Foreign investment review framework

On 8 April 2016, the Senate Economics References Committee released its report on its inquiry into the foreign investment review framework in Australia, making the following four recommendations:

  • Treasury publish guidance about the foreign investment review assessment process including information on the steps and features of the process
  • Treasury publish the Treasurer's rationale behind both positive and negative decisions  regarding foreign investment, in order to inform the public and to instill public and investor confidence in the review process
  • The Australian Government establish a publicly available Agricultural Land Register for all foreign-owned agricultural land to increase public confidence in Australia's foreign investment review framework and its effectiveness in safeguarding Australia’s long term economic and security interests
  • The Senate extend the inquiry reporting date to 28 April 2016 to undertake an examination of the foreign investment review framework in relation to the proposed lease by the New South Wales (NSW) Government of Ausgrid, the second largest provider in the NSW electricity network.

New export loan for small business

On 6 April 2016, the Minister for Trade and Investment announced a new scheme to provide export loans to small businesses. The loans, which are to be provided by Australia’s export finance agency, Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (Efic), are intended to improve convenience, increase approval speed and provide greater flexibility for Australian businesses seeking finance to export.

According to the Minister’s media statement “the loan product enables businesses with annual revenue between $250,000 and $5 million to access up to $250,000 to support an export contract. The loan will be available to small exporters when their bank is unable to help”.

The key features of the product include the following:

  • Loan amount (unsecured): $50,000 - $250,000
  • Eligibility criteria:
    • Businesses with an annual revenue of $250,000 - $5 million p.a.
    • Company established for at least two years
    • Company must have exported with the last twelve months
    • The loan must be used to finance a single specific export contract or purchase order for the export of goods and or other services from Australia.
  • Borrowing limit: 80 per cent of the export contract or purchase order
  • Loan term: 3, 6, 9 or 12 months

There is a $100 Initial application fee and a $1,000 Credit assessment fee and the interest rate which is fixed for the term of the loan is higher than for unsecured bank overdraft facilities.

Proposal to allow self-assessment of effective life of certain intangibles

On 1 April 2016, the Commonwealth Treasury released draft legislation as part of the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda to amend the tax law to allow taxpayers the choice to either self-assess the effective life of certain intangible depreciating assets or use the statutory effective life. The proposed measure will give taxpayers the opportunity to better align the tax treatment of intangible assets with the actual period of time that the assets provide economic benefits, rather than being limited to claiming depreciation deductions over a statutory based period.

The intangible assets to which this choice will apply from 1 July 2016 are:

  • a standard patent
  • an innovation patent
  • a petty patent
  • a registered design
  • a copyright (except copyright in film)
  • a licence (except one relating to a copyright or in-house software)
  • a licence relating to a copyright (except copyright in a film)
  • an in-house software
  • a spectrum licence
  • a datacasting transmitter licence, and
  • a telecommunications site access right. Submissions were sought on the proposed law by 22 April 2016. It was the intention of Government to have these measures introduced into Parliament in the Winter session.

Data matching programs

The Commissioner of Taxation has given formal notice of the following data matching programs and amendment to existing programs: 

  • Addendum to the Credit & Debit Cards 2014-15 program to specify that the Commissioner will also be collecting data from Suncorp-Metway Ltd as part of this existing program.
  • Special Payment Systems 2014-17 program under which the the Commissioner will acquire data relating to electronic payments made to merchants through specialised payment systems for the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years
  • Contractor Payments 2016 -19 program under which the Commissioner will acquire data from businesses that it visits as part of its employer obligations compliance program during the 2016-17; 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years
  • Commonwealth electoral roll program under which the Commissioner will acquire details of registered voters on the Commonwealth electoral view from the Australian Electoral Commissioner. This data will be collected on an ongoing basis and refreshed every three months.