Fringe Benefits (not Fringe Festivals)

Welcome to a whole new tax! Did you know that there are taxes and reporting requirements (for some people) beyond the year end income tax returns we all do? You might have heard about GST (good and services tax), or CGT (capital gains tax), but today we’re looking at Fringe Benefits Tax AKA “FBT”. 

What is Fringe Benefits Tax?

If you offer a fringe benefit to your employees, then you need to register to pay Fringe Benefits Tax. At the time of writing, the FBT rate is 47%. 

This begs the question...

What is a Fringe Benefit?

A ‘Fringe Benefit’ is an additional benefit provided to an employee on top of, or in replacement of, their salary and wages. Benefits can be both monetary and non-monetary and are benefits/purchases made outside of what is required for the employee to complete their job.  

Basically, employers can’t substitute wages or give additional benefits to their employees and avoid withholding/paying the appropriate amount to the ATO. So, if you’re thinking about giving your employee a trip to Las Vegas instead of paying a bonus or increasing their salary next year, best to think again - or chat to your accountant about FBT. 

Common examples of FBT:

  • Providing a car to an employee for private purposes
  • Loaning money to the employee at a low interest rate
  • Paying for private health costs
  • Entertainment - food, drink, recreation

What is not a Fringe Benefit?

Monetary and non-monetary benefits provided for work related purposes are not fringe benefits. For example, a performance related monetary bonus is not a fringe benefit (it is taxable for the employee though!). Non-monetary provisions, such as a laptop, protective clothing, or tools of the trade that are required to fulfil your work, are also not fringe benefits. 

What do I have to report?

You must report all benefits provided to your employees that meet the Fringe Benefits criteria. It is always important to keep records, namely receipts and invoices. If you’re not sure what you’re providing is taxable or not, show those records to your accountant and they will determine for you.

When do I have to report?

For most Australian businesses, their financial year is 1 July - 30 June. However, an FBT year is from 1 April - 31 March.  Annoying, we know. Generally, your Fringe Benefits Tax return is due on 21 May. For example, you have calculated your Fringe Benefits for 1 April 2019 - 31 March 2020, therefore your FBT Tax Return is due on 21 May 2020.  

How do I report and who to?

To report your fringe benefits you need to complete a Fringe Benefits Tax Return and lodge it with the Australian Taxation Office. It’s best to seek the help of an accountant to do this though, as they will know how to decrease your liability as much as possible (legally of course!) and how your FBT return and your income tax return talk to each other. 

What entities are required to register for FBT?

To be required to register for FBT, you must meet the following criteria: 

  1. You must have employees
  2. You must provide said employees with eligible Fringe Benefits

If your business operates under a Sole Trader formation and you are the only one who works in the business (no employees), and you provide yourself with benefits that fit under the Fringe Benefits criteria, you are not required to register for FBT. A sole trader is not considered an employee of their business. You are one and the same as your business.

The same goes if you are a partner of a business operating as a Partnership with no employees. You are not considered an employee of the business, so even if you provide yourself with a Fringe Benefit, you are not required to register for FBT.

Case Study: Car Fringe Benefits

You provide your employees with work cars that have your company’s advertising on the side.  They are permitted to use the cars for personal use. Your employees must keep a log book for twelve consecutive weeks to work out the employee’s personal use. After each trip (work and personal) your employee must record the following information:

  • Date
  • Odometer reading (starting and finishing)
  • Kilometres travelled
  • Purpose of the trip

This information helps to calculate any resulting Fringe Benefits Tax. 

From there, you can use one of the two methods in which a business can calculate their car Fringe Benefits. The ‘Statutory Method’, which is based on the car’s cost price, or the ‘Operating Cost Method’, which is based on the costs of operating the car. 

  

I bet you never imagined that we could give you a new meaning to the word “fringe”. I know for me, “Fringe” has always just been a reference to the Adelaide Fringe Festival, which funnily enough is what led me down the accounting path. But that is a story for another day! 

xxx Lauren

(and co-author Caitie Copley)

Close

50% Complete

Get started today!

Get on top of your business. Sign up to The Real Thiel and get small business news and information direct to your inbox!