ATO Determination concerns for owner-drivers

The Victorian Transport Association (ATA), the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) and the Transport Workers Union are among industry groups concerned about a recent Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Determination that will reduce the amount drivers can claim for travel on their tax returns.

ATO Determination TD 2017/19, issued 3 July, has reduced the ‘reasonable amount’ that an owner-driver may claim for travel expenses without substantiation by $42.10, which translates to a 43 per cent reduction.

VTA CEO Peter Anderson, in his capacity as Secretary and Treasurer of ARTIO, has written to the ATO to express concern about the lack of consultation with industry about the Determination, along with the impact such a significant reduction will have on the individual drivers and their income.

“We are amazed the ATO has made such a far-reaching Determination that will leave drivers and their families so significantly out-of-pocket without bothering to inform the industry,” Anderson said.

“Equally concerning are flow-on effects the Determination will have on Enterprise Bargaining Agreements that had already factored in the previous rate. We have highlighted to the ATO that employers, who have had EBAs specifying amounts payable in these circumstances approved by the Fair Work Commission, could now be in breach of legal obligations because of the change.

“Regrettably, the impact of the ATO changing its view on what is a ‘reasonable amount’ for a driver to claim for a meal will be on their health and wellbeing because there is less money for them to spend on healthier foods, which usually cost more.”

ARTIO has requested an urgent meeting with the ATO to discuss the Determination, which it feels requires immediate review and amendment.

A spokesperson for the ATO told transport publication Big Rigs industry groups consulted included the ATA, NatRoad, Owner Drivers Association and a number of state groups.

“This paper provided an opportunity for all interested parties to respond to us with their feedback, opinions and suggestions,” an ATO spokesman said.

“As part of the consultation process, emails were sent directly to more than 60 industry groups requesting feedback on the consultation paper.

“Almost half of these emails were sent to federal and state-based organisations and associations within the transport industry.”

The ATO also noted a driver may still claim a higher amount of deductions for their meals if they kept a receipt.

“Also, they should ensure that the right meal rate (breakfast, lunch or dinner) is used for the relevant meal consumed while travelling if they have not kept receipts to show how they have worked out their claim.

“Drivers should not claim for meals not consumed while travelling,” the statement read.

“They can claim a higher amount (than the Commissioner’s reasonable amounts) of deductions for their meals if they actually spent more; they just need to have receipts to evidence their expenditure.”

The Australian Road Transport Industry Organisation will be meeting with the ATO later this month.

Read more about this year’s Tax Time guide on the ATO website.

This article originally appeared on Prime Mover Magazine. 

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