HomeBuilder Grant

In June 2020, as part of its economic response to Coronavirus, the Australian Government announced its HomeBuilder Grant.  The purpose of which is to assist in the continuation of the construction industry through employment of trades and to maintain or increase the property market.

So, what is it all about?

The Grant provides eligible owner-occupiers with a grant of $25,000 to build a new home or to substantially renovate an existing home.  Owner-occupier refers to someone living in or intending to immediately live in a property as their main residence.

Here’s what you need to know if you are eligible…

LAND BUYERS / VACANT LAND / OFF-THE-PLAN BUILDS

The grant is available to owners who own land or are buying land and intend to build a home on the property as their main residence. Criteria each owner must meet:

  1. Be a natural person (ie not a company or trust)
  2. Be over 18 years old
  3. Are an Australian citizen
  4. The property is your main residence
  5. You are not an owner-builder
  6. You meet one of the following two income caps:
    1. INDIVIDUAL APPLICATION // no more than $125,000 per annum based on your 2018/19 taxable income OR
    2. COUPLE APPLICATION // no more than a combined value of $200,000 per annum based on your 2018/19 taxable income
  7. The building contract was signed between the 4th June 2020 and 31st December 2020
  8. Construction must begin within three months of the building contract signing date
  9. The builder cannot be a relative (must be an arm’s length transaction between unrelated parties)
  10. The property value (house and land) must not exceed $750,000

BONUS – this Grant is an additional monetary payment to the First Home Builders Grant for first home owners!

SUBSTANTIAL RENOVATIONS // Homeowners are eligible for the Grant if they enter into a building contract for works that will significantly improve their property but not for works that would be viewed as repairs to the home.  Criteria each owner must meet:

  1. Be a natural person (ie. not a company or trust)
  2. Be over 18 years old
  3. Are an Australian citizen
  4. The property is your main residence
  5. You are not an owner-builder
  6. You meet one of the following two income caps:
    1. INDIVIDUAL APPLICATION // no more than $125,000 per annum based on your 2018/19 taxable income OR
    2. COUPLE APPLICATION // no more than a combined value of $200,000 per annum based on your 2018/19 taxable income
  7. The building contract was signed between the 4th June 2020 and 31st December 2020
  8. Construction must begin within three months of the building contract signing date
  9. The builder cannot be a relative (must be an arm’s length transaction between unrelated parties)
  10. The contract price must be between $150,000 and $750,000
  11. The property value before the renovations must not exceed $1.5 million
  12. The works must be in connection with the dwelling (ie swimming pools, stand along garages and granny flats do not apply)

PROCESS + TIMING OF PAYMENT // Applications for the Grant are not yet available.  For new builds, the grant will be paid in line with the timing of payments for First Home Owner Grants, or at the discretion of their state and territory.

For substantial renovations, the grant will be paid once at least $150,000 of the contract price has been paid for the renovation.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS // While all States and Territories have signed the National Partnership Agreement for the Grant to proceed, each State and Territory through their relative Revenue Office’s (or equivalent) will be setting their own guidelines and framework for applications and these may slightly alter the criteria above.

Please do not hesitate to contact our friendly legal team should you wish to discuss the Home Builder Grant further.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Watch this space – SRO – https://www.sro.vic.gov.au/owning-property/australian-homebuilder-grant

Australian Government – https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/homebuilder

 

Katherine Taylor – Solicitor

BCriminology (History), LLB

 

2020 Tax Returns + 3 Ways To Make The Most Out Of It!

It’s that time of year again, Tax Time!  For individuals who have a tax agent, like our team at Canny Group and their accounting team on hand, we will lodge your tax return for you on your behalf and you have until 15 May 2021 to do this.  However, if you lodge your own tax return you have until 31 October 2020 to have it lodged.

Either way, we have put together some tax tips that you should consider before 30 June 2020 to help; reduce your taxable income, maximise deductions, take advantage of tax offsets, accessing free money from the Government as well as COVID-19 in many different ways, and we have put together these tips to help you be as prepared as possible and hopefully empower you to maximise your refund when it comes to lodge your tax return.

TAX TIP #1 // WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR TAXABLE INCOME

  • SUPER CONTRIBUTION // make a personal deduction superannuation contribution. Check with payroll to determine how much has been contributed so far.  The concessional contribution cap is $25,000 for the 2019/20 income year.
  • UNUSED CONTRIBUTION // do you have any carry forward unused concessional contribution from the 2018/19 income year? If your total superannuation balance is under $500,000 at 30 June 2019, you may benefit from making a catch-up deductible super contribution.  This may be especially beneficial to those who have additional income due to sale of investments such as shares or property.
  • DEFER INCOME // are you nearing retirement? It may be worthwhile to defer you income until after 30 June if your income will be smaller in the subsequent year.

