ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat has confirmed that sole trader clients on JobKeeper will now need to manually include those payments on their tax returns as it will not be pre-filled.
“For sole traders, they do need to add [JobKeeper payments] into the business income. That won’t happen automatically,” Ms Foat said on an ATO webcast.
“So, eligible business participants must put it in their business income.”
On the flipside, most individual clients on JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments will see those amounts in their pre-fill report.
“When it comes to things like JobKeeper, as an employee, it is included either in the salary and wages for that person or in allowances on their income statement,” Ms Foat added.
“When that income statement is finalised, we will automatically include that information in the pre-filled report, so you don’t need to worry about adding JobKeeper on top for employees.
“For JobSeeker, that needs to go at the Australian government payments and allowances question; again, we’ll include that information in the pre-filled report.”
Tax on employment payments
Ms Foat said practitioners should also ask clients about one-off payments made by their employers as a result of having to stand them down because of COVID-19.
Employers may give such payments special names, such as a stand-down payment, COVID-19 payment or pandemic payment.
However, the ATO will treat these payments the same as usual payments from the employer.
“If [clients] have received a payment like that, it is treated like salary and wages. And once again, it should appear on the relevant income statement. But if your client is unsure whether the employer has included it, they can check with their employer,” Ms Foat said.
Individual clients receiving employment termination payments will also need to be factored in this tax time.
“How these are taxed really does depend on the circumstances, like was it a genuine redundancy, how long has the person worked with the employer?” she said.
“I would simply suggest most of the information will be included in income statements or as an employment termination payment summary. So then, that information is shown how it should be taxed and included in the return.”
Wait until income statements are finalised
With Single Touch Payroll now in force for all businesses, apart from closely held payees, taxpayers have been urged to hold from lodging until their employers have marked their income statement as “tax ready”.
Employers with 20 or more employees will have until 14 July 2020 to make a finalisation declaration, while employers with 19 or fewer employees will have until 31 July 2020.
“The real thing about waiting until it is tax-ready is… one, if a return is lodged before it is tax-ready, it requires us to hold the return until we can validate some of the figures in the return,” said ATO assistant commissioner Adam O’Grady.
“Alternatively, if the return is processed through and then finalised later on, we finish up having to create a bill and that creates further distress for the client.
“So, just having that bit of a gap, or wait, until those records are finalised can save a bit of time and angst down the track.”
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Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.