“It’s a situation where employers have a view that all utes are FBT-free and lack of audit activity by the Tax Office has reinforced the view,” he said.
“Unfortunately under draft new guidelines released by the ATO, many employers may find themselves exposed to FBT on these vehicles.”
Mr Howlett said that in order to remain complaint and avoid unwanted tax bills, employers will need to introduce a major “cultural shift” among workers quickly.
“Business[es] will require a radical change of culture around the use of the work ute by staff,” he said.
Currently, work utes are exempt from FBT where they are used for “minor, infrequent and irregular” personal use.
If the ATO gets its way, that rule will effectively be scrapped in favour of an “all or nothing test”, said Mr Howlett, where that approach will only apply to journeys that deviate from a normal route between home and work by less than 2km, such as to do a school run or pick up groceries on the way home.
“Most employers don’t realise that the full cost of the ute will attract FBT if this test is failed,” said Mr Howlett.
The change may be a good time for business owners to review a raft of other FBT and even GST liabilities, given that many businesses unwittingly pay the ATO too much tax by not claiming their full deduction entitlements.