In a recent speech, Small Business Minister Bruce Bilson stated that a lot of his time talking about the $20,000 immediate deduction for small business was convincing people it was not a hand out.

“I have spent a lot of my time explaining that asset write-off mechanisms aren’t grants, they are not gifts, they are not cash backs.  They are a way of expensing a purchase in an asset that can contribute to a functioning business.  Now, if you are not making any income there is not a huge benefit in you being able to write-off additional expenses at a faster rate.”

Here are some of the common questions we are asked to help clear confusion.

If I spend $20,000 how much will I get back?

The instant asset write off is a tax deduction that reduces the amount of tax your business has to pay.  It enables small business entities (businesses with annual aggregated turnover below $2 million) to claim a deduction for depreciating assets of less than $20,000 in the year the asset was purchased and used (or installed ready to use).  For example, if your business is in a company structure the most you will ‘get back’ (reduce your tax by) is 30% (in 2014-15) or 28.5% (in 2015-16) of the cost of the asset.  If the business made a $19,000 purchase in June 2015, the most the business would reduce its tax bill by is $5,400.  It’s a much better deal than the previous $1,000 immediate deduction limit but there are still cash flow issues for the business that need to be considered. Remember also that the business would have been able to deduct the purchase anyway, just over a longer period of time.

If I signed a contract before Budget night but didn’t pay for the asset or receive it until after the Budget, can I still claim the deduction?

To be able to claim the immediate deduction, you had to “acquire” the asset on or after 7.30 pm AEST on Budget night (12 May 2015) and use it (or install it ready for use) before 30 June 2017.

Contracts are often tricky because the date you acquired the asset really depends on what the contract says and how it’s structured.  Generally, if you signed the contract before Budget night and the contract made you the owner of the asset, then the asset would not qualify for the $20k immediate deduction.

We’ve invested in new equipment for just under $18,000. How soon can we claim the immediate deduction?
‘Immediate deduction’ is a bit of a misnomer.  Immediate in this context means that your business can claim a tax deduction for the asset in the same income year that the asset was purchased and used (or installed ready for use).  The deduction is claimed on the business’s tax return.

Requiring the asset to be used or installed ready to use is an interesting catch.  It means that businesses cannot stockpile assets and claim the immediate deduction for those assets.  For example, if a restaurant business bought three ovens in June 2015, those ovens would need