DEFINITION OF A FRINGE BENEFIT
A fringe benefit is a benefit that is provided by an employer to an employee or their associate in respect of their employment.
These benefits are not taxable to the employee; however, the employer may be liable to pay fringe benefits tax on the grossed up amount of the value of
The Main Types Of Fringe Benefit Are:
- Car fringe benefits;
- Debt waiver fringe benefits;
- Loan fringe benefits;
- Expense payment fringe benefits;
- Housing fringe benefits;
- Living away from home allowance;
- Board fringe benefits;
- Meal / entertainment fringe benefits;
- Tax exempt body fringe benefit;
- Car parking fringe benefits;
- Property fringe benefits;
- Residual fringe benefits.
The FBT year runs from 1 April and finishes on 31 March and:
- FBT is currently levied at 47% of the grossed up value of a benefit
- The tax is paid by employers regardless of the type of entity
- FBT is paid quarterly with the FBT return lodged at year end
- FBT is calculated on a self-assessment basis
- FBT is tax deductible to the employer, along with the cost of the benefit paid
- As tax has already been paid on the benefit by the employer, employees do not pay tax on benefits
- The amount of benefits paid to an employee while not taxable to that employee may effect repayment of HECS debts, eligibility for welfare payments,
and other items
- FBT is payable on benefits made by the employer no matter whether they are profitable or not for the year
- The taxable value of the benefit is grossed up using the following mark-ups: For entities registered for GST 2.0802 and 1.8868 for those not claiming
input tax credits.
Fringe Benefits Tax rates
The FBT rate aligns to the top marginal rate of income tax for individuals. The removal of the Temporary Budget Repair Levy therefore impacts the FBT rates
(both tax rate and gross up rate) applicable from 1 April 2017 as follows:
- The Type 1 gross up rate has changed from 2.1463 to 2.0802;
- The Type 2 gross up rate has changed from 1.9608 to 1.8868;
- The FBT rate has decreased from 49% to 47%.
The cash value of benefits received by employees of public benevolent institutions and health promotion charities, public and not-for-profit hospitals,
public ambulance services and certain other tax-exempt entities increased for the 2016 & 2017 FBT years due to the change in FBT rate.
Specifically, the $17,000 cap was increased to $17,667 and the $30,000 cap was increased to $31,177 for the 2016 & 2017 FBT years only.
Example: FBT calculation and taxable value gross up (2017-18)
Value of benefit provided (inc. GST) $5,000
Taxable Value = $5,000 x 2.0802 $10,401
FBT payable = $10,401 x 47% $4,888
The concept of calculating taxable value as demonstrated above is very important and will be referred to frequently in this chapter.
The main aim of FBT is, in effect, to tax the benefit so that it really makes very little difference whether the employer provides it to the employee or
the employee pays for it out of their after tax dollars – assuming that the employee is on highest marginal rates (over $180,000 per annum). There
may be savings through the provision of exempt benefits or concessionally taxed benefits which will be discussed later in this chapter.
Where an employee is on less than highest marginal rates a tax disadvantage arises (to the employer) as it would be cheaper to pay the employee the extra
wages rather than pay the benefit and FBT at 47% on the grossed up amount.
The FBT exemption for work-related items only applies if the items are used primarily for work purposes and are limited to one item of each type per employee
per FBT year, unless they are replacement items.
In the May 2015 budget, it was announced that from 1 April 2016, the government will allow an FBT exemption for small business that provide employees with
more than one qualifying work-related portable electronic device, even where the items have substantially similar functions.
The list of FBT-exempt work-related items was extended to all work-related portable electronic devices, including those with multiple functions.
Employees will be denied depreciation for the work-related percentage of FBT-exempt items in their personal income tax returns.
COMMON FRINGE BENEFITS
Where an employer provides an employee with a car and that car is used (even in part) for private purposes then a fringe benefit has been provided. A car
will be deemed to be used for private purposes if:
- It is garaged or kept near the residence of the employee;
- The car is not at the employer’s address and the employee may use the car for private purposes;
- Control of the vehicle resides with the employee outside business hours.
