ATO’s motor vehicle data matching program

The ATO has obtained, or will obtain, data identifying all motor vehicles sold, transferred or newly registered in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 income years, where the transfer and/or market value is $10,000 or greater, from all of the State and Territory motor vehicle registering bodies.

Data relating to approximately 2.8 million individuals will be matched against taxpayer records to identify those participating in the cash economy, and/or those who may not be declaring all their income or deliberately avoiding their tax obligations.

The ATO recommends that those identified as being at risk of potentially skimming some or all of their cash takings, running part of their business ‘off-the-books’, or in other ways not reporting all their income, contact them to make a voluntary disclosure of any under-reported amounts.

Payments for electricity generated from solar panels

Will you be taxed for selling solar-panel generated electricity back to the grid?

More and more homeowners are installing solar panel systems in their homes.  In some cases, the solar panel system may produce more electricity than they consume.  If this is the case, the homeowner can often “sell” the excess electricity back to their electricity company, which will be released into the electricity grid.

This obviously begs the question: will the payments they receive from the electricity company be included in their assessable income?

The ATO has basically confirmed that, in typical situations where payments are received from electricity retailers by homeowners for the power generated by their solar panels that is exported to the grid, the payments would generally not be classed as assessable income, as they would be private or domestic in nature.  This conclusion takes into account the amount of equipment used to generate the electricity, the current pricing structure, and the fact the homeowner produces the electricity for a domestic purpose only.

In addition, since the payments are not assessable income and are private or domestic in nature, a homeowner in the above situation would not be able to claim a deduction for the costs associated with the solar system, such as interest and depreciation.

Note, however, that if the characteristics of the activity change (including the motivation for undertaking that activity, how the activity is undertaken and whether there is a real prospect of profit from the activity), the receipts or credits from the activity may become assessable income.