As a part of its ever-tightening compliance net, the ATO has recently announced it is targeting specific tax avoidance behaviour in the not-for-profits sector.
The first area of focus is private foundations used to operate businesses or income-producing activities on which no tax is paid. This type of tax-avoidance scheme using not-for-profit foundations first surfaced in the 2015–2016 income year. The basic premise is that an adviser or promoter helps individuals to set up a “private foundation” which is claimed to be exempt from all taxes. The “private foundation” is then used by individuals to operate businesses or for income-producing activities. Unlike genuine not-for-profit foundations, individuals stream their untaxed employment, contractor or business income through their sham foundations, pay no tax on the income and use the funds for their own benefit. In some cases, a small portion of the income made may be paid to humanitarian or social causes, such as through charities, which is used as justification for the foundation’s purported tax-free status. The ATO is taking this matter seriously and has already commenced investigations of potential promoters.
The second area of focus is registered public benevolent institutions (PBIs) using schemes to avoid or reduce FBT. The ATO is concerned with arrangements where employees of PBIs are used to undertake charitable or commercial work activities of other entities that are not themselves benevolent in nature. The ATO will be reviewing these arrangements to determine if any have the sole and dominant purpose of avoiding or reducing FBT.