TAX TIP #2 // MAXIMISE DEDUCTIONS!

  • MOTOR VEHICLE EXPENSES // individuals who use their car for work related travel can claim 68 cents per kilometre up to 5,000km for business travel or claim under the logbook method of car expenses. Canny Group’s team of accountants will be able to determine which method yields the greatest deduction for you.
  • WORK-RELATED EXPENSES // consider if you need any work-related items such as tools for trade, computer, subscriptions or work clothing and whether you could purchase or pay for those expenses before 30 June to increase your deductions.
  • DONATIONS // or gifts of $2 or more to a deductible gift recipient are tax deductible. Where spouses are on different marginal rates, consider making donations by the spouse that is in the higher tax bracket to maximise the benefit of the deduction.
  • HOME OFFICE // if you have been working at home due to COVID-19, you may be eligible to claim a rate of 80 cents per hour for all of your running expenses from 1 March to 30 June. Multiple people living in their house could each individually claim the 80 cents per hour rate.
  • PROTECTIVE CLOTHING // did you buy protective items such as gloves, face masks, sanitiser to use at work due to COVID-19? If your specific employment duties require you to have physical contact or be in close proximity to customers or clients while carrying out your duties or you are involved in cleaning premises, you can claim a deduction for protective items.  The ATO considers those that work in the following industries or occupations are exposed to the risk of illness in the course of working:
    • Medical Industry
    • Cleaning Industry
    • Airline Industry
    • Hairdressing + Beautician Industry
    • Retail, Cafe + Restaurant Industry

TAX TIP #3 // TAX ADVANTAGE OF TAX OFFSETS!

  • SPOUSE OFFSET // receive a $540 tax offset by making a person contribution up to $3,000 to super on behalf of your spouse. Only available if your spouse’s taxable income is less than $37,000.  A lower offset may be available if you contribute less than $3,000 or your spouse earns between $37,000 and $40,000.
  • LOW + MIDDLE INCOME OFFSET // individuals on a taxable income of $37,000 or less will receive up to $255 tax offset and those on taxable incomes between $48,000 and $90,000 will receive the maximum of $1,080 offset. Incomes between $90,000 and $126,000 will receive partial offset.  This is not a tax refund but a tax offset.

TAX TIP #4 // ACCESS FREE MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT!

CO-CONTRIBUTIONS // receive a Government co-contribution of up to $500 paid into your superannuation by making an after-tax superannuation contribution of $1,000 or more.  Full amount is available to those with taxable income less than $38,564 and a reduced amount is available to those with taxable income less than $53,564.

TAX TIP #6 // RETIREES!

  • REDUCE PENSION // the minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions has been halved for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 income year. This will benefit retirees with account-based pension by reducing the need to sell investment assets to fund minimum drawdown requirements.
  • SOCIAL SECURITY // in light of the low interest rates on savings, the Government has reduced social security deeming rates from 1 May 2020. You could be eligible for Centrelink entitlements such as the age pension or Commonwealth Seniors health care card with the lowering of deeming rates.

Now that we have your sorted for maximising your tax return outcome, let’s talk about what you’re going to be doing with the hard-earned money you’re hopefully on the way to receiving back!

Did you know that the average Australian received a tax refund of $2,381?  That’s enough to splurge on some new furniture or an LED Smart TV, right?  Well, before you head down to your local shopping centre with your tax refund in hand, take a look at three ways we’ve come up with to spend your tax return.  We’re confident that the following strategies will help you make the most out of your tax return and create positive change in your life.

STRATEGY #1 // SET UP AN EMERGENCY FUND

Research conducted in the last year’s Financial Consciousness Index found that a concerning 13.4 million Australian’s do not have emergency savings to fall back on if they were unable to earn an income for more than three months.  The study also found that 7.5 million Australian’s struggle to pay their bills and are not saving money regularly.

So, with this in mind, why not use this year’s tax return to set up an emergency fund and make this the start of your savings plan?

STRATEGY #2 // MEET WITH AN ESTATE PLANNING LAWYER

As the saying goes, there are only two certainties in life; death and taxes.  Unfortunately, more than half of Australian adults do not have a Will.

So, with this years tax return, why not protect your loved ones and sit down with an estate planning layers to draw up a Will or Testamentary Trust?

