08 August 2013

"The Fast and the Furious" Article by Tina Zawila

If you are an employer who provides your employees with the use of a motor vehicle, or if you are an employee who has the use of an employer-provided vehicle, or salary sacrifices a motor vehicle, you need to be aware of recent proposed legislative changes.

On 16 July 2013 the Federal Government announced plans to change the method of calculating the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) on cars provided by employers to their employees.

The proposed reform will remove the statutory formula method for both salary-sacrificed and employer-provided car fringe benefits for new contracts entered into after the announcement, with effect from 1 April 2014.

Therefore, the more onerous operating cost method will need to be used.  This method is based on the actual business use of the car, which must be determined by a logbook.  A logbook must be kept for a period of 12 weeks to record business kilometres travelled, for each and every vehicle, and for each and every employee arrangement.

The operating cost method also requires greater record-keeping on the part of both the employer and employee.  As this method relies on the calculation of all repairs, maintenance, fuel, registration, insurance, leasing costs, depreciation and the cost price in respect to every vehicle.

The statutory method, on the other hand, applied a set percentage to a specifically determined value of the car depending on the number of kilometres travelled.  Thereby only requiring the value of the car to be determined and a record of the annual number of kilometres travelled (irrespective of actual business or private use).

These proposed changes are likely to see a significant decline in the number of vehicles provided to employees by employers, as the cost will be too onerous on businesses.

The only good news is that the proposed arrangements only apply to “cars”.  Many dual cabs will fall outside the scope of these changes.

Which method of calculating FBT do you use for vehicles?
As an Employer, have you assessed your fleet and the impact on your record keeping?
As an Employee, have you considered your obligation to keep a log book?

At Sothertons we can assist you with all taxation matters including FBT on Motor Vehicles, to help you meet your obligations with the Australian Taxation Office, contact our office today on (07) 4972 1300.

01 August 2013

"Facebook - Private vs Public" Article by Steve Marsten

A legal colleague recently told me how, during a trip to India he leant that young technology savvy students are “focussing” on how to hack into Facebook pages and that in their country its “understood” that despite the perception that “only my friends see my posts” this should be considered a naive thought. Now that was just what he saw with his own eyes. He was told that this is a standard practice and many Middle Eastern; East Asian and East European companies are employing young people who are technology bent, to hone their skills for the very purpose of raking information from Facebook pages. We would be naive to think that other countries are not doing the same!

Now I am not a regular Facebook user granted however, I enquired to a colleague as to the number of “friends on Facebook” he had. Not so many as it turns out however he boasted about his daughter who has 700 friends “and she knows at least 200 of them! “
This brings me to my greatest concern when a friend was telling me that the information she shares is for private purposes ONLY and she shares nothing with the public however I showed her something that I was tagged in on by one of her friends and yet I am NOT her friend on Facebook yet. This startled her and sent her back to the Privacy Settings and Tools within Facebook.
Facebook is updating their site all the time and many things impact on the privacy settings. There is a question as to whether they are providing appropriate “opt in” options for members when changes occur that affect the privacy areas of our Facebook pages.
Now everyone should take a breath and check the following: Check your settings – make sure your defaults are what you want them to be; Review your posts and things you’re tagged in on; limit the audience for past posts; who can look up your timeline by name and finally be careful with Facebook Apps. They tend to be insecure and spam ridden.
It seems common sense to me. Don’t upload anything that may adversely affect your job; your personal life or your reputation.  
Have you checked your settings?
Are you being tagged in inappropriate posts?
Do you know if the apps you have on Facebook are spam free and secure?

At Sothertons we are always willing to discuss Facebook policies with our clients. Feel free to call us on 4972 1300.