A motor vehicle is defined as being a motor car, station wagon, panel van, utility or other vehicle designed to carry less than one tonne or less than
nine passengers. Motorbikes and taxis are specifically excluded from the definition.
A vehicle will be excluded if it is a vehicle not designed to mainly carry passengers and if used privately was only done so for the purposes of travelling
from home to work which was incidental to the employee’s normal travel for work.
The taxable value of a car for FBT can be calculated by the employer using two methods: the statutory formula and the operating costs basis. The employer
is able to choose the method that best suits their circumstances; however, where a selection is not made the statutory method will be applied. Careful
consideration needs to be given to the decision to provide a car to an employee and which method is used given the particular circumstances.
Under the statutory method, the following formula is used to calculate FBT:
Base value of car times Statutory Fraction times Percentage private use days less Employee’s
The base value of the vehicle is the cost price including all options, but not including registration and stamp duty. For a leased vehicle the base value
is the market value of the vehicle and insurance. The base value is taken from when the employer first held the asset (i.e. from purchase).
The percentage applicable depends on the total number of kilometres the car travelled (for both business and private purposes) in the FBT year. Kilometre
readings are taken at 31 March each year.
Current rates are: You will see from the below table that for new contracts entered into after 1 April 2014,
there is uniformity at a flat 20%.
However, the old rates may be relevant for existing contracts.
If vehicle has been owned or leased for more than four years the cost of the car is reduced to two-thirds of its original cost. The reduction in cost base
applies from the start of the FBT year following the fourth anniversary of when the car was acquired or leased.
Where a car was not held for a full 12 months, the kilometres were annualised using the formula:
The number of kilometres travelled X the number of days in the FBT year
The number of days the car is held by the provider
For example: a vehicle is held for four months and travels 4,000km, the annualised kilometres would be 12,000km. Of course given a flat 20% rate from 1
April 2014 this is now less relevant.
However, where a car is not available for private use the FBT benefit amount is reduced according to the portion of days not available for private use.
Commencing 1 April 2014 there is complete uniformity in the statutory formula rate – see table below. As this can result in high amounts of FBT payable, consideration should be given to all relevant staff having a complying logbook to establish business use if this is significant.
|ANNUALISED DISTANCE TRAVELLED DURING THE FBT YEAR (1 APRIL –
|STATUTORY RATE (MULTIPLIED BY THE FBT COST OF THE CAR TO DETERMINE THE TAXABLE VALUE OF A CAR FRINGE BENEFIT)|
|Existing Contracts %||New Contracts entered into after 7.30pm (AEST) on 10 May 2011|
|From 10 May 2011 %||From 1 April 2012 %||From 1 April 2013 %||From 1 April 2014 %|
|0 – 15,000km||0.26||0.20||0.20||0.20||0.20|
|15,000 – 25,000km||0.20||0.20||0.20||0.20||0.20|
|25,000 – 40,000km||0.11||0.14||0.17||0.20||0.20|
|More than 40,000km||0.07||0.10||0.13||0.17||0.20|
Operating costs method
Under this method, the taxable value of the vehicle is calculated using the actual costs incurred in operating the car and the actual private usage percentage.
In order to be eligible for this method a logbook must be kept for 12 weeks and replaced every five years. The diary must contain for each business
- Date the trip started and finished;
- Odometer readings at the start and finish of the trip;
- Purpose of the trip;
- Number of kilometres travelled;
- The entries should be made as soon as practical after the journey;
- The logbook should be in English.
At the completion of the 12-week period a business portion can then be calculated which will be the basis for determining the taxable value. If the business
usage of the vehicle falls by more than 10 per cent, the logbook must be redone.
Formula for calculation – Operating cost
Operating costs times (private kilometres divided by total kilometres) minus employee contribution.
Operating costs include repairs, fuel, and registration, insurance and (if the car is owned) a deemed depreciation based on the FBT deemed depreciate rate,
(i.e. 25% of car purchased after 10 May 2006) and an interest component based on the FBT benchmark rate of 5.65% for 31 March 2017 and 5.25% for 31
March 2018. If the car is leased, the leasing costs would take the place of depreciation and interest.