STRATEGY #3 // STARTING YOUR SIDE HUSTLE

If you have an idea of starting a side business, use this year’s tax return to kick-start this one and for all.  It doesn’t take much more than $2,381 to get started these days: a basic website and some Facebook and Instagram paid advertising campaigns to attract your first paying customers.

So, why not make this the start of your side hustle and see if you can generate a return on investment and get your business off the ground?

The question is, how will you spend your tax return this year after you’ve put into place our tax tips on maximising your refund?

Contracts Can Be Cruel!

You found the perfect property, the vendor and their agent have been amazing, friendly, flexible and have been open to all of your requests through the negotiation stage.  Sounds to good to be true?  It might just be!

If you’re thinking about purchasing a property, do not take the word of the vendor or their agent.  The details of any negotiations are in the pages of the contract.  As stated by Ronald Regal – “trust, but verify”.

Conveyancing has gone through significant changes over the past 5-10 years.  Processes and legislation have modified and, subsequently, so to has the contract of sale.  Gone are the days of fairness and equality in a contract, with contracts now re-written to solely protect the vendor leaving the contract reflecting a ‘no vendor liability’ or ‘take it or leave it’ status.  Further, as the property market expands and there is more interest surrounding a property, you may feel pressured to sign on the dotted line without first obtaining advice.

A contract reflects the negotiations between you and the vendor.  A standard clause now placed in contracts is that the contract is the entire agreement and you will not be able to rely on any promises, assurances or agreements made by the vendor or their agent unless that are inserted into the contract.  It is, therefore, very important that all negotiations with the vendor are disclosed and inserted into the contract.

It is also important for the contract to be reviewed so you are aware of your obligations.  The worst contracts will see you not being able to make any claims against the vendor for damage caused by the vendor or for their failures to comply with building regulations or contamination of the land.  Further, the penalties applied for delayed settlements, delayed paperwork and requests for finance approval extensions can make for a very expensive exercise.

A further catch is when an agent asks for you to sign the contract as a way to secure your offer to the vendor, but, you have not yet had the contract reviewed and amendments may be required.  The agent may then provide this to the vendor and, if accepted, the contract becomes binding.

Amendments to the contract are part of the negotiations and should be completed prior to your signing any contract.  You may be able to reply on the 3-day cooling off period, but, it is best to speak with our office in this regard.

If you need any advice in relation to your purchase or potential purchase, please get in touch with us and we would be happy to assist you!

 

Katherine Taylor – Solicitor

BCriminology (History), LLB

Young Money – Estate Planning For Millennials

We understand life is busy, whether you are studying full-time, travelling the world or thriving in your career.  Like most of us, the last thing on many young peoples’ minds are what will happen to their assets if they were to pass away suddenly.

And what assets do young people have to be worried about?  Aside from personal items, many will be thinking that all they have is some money in the bank, personal items, and maybe, a first home with minimal equity. However, many don’t consider their superannuation fund as a personal asset worth worrying about, but we all should.

Superannuation is one of those assets that many people just set and forget.  Your superannuation can be your most valuable asset, particularly as a young person, when, although the balance of actual super you have accrued is minimal, the automatic life insurance attaching to many retail and industry superannuation funds may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This will form part of your ‘superannuation death benefit’ should you pass away.

Most superannuation funds allow their members to nominate who will receive their death benefit [accumulated super and life insurance] upon their death.  What is often not communicated by the super fund, is that superannuation law only allows a limited category of persons to benefit from your superannuation fund.  Those people are a spouse or de facto partner, children or your estate [distributed by your will].

So, what happens if you don’t have a partner or children?  Well by putting in place a simple Will, you can nominate your estate by completing a death benefit nomination, and by your will you can then distribute this significant asset to third parties [for example, to parents, siblings, friends or charities].

We also know that whilst you may know and understand that you need a will, you just don’t have the time [or inclination] for multiple appointments with a lawyer during business hours to get it done.  We like doing things differently here and have recently developed an online Will service to provide a reliable and accurate will for those with straightforward circumstances who want to prepare a will on their terms.  Our Off The Rack will option is fully autonomous and can be completed anytime and anywhere [ie. on your couch in trackies at 9pm with a glass of wine in-hand] and your document is delivered to your inbox within one business day.  We also have our Tailored will option which combines online preparation with a short appointment with our lawyers to finalise and sign it, and of course, should you want the piece of mind of a fully custom will with detailed advice, our Bespoke will option is also available.

Visit https://www.cannygroup.com.au/wills/ to find out more or to get your will started, and if you’re not sure which option is right for you, complete the short questionnaire to point you in the right direction.

