As the end of tax year approaches, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has announced its 3 key areas of focus for Tax Time 2023. Landlords, those working from home and capital gains tax (CGT) will all be the subject of an ATO crackdown when it comes to tax returns this year. According to ATO Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh, the areas being targeted are due to the high number of common mistakes being made in these areas. With access to the financial information of 1.7 million rental property investors from 17 of the countries largest banks and mortgage lenders, the ATO will be able to use new data matching techniques to crosscheck claims made by landlords in 2023.

The ATO Targets For Tax Time 2023

Rental property deductions

As landlords (and homeowners) feel the pinch from mortgage interest rate hikes, many have been trying to push the boundaries with their claimed deductions. While there are a number of legitimate deductions available on rental properties, it’s vital that you stay within the law and understand what is acceptable and what’s not. As many as 9 out 10 rental property investors made mistakes on their annual tax returns and incorrectly claimed expenses.

The ATO is particularly focused on interest expenses and ensuring owners understand how to correctly apportion loan interest expenses where part of the loan was used for private purposes (or the loan was refinanced with some private purpose).

You can only claim interest on a loan used to purchase a rental property to earn rental income – don’t forget, if your loan also includes a private expense, such as for a new car or a trip to Bali, you can only claim an interest deduction for the portion relating to producing your rental income,” Mr Loh said.

Work-related expenses

From March 1st taxpayers claiming working from home expenses are required to provide more detailed documentation and calculations. This means you can’t do a copy-paste from last year’s annual return. Previously you could choose from a number of different methods to calculate how much you could claim when working from home. However, as the working landscape changes and more people are working back in the office more frequently, the methods of calculation have changed and there are limits on what you can claim.

The ATO crackdown is particularly focused on ensuring taxpayers understand the changes to the working from home methods and are able to back up their claims.

Keeping good records will give you flexibility to choose the right method that suits your circumstances and gives you the best deduction this tax time,” Mr Loh said.

Capital gains tax

Do you rent your home out for example on AirBnb or Stayz? Then you may need to pay capital gains tax (CGT). CGT is generally incurred when you dispose of assets such as shares, crypto, managed investments or properties.

The ATO wants to make sure that taxpayers have considered all their assets when calculating capital gains tax as well as apportionment of the main residence exemption if taxpayers have used their property to earn income.

It’s important that you have kept records of the income-producing period and the portion of the property used to produce income to calculate your capital gain.

Generally, your main residence is exempt from CGT, however if you have used your home to produce income, such as renting out all or part of it through the sharing economy, for example Airbnb or Stayz, or running a business from home, then CGT may apply,” Mr Loh said.

Avoid an ATO Crackdown

By announcing it’s focus areas in advance, the ATO aims to promote fairness, transparency and greater compliance with tax laws through increasing awareness of the issues and providing guidance on how to avoid them.

Outside of these 3 main areas of focus, it has also been reported that income earned from the ‘gig economy’ or side hustles would attract greater scrutiny. This includes ride-share drivers and even social media influencers.

If you’re running bootcamp sessions in addition to your nine-to-five job, well this is a side hustle and you need to declare this income to the ATO. If you’re an online content creator earning money or receiving gifts, you’re also likely to be running a business and there are tax obligations you need to comply with.” Mr Loh said.

A hobby crosses over to a business when there is an intention to earn a profit and the activity is planned and organised to achieve that goal.

The best way to avoid the issues highlighted as a focus in this ATO crackdown is to work with experienced tax accountants. Please contact the team at MGI if you need any assistance.