Example: At 1 April 2017 the written down value of a car provided to an employee is $40,108. Registration
and insurance cost $1,600 and the employee paid for half of these. Fuel and repairs cost $4,000.
The logbook showed that 85 per cent of total kilometres travelled in the 12-week period were for business purposes.
The calculation is as follows:
Registration and insurance $ 1,600
Fuel and repairs $ 4,000
Depreciation (25% of $40,108) $ 10,027
Interest component 5.25% of $40,000 $ 2,100
Total operating costs $ 17,727
The business use percentage is 85 per cent; hence the private use is 15 per cent. The value of the benefit provided and the FBT payable is calculated as
15% of $17,727 $2,659
Less employee contributions ($800)
Value of benefit $1,859
Grossed up value $1,859 x 2.0802 $3,867
FBT payable = $3,867 x 47% $1,817
Where an employer provides a car park to an employee a taxable benefit may be made. A car parking benefit will arise when:
- There is a commercial parking station (not a kerb side parking meter) which charges more than $8.66 per day for 2017/18 (and $8.48 for 2016/17) for
car parking within one kilometre of the employers premises;
- The employee parks their car in the employers car park for more than four hours between 7am and 7pm;
- The car is used by the employee to travel from home to work.
Small businesses that are neither a government body, nor a listed public company with a turnover of less than $10 million that provide parking on their
own premises are exempt from FBT on these benefits.
Where a car parking benefit arises and a fringe benefit occurs there are a number of options for employers in calculating the value of the benefit, being:
Commercial parking station method;
The market value method;
The average cost method;
Statutory formula – spaces method;
12-week register method.
The commercial parking station method: Uses the lowest cost commercial all day parking station within a one kilometre radius of the employer’s
premises. It must be the day rate and the value of the benefit is reduced by any contribution made by the employee.
The market value method: Calculates the value of the benefit supplied by the employer to the employee by using an “arm’s length” comparison.
In other words, if the employee and employer were unrelated, how much would a person normally expect to pay to park there?
The employer must meet certain rules regarding documentation of such a valuation, being:
- The description of the car park;
- The number of parks valued;
- The day rate per car in the car park;
- The name of the valuer and that it is an arm’s length valuation.
The value of the benefit is reduced by any contribution made by the employee.
The average cost method: Is calculated by reference to an average of the lowest fees charged by a commercial operator within a one kilometre
radius of the employer on the first and last day of the FBT year.
The statutory formula – spaces method: The taxable value for each car space for an employee is determined by multiplying the daily rate
amount by the statutory number of days – being 228 days.
The 12-week register method: Under this method the employer keeps a register and a listing of employees it covers. If over a 12-week period
an employer provided 50 spaces with a taxable value of $9 each, the total taxable value would be:
50 (spaces) x $9 (each) x 52/12 (gross up) $1,950
So FBT would be:
Value of benefit provided (Inc GST) $1,950
Taxable Value = $1,950 x 2.0802 $4,056
FBT payable = $4,056 x 47% $1,907
DEBT WAIVER FRINGE BENEFIT
Where an employee receives a loan from an employer and that loan is later waived, the employer has provided a taxable benefit to the employee for the amount
of the loan plus any unpaid interest.
Where an employer provides a loan to an employee at a rate lesser than the benchmark rate of 5.25% for the year ended 31 March 2018 (5.65% for year ending
31 March 2017), a loan fringe benefit arises.
The benefit will be the difference in the interest rate charged and the relevant statutory rate.
If the employee could have claimed a deduction for the interest then the benefit will be exempt under the otherwise deductible rule (discussed later in
If the funds were advanced for the purposes of the employee paying for expenses in relation to their duties then that payment will also be exempt, provided
the expenses are incurred within six months of payment and the loan does not greatly exceed the projected expenditure. The employee should keep detailed
records and repay any unused funds.
EXPENSE PAYMENT FRINGE BENEFIT
An expense payment fringe benefit occurs when an employer pays an expense on behalf of the employee, for example a telephone bill.
