Finance Your Budget Tax office hit list: Bitcoin, property and work expenses in ATO crosshairs

Tax office hit list: Bitcoin, property and work expenses in ATO crosshairs

The ATO is cracking down on a series of taxpayers this financial year. Photo: TND
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The New Daily regrets to inform readers that there’s less than three months until tax time.

And the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is already preparing its so-called “hit list” of priority areas due for a crackdown in the 2021-22 financial year.

Property owners, crypto investors and those working in the gig economy will be front of mind for the tax office, according to accounting firm H&R Block.

Also on the list are claims for work-related expenses, an area that the ATO has marked as the biggest driver of Australia’s $8.7 billion annual taxation shortfall.

“[The ATO] have signalled that they’ll be looking closely at these deductions this year,” H&R Block said in a statement on Thursday.

It’s worth familiarising yourself with the ATO’s hit list as it could help you avoid a nasty surprise at tax time. Especially if you fit one of the profiles on the ATO’s hit list.

If you’re covered by the ATO’s list then you’ll have some of the most complex tax affairs in the country and would do well not to leave everything until the last minute.

Work-related expense claims

The ATO has identified dodgy work-related expense claims as the key driver of Australia’s tax gap – the difference between the tax people should pay and what they actually cough up.

With that in mind, these are the expense claims the ATO has its eye on:

  • Work-related clothing: The ATO is expecting fewer claims for dry cleaning and laundry expenses due to COVID-19 and the rise in working from home. So if you make one of these claims, you must substantiate it
  • Deductions for home offices: Claims for occupation costs like rent or mortgage interest are on the ATO’s radar as they’re not allowed
  • Mobile phone and internet costs: The ATO is watching those who try to claim their whole personal phone bill as a work expense. The rules state that you should only claim the portion of the bill that relates to work use
  • Incorrectly using the receipt rule: The ATO is worried taxpayers are taking advantage of the $300 threshold allowing expense claims to be made without receipts.

Property investors

H&R Block predicts the ATO will focus on people who claim a deduction for their property investments or holiday homes in 2021-22.

This is because the tax office recently reviewed the tax returns of some property investors and, worryingly, found errors in 90 per cent of them.

H&R Block says the ATO will be on the lookout for the following things:

  • Double claims for interest expenses: Property owners trying to claim borrowing costs on their family home and rental properties
  • Incorrect apportioning of rental income: Deduction claims on a jointly owned property being claimed by just one owner (with higher taxable income) rather than jointly between both property owners
  • Holiday homes that aren’t genuinely rented: Property owners trying to claim rent deductions for periods when the house is not being rented to a third party
  • Weak claims for new rental properties: Claims to immediately recoup damage repair costs on newly purchased rental properties rather than claiming them over a number of years (as is appropriate for tax deductions).

H&R Block’s key tip for property investors is to get their records in order.

“The golden rule is: If you can’t substantiate it, you can’t claim it.”

Crypto investors

Crypto is in the ATO’s crosshairs again this financial year after a huge effort to bring digital currency investors under the tax umbrella last year.

H&R Block says the ATO is looking at 500,000 to a million crypto owners in Australia, using data from prominent exchanges to capture everyone.

In other words, if you’re hoping to hide your crypto you’re likely to be caught out.

“The ATO believes that some of them [crypto owners] are failing to declare profits (and in some cases the losses) they are making on their investments,” H&R Block said.

“Remember, investing in cryptocurrencies can give rise to capital gains tax on profits. Trades can be taxed on their profits as business income.”

Sharing economy

The sharing economy is also shaping up as a focus area again for the ATO – they’ve even published a few examples about their concerns.

These include:

  • Expenses for ride-sharing: Incorrectly reporting expenses related to transporting passengers for a fare (i.e. Uber, DiDi or Ola driving)
  • Renting out a room: The ATO believes Airbnb hosts are claiming the full Capital Gains Tax main residence exemption despite renting out a room through sharing economy platforms
  • Expenses for task work: Those working on task platforms like Airtasker can expect tougher scrutiny over their expense claims.