Powers of Attorney are another vital element of estate planning that are generally overlooked by young people. Download our free Seven Essentials of Estate Planning Guide, or look out for a future bulletin to learn more.

 

Kayla Kennedy – Solicitor

LLB

New Labour Hire Laws In Victoria

ATTENTION ALL BUSINESSES.. does your business or organisation use labour hire workers?  If this applied to you, then you need to be aware of the new labour hire laws that are now in place, and how they may affect you and your business!

 

Under the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018, labour hire providers will have until 29 October 2019 to apply for and be granted a licence by the Victoria Labour Hire Authority to operate in Victoria.

Licences can be applied for from the Labour Hire Authority website.  These licences are valid for a period of no more than three years.

There is a test that needs to be satisfied to obtain and maintain a licence.  This is known as “fit and proper test”.  Businesses will need to prove past compliance with the applicable employment, tax, immigration and workplace health and safety laws.

To ensure compliance of the new licensing system, the Victoria Labour Hire Authority will employ inspectors.  These inspectors will be able to enter and search premises, examine, seize or inspect anything suspected of relating to a possible contravention.

KEY POINTS FOR BUSINESS OWNERS:

  • LABOUR HIRE PROVIDERS MUST REGISTER ONLINE TO CREATE AN ACCOUNT + then apply for a licence.
  • LABOUR HIRE PROVIDERS WILL HAVE SIX MONTHS, or until 29 October 2019 to register online + apply for a licence.
  • IF PROVIDERS DO NOT APPLY FOR A LICENCE within the six-month transition period, they will be prohibited from providing labour hire services from 30 October 2019
  • UNLICENSED LABOUR HIRE PROVIDERS CAN FACE SUBSTANTIAL FINES, with a maximum penalty for a natural person being more than $120,000 + for a corporation exceeding $500,000.
  • HOSTS [BUSINESS WHO UTILISE LABOUR HIRE WITHIN THEIR BUSINESS] who enter into an arrangement after 29 October 2019 with a labour hire provider who has not applied for, or who has been refused a labour hire licence face substantial fines ranging from a maximum in excess of $120,00 for a natural person to in excess of $500,000 for a corporation.
  • THERE IS AN APPLICATION FEE, + ANNUAL LICENCE FEE, payable by the labour hire provider.

If your business uses labour hire workers in Victoria, we recommend you begin enquiringly with the providers as to their intentions with respect to applying for a licence.

Please contact Canny Legal on 5278 9500 if you have any queries regarding the new Labour Hire regime.

Estate Planning

I’ve often thought that ‘life planning’ would be a much more appropriate label than ‘estate planning’; estate planning is [and should be] so much more than simply planning for your death.

Of course, planning for how your assets should be dealt with upon your death by preparing a Will is an important component of the plan, but it only one component of what should be much broader life planning – and that planning should begin as early as possible.

Estate planning extends well beyond Wills, to incorporate Powers of Attorney, Superannuation, business ownership, trust structures, tax planning and broader family arrangements, all of which may have no effect until you are unwell or pass away, but should all be part of your planning whilst you are fit and well and enjoying life.

Your estate planning should be front of mind during many of life’s big moments, including the following:

  • PURCHASING A PROPERTY // planning should include how the property is owned, whether that is in your sole name, joint names with another person, or in the name of a company or trust. Getting this right will determine who can receive an interest in the property should you pass away, and can also avoid unnecessary stamp duty, tax and legal expenses in transferring the property down the track;
  • GETTING MARRIED OR SEPARATING FROM YOUR SPOUSE PARTNER // the joy of getting married, or the difficulty of a relationship breakdown, both have an impact on your estate planning. Prior to the event, you should be reviewing any existing wills, powers of attorney, superannuation arrangements, business ownership structures and the ownership of your own assets;
  • HAVING CHILDREN, OR YOUR CHILDREN BECOMING YOUNG ADULTS // your children are the centre of your world, and should also be the centre of your estate plan, whether that is to provide for the care and provision of your minor children, or to benefit and protect your adult children for the challenges in their own lives;
  • STARTING A BUSINESS, OR PLANNING YOUR TRANSITION OUT OF A BUSINESS // both extremely exciting times, and both requiring significant planning to ensure smooth operation of the business and treatment of key people within it.

For bonus points, great estate/life planning will combine elements of legal advice and documents, financial advice and accounting advice, which is addressed in a cohesive, open and organised manner.