The taxable value of the benefit is the amount paid for or reimbursed and can be reduced by the otherwise deductible rule.
For Example: Jane’s employer pays a $300 mobile phone bill on her behalf. Jane has kept records and of that
$300, $200 was for work purposes. The taxable value of the benefit will be $100, being the private portion of the reimbursement.
Entertainment fringe benefits arise on the provision of food, drink or recreation to an employee or their associates.
The determination of meal entertainment is crucial, as:
- Meal entertainment provided in respect of employees is tax deductible, subject to FBT, and enables the employer to claim GST
- input tax credits on the expenditure; and
- Meal entertainment provided in respect of non-employees is not tax deductible, not subject to FBT, and the employer is unable
- to claim GST input tax credits on the expenditure.
As such, it is necessary for employers to allocate their expenditure between that for employees and for non-employees. There are three methods to choose
from in determining taxable value of meal entertainment.
by the register percentage. The register percentage is based upon a detailed register of expenditure in the period covered.
Changes for employees
From 1 April 2016, there are changes to the FBT treatment of salary packaged meal entertainment and entertainment facility leasing expense benefits (meal
and other entertainment benefits). Some of the changes will affect all employees, while others will affect employees of not-for-profit organisations.
The following applies to all employees:
- All salary packaged meal and other entertainment benefits are reportable and will be included on the payment summary where the reporting exclusion
threshold is exceeded.
- The 50-50 split method and 12-week register method cannot be used by the employer for valuing salary packaged meal and other entertainment benefits
which may affect how much an employee can salary package.
For employees who work for a not-for-profit employer:
- a separate single grossed-up cap of $5,000 will apply for salary packaged meal and other entertainment benefits for employees of not-for-profit organisations
able to access a general FBT exemption or rebate ($30,000 or $17,000 exemption; or $30,000 rebate)
- the amount of those benefits exceeding the separate grossed-up cap of $5,000 are included in calculating whether the value of all benefits an employee
receives exceeds the general FBT exemption or rebate cap.
This means that from 1 April 2017 employees can receive such benefits worth between $2,403.61 and $2,649.99 (depending on whether the employer is entitled
to GST credits) without exceeding the $5,000 cap.
PROPERTY FRINGE BENEFITS
Where a benefit is provided to an employee such as any good, animal, real estate, legal property, gas and electricity etc, a property fringe benefit may
These benefits can be divided into two groups: those benefits that are provided in the normal course of the employers business (in-house benefits), and
those benefits that the employer would not normally provide as part of their business.
Goods normally sold to the public (in-house benefits): These are goods supplied by the employer to the employee that would normally be
available to the general public.
For example: A furniture manufacturer that provides an employee with a piece of furniture. The first $1000 of the taxable value
of an in-house benefit provided to an employee is exempt from FBT.
Furthermore, the taxable value of those goods is reduced to 75 per cent of the lowest price charged in the ordinary course of business for identical goods
less what the employee paid for them.
For example: The furniture manufacturer sells a setting to an employee for $400 that it would normally charge the public $2000.
The taxable value would be:
Normal retail price of $2,000 x 75% $1,500
Less: Amount paid by employee ($400)
Less: in-house benefits exemption ($1,000)
Taxable Value of fringe benefit $ 100
Goods not normally supplied to the public: The taxable value of these goods provided by the employer to the employee is the lowest arm’s
length price of identical goods, less what the employer paid for them.
CHANGES TO IN-HOUSE PROPERTY FRINGE BENEFITS
Changes have been made to the FBT law since 22 October 2012.
The taxable value of an in-house property fringe benefit provided under a salary packaging arrangement no longer receives the concessional FBT treatment.
The taxable value of the in-house property fringe benefit is the market value from 22 October 2012 onwards. However, transitional rules apply to salary
sacrifice arrangements entered into prior to 22 October 2012.
HOUSING FRINGE BENEFITS
A housing fringe benefit arises when an employer provides to an employee and/or their associates a unit of accommodation that will be used as a normal
place of residence.
The term unit of accommodation is broad and can refer to a house, flat, unit, hotel, motel, guesthouse, ship, caravan or mobile home.
