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What are the tax implications for different business structures?

The structure of your business determines how you would pay tax and other business obligations you would need to consider. Whilst you are able to change your structure as your business develops, business owners must keep up with the changing tax responsibilities that may occur as a result. There are four major business structures in Australia that come with different tax implications.

Sole trader:
An individual running a business will declare revenue received from the business as part of their personal income tax return and will be taxed at the same rate as an individual. This means the more the income the business earns, the more tax the sole trader will have to pay. If their income is $18,200 or under for the 2018-19 financial year, then they are under the tax free threshold and do not have to pay tax. They can also receive a discount on Capital Gains Tax (CGT).

Partnership:
When more than one person runs a business and distributes income or losses between themselves, each partner must pay tax at the individual tax rate on their share of the business’ net income. They also need their own Australian Business Number (ABN) and Tax File Number (TFN) to use when lodging their annual business income tax return. An annual partnership return showing the income and deductions of the business must also be lodged.

Company:
A company is a separate legal entity with higher set-up and administration costs. They must apply for a company TFN and ABN if they are registered under the Corporations Act 2001. They must also be registered for GST if the annual GST turnover is $75,000 or more. There is no tax free threshold and no discount on CGT. Companies are responsible for paying income tax on their profits at the company tax rate, which is currently 30% under 2019-20 tax rates, or 27.5% for base rate entities.

Trust:
Businesses run through a trust must also have their own TFN and ABN, and register for GST if annual GST turnover is $75,000 or more. They are are not liable to pay tax because their beneficiaries who receive the trust net income are individually assessed for tax. If the trust generates net trust income and does not distribute it, they are assessed on this accumulated income at the highest individual tax rate. Each year, all the revenue earned by the trust and the income distributed to each beneficiary must be shown on their tax returns.

Posted on 23 October '19 by , under Tax.

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

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:

  • Aside from the initial set-up, members need to continually research potential investments.
  • It is important to create and follow an investment strategy that will help manage the SMSF – but this will need to be updated regularly depending on the performance of the SMSF.
  • The accounting, record keeping and arranging of audits throughout the year and every year also need to be conducted up to par.

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.

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