The recent changes in the fringe benefit tax rules are making things very difficult for employers, employees, loan brokers like us and car dealers. The way Australians buy cars is changing and employers can’t use their default solution for keeping and rewarding their valued employees. The changes will affect all new novated leases set up from the 16th July 2013 onwards.
There are a few people who won’t be affected. If you are self-employed or a sole trader who uses their car for work purposes and claims back a few travel expenses, nothing’s going to change. If you’re an employee who uses a car that belongs to the company and you use it nearly all the time for work purposes (e.g. if you’re a sales rep who has to travel to your clients) then things aren’t going to change for you, either. And if you have an existing salary package that involves a novated lease, everything will stay the same under the current lease and the changes will only affect you when the current lease expires and a new one starts.
The changes apply to novated leases as we know them the situation where a company sets up the lease for a new car that their employees can use as they wish, and the payments for the lease are taken out of the pay packet before tax so the employee gets the perk of a new car but stays in the same tax bracket and doesn’t have to fork out any more income tax although they will have to pay fringe benefit tax.
Under the old system, there were two ways of calculating the amount of fringe benefit tax that someone had to pay. You could choose to keep a logbook and record all your trips, along with whether or not it was a business or personal trip, and the proportion of personal to business trips was used to calculate the amount of fringe benefit tax to be paid. Or else you could just use a formula based on the cost of the car times 20%, and there was no need for logbooks.
Under the new system, it’s logbooks all the way so you pay fringe benefit tax for the personal use of the car. The irritating thing about this is that the trip to and from work is considered to be personal use rather than a work trip. One of the headaches for employees and employers alike is that the new system requires a lot more paperwork. The idea is that people shouldn’t be claiming back more expenses than they are actually entitled to and should pay the right amount of fringe benefit tax.
The Rudd government thought that keeping logbooks was going to be the only change that people would really be affected by (as if that wasn’t enough hassle in itself!) but the economy as a whole seems to be affected.Car companies, especially companies providing company cars, are not selling/leasing as many vehicles, as a lot of people don’t want to set up a new lease under the new system. Some employers are left scratching their heads as they try to think of other ways to reward their staff and keep them in the company that aren’t going to cause headaches and hassle after all, having to write down every single trip to the dairy and every single Mums taxi trip is not that much of a perk for a busy person trying to juggle work and family. Charitable organisations are also affected, as salary packaging deals are the only way that they can reward their employees on a tight budget.
It’s going to be a case of watch this space, as there’s a lot of opposition to the changes and further changes may be in the wind.
In the meantime, if you are on the lookout for a new set of wheels, don’t forget that ordinary regular car loans aren’t affected by these changes at all.