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Clearing out your documents for the new year

 

The holiday period is the perfect time to declutter your documents but avoid throwing out those essentials you need to keep.

 

Since different rules apply to different documents, the length of time a business needs to retain them depends on what the documents are. Holding on to your documents for seven years is a good starting point for most businesses.

 

The essential rules are as follows:

• Financial records must be kept for seven years after the transactions have been completed.

• Tax records must be kept for a minimum of five years.

• Employment records must be kept for seven years after termination.

     

 

 

 

2016-17

$10m

SBE ($10m threshold)

2017-18

$25m

BRE

2018-19 to 2019-20

$50m

BRE

2020-21

$50m

BRE

2021-22

$50m

BRE

* Small business entity (SBE), Base rate entity (BRE)

The amending legislation also increased the small business income tax offset rate to 13% of an eligible individual's basic income tax liability that relates to their total net small business income for the 2020-21 income year and 16% for the 2021-22 income year onwards.

The small business income tax offset continues to be capped at $1,000 per individual per year. This means that if your business operates as a sole trader for example, the amount of tax you are likely to pay will be reduced from 2020-21 but only up to the $1,000 cap.

What is a base rate entity?

Between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2017, we used the concept of a small business entity (SBE) to work out what tax rate applied to a company. The concept of an SBE has now been replaced with a base rate entity (BRE) for company tax rate purposes. However, the concept of what a BRE actually is has changed over time to extend the lower tax rate to more companies and to restrict what entities can access the lower tax rate.

For the 2017-18 income year, a BRE was a company that had an aggregated turnover at the end of the income year of less than $25 million and no more than 80% of its income was passive in nature. Passive income includes some dividends, franking credits, non-share dividends, interest income (there are some exclusions), royalties, rent, net capital gains and gains on securities, and some trust and partnership distributions. If the company receiving the dividend holds a voting interest of at least 10% in the company paying the dividend then the dividend is not treated as passive income for the purpose of these rules.

For 2018-19, the threshold to be a BRE increased to companies with an aggregated turnover up to $50 million.

Where income is derived through a chain of trusts or partnerships, things get slightly more complicated as the law requires the tests to be applied at each level of the chain.  Special rules also exist to prevent partnerships and trusts from reducing their net income by increasing expenses. Indirect expenses such as overheads are excluded from the calculation of net income.

The problem for franking credits

The company tax rate changes have also impacted on the maximum franking credit rules.

In 2015-16, the first year small business entities could access a reduced company tax rate of 28.5%, the maximum franking credit rate for franked dividends remained at 30%. However, from the 2016-17 income year onwards the maximum franking credit rate needs to be determined on a year-by-year basis. In many cases this means that if the company's tax rate is 27.5% then the maximum franking rate will also be 27.5%. However, this will not always be the case and you can have situations where the corporate tax rate and maximum franking rate are different in a particular year.

In some instances, a company will pay tax at 30% but when it pays out the profits as a franked dividend, the maximum franking rate will be 27.5%. The company may end up with surplus franking credits trapped in its franking account. This can lead to double taxation as shareholders won't necessarily receive full credit for the tax already paid on those profits by the company.

This problem will potentially become worse as the company tax rate becomes lower as some companies will have paid tax on profits at 30%, but will only be able to apply a 25% franking rate to dividends paid out in future years.

It will be important to look closely at this issue each financial year as there are some strategies that can potentially be applied to prevent franking credits being trapped in the company and minimise the incidence of double taxation.

 

 

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