The taxable value of the benefit is the market value of the accommodation, less any amount contributed by the employee.
If accommodation is provided in the normal course of business for the employer (for example: a motel operator) the taxable value of those goods is reduced
to 75 per cent (see above for in-house benefits supplied to an employee as a worked example).
BOARD FRINGE BENEFITS
Board fringe benefits apply when an employee is provided with accommodation and they are entitled to two meals per day under an award or employment arrangement.
Normally this would apply to shearers, stock workers and employees that work in remote locations such as oil rigs and ships. These meals must be cooked,
prepared and provided on the employer’s premises.
The taxable value of each meal provided to a person 12 years or over is $2 and $1 for those under 12 years of age.
Benefits provided for remote area accommodation are exempt from FBT. In order to be considered remote:
- The accommodation must be 40km or more from a town with a population of 14,000 or more;
- The accommodation must be 100km or more from a town with a population of 130,000 or more;
- For Zone A + B accommodation, the accommodation is considered remote if it is 40km or more from a town with a population of 28,000 or more; or 100km
from a town that has a population of 130,000 or more.
LIVING AWAY FROM HOME ALLOWANCES (LAFHA)
Transitional rules that applied to Living Away From Home Allowance (LAFHA) benefits where agreements were entered into prior to 7.30pm on 8 May 2012 phased
out on 1 July 2014.
If there were such agreements in place for employees required to live away from their usual place of residence, it is necessary to consider whether the
new rules to alter the FBT exemption apply to the food and accommodation components of the allowance for the FBT year ending 31 March 2015 and future
The new rules only allow the exemption for employees who owned or leased a home in Australia personally, or whose spouse did, throughout the assignment
period during which the employee was required to live away from home. The use of that residence must have continued to be available to them during
the period of their assignment.
That residence must reasonably be expected to remain at their home at the assignment’s conclusion.
Even where the above conditions are satisfied, the new rules only allow the exemption to apply for a 12 month period, commencing from the start of the
For employees subject to the transitional rules, the 12 month period was deemed to have commenced on 1 October 2012.
This will mean no exemption may apply for your employees who had already been on assignment during the transitional period.
LAFHA as defined by the ATO is:
“An allowance that must be in the nature of compensation to the employee for additional expenses incurred as a consequence of an employee being required
to live away from their principle place of residence in order to perform the duties of that employment.”
The key terms here are “Additional expense” and “Principal Place of Residence”.
These are clear indications of the nature and intention of LAFHA being an allowance for inconveniencing an employee.
You must be considered an employee who is living away from your usual place of residence when:
-There is no change of job location (and the family may follow);
-The employee intends to return to their original location after time away; and
-The period away exceeds 21 days (ATO ‘rule of thumb’).
LAFHA is paid in two components, the Accommodation Component and Food Component.
The Accommodation Component
The Accommodation Component must pass the ATO test so that it is considered to be “reasonable” for you, e.g. a one bedroom apartment for a single person
or multiple bedrooms for a family in a “middle of the range” dwelling. The key here is to apply “common sense”, ensuring the ATO is never given cause
to investigate you.
However, once an employee or a contractor starts to make their own decisions regarding lifestyle and employment changes such as selling their former place
of residence or deciding to remain in the temporary place of residence indefinitely, LAFHA ceases to be payable. Further, if a contractor moves interstate
to work for one recruitment company and then transfers to another recruitment company, LAFHA will cease.
Any overpayments will always have to be paid back to the ATO without exception.
Living Away From Home Allowance – Food guidelines
Under the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) rules, individuals who satisfy the living away from home criteria can be paid a Living Away From Home Allowance (LAFHA)
which benefits from concessional tax treatment. Each year the ATO issues guidelines for the amount of the food component it will regard as reasonable.
The table below breaks down the reasonable food component amounts into the statutory and exempt components, and the maximum amounts that can be paid to
employees on a tax-free basis for each family size of the FBT years ended 31 March 2017 (Tax Determination TD 2016/4) and 31 March 2016 (TD 2015/7)