 

For further information regarding estate planning, please contact us to receive a FREE copy of our ‘7 Steps to Estate Planning Guide’, and look out for future dates for our ‘Estate of Mind’ seminar series at https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/estate-of-mind-tickets-66157682409

 

Stefan Manche – Senior Associate Solicitor

LLB, BComm

PPSR – Personal Property Securities Register

Hidden interests…buyers beware!

Persons who obtain finance, more commonly commercial, car or personal finance, a security interest is generally registered on the Personal Property Securities Register known as the PPSR.  In doing so, they are securing their interests on the borrower’s personal property, such as cars, boats, plant and equipment, but does not include land, certain licences and a few other exceptions.  While registration of a security interest is not compulsory, a financier (secured party) may lose its priority to the personal property if it is in competition with other security interests.

If you are looking to purchase business, plant, equipment, car, boat, trailer or the like, a search of the person and/or company in ownership of the property is a must as part of your due diligence.  At settlement and transfer of the property you have a right to clear and free possession of that property from the seller.  If the personal property is under finance and the PPSR charge is not released when the property is transferred to you, the financier has a right, in the first instance, to repossess the property should the seller default on their loan arrangement.  It is important that any security interests are discharge prior to the property being transferred to you.

The PPSR is a single national register for personal property security interests and an online noticeboard of the particulars of a security interest for a particular individual or company.

Follow the link below to find out more information about the PPSR: https://www.ppsr.gov.au/ppsr-overview

If you wish to discuss your own secured property or that of a sellers please contact our legal team on 03 5278 95000 or email legal@cannygroup.com.au

 

Katherine Taylor – Law Clerk

BCriminology (History)

Casual Conversion Rights

Often our business clients want advice on putting into place employment arrangements that are flexible in the form of casual employment arrangements that may also suit employees.

At times the business may want confidence in the employee’s performance before considering a full time contract or the business may be approached by a casual employee who seeks to be converted to full time employment after working regular hours.

In September 2018 the Fair Work Commission (FWC) turned its attention to the question of “Casual Conversion” and the employer’s obligation to convert a causal employee working regular hours to full time or part time permanent employment.  From 1 October 2018 the FWC varied many awards to include this right.  Subject to certain prerequisites in many circumstances (that is 84 Modern Awards in addition some 28 Modern Awards that already contain the right) an employee has a right to request casual conversion to permanent employment.

The rights is subject to the casual employee working a pattern of hours over the previous 12 months that they could continue to perform on a full time or part time basis under the provision of the applicable award.

Subject to the formalities such as the request being in writing the employer may refuse only on reasonable grounds such as: the employee is not working regular hours; it is known or reasonably foreseeable the employee’s position will end; it is known that the employee’s hours will significantly reduce in the next 12 months.  Any such ground must be provided to the employee in writing in 21 days of the request being made.  If the employee disputes the alleged facts or claimed reasonable bases, the dispute will be heard at FWC.

Accordingly business are not required to offer employees under relevant Modern Awards permanent employment and the casual employee’s right depends on the facts determining regular employment over the preceding 12 months.  If casual employees prefer flexibility and 25% higher pay they will not exercise this right.

If you would like more information, or to find our how we can help – please get in touch with our team.

 

Richard Pinkstone – Principal Solicitor

BA, LLB

Debt Recoveries

The world of business dealings is underpinned by trust and reliance on promises to supply goods or services often with the consideration such as payment of money, a debt being due sometime in the future.  Once a contract is legally enforceable, the Court will, if the contract is breached, allow the injured party to seek recovery in the Courts.

Canny Legal regularly act in “debt recovery” proceedings.  Some claims may be very simple such as a failure or refusal to pay monies on account.  However in the cut and thrust of business dealings, contracting parties may have complex arrangements to reach out to potential customers and rely on more complex trading terms.

Suppliers may offer their customers credit terms reflecting their trade requirements.  For example a plumber may have a business which has many projects under way and needs plumbing supplies to compete works before it gets paid from expected future profit.  The supplying company may agree to trade on credit with interest which should also be secured by a personal guarantee and a charge over the director’s property. In this scenario we often find our client’s customers may “bite off more than they can chew” and default in their accounts resulting in debt recovery proceedings.

On the other side of the fence we also act for defendants against claims for monies due and owing and we will explore any genuine defences available to defeat the claim or reduce it by way of set-off.

Debt recovery requires the careful weigh-up of a return for recovery on a debt as against time, legal costs and the uncertainties of litigation.  There will be a range of facts to consider before being able to assess and legally advice on the merits of each claim or each defence.

If you would like more information, we are always here to help.  Please get in touch with our team.

 

Richard Pinkstone – Principal Solicitor

BA, LLB