare recipients and pensioners.

Experts also predict that the Australian Government will introduce more stimuli for increased cash flow in the Australian economy and more payments for unemployed, struggling and vulnerable Australians in the case of COVID-19 becoming more of a serious economic issue. Hence, withdrawing funds from your superannuation account should be considered a last resort and not for the sake of unnecessary temporary relief.

In addition to being allowed early access into individual super funds, superannuation minimum drawdown rates will also be temporarily reduced by 50% for account-based pensions and others similar until 2021.

The Government has also reduced the upper and lower social security deeming rates by a further 0.25 percentage points, with upper at 2.25% and lower at 0.25% which will come into effect on 1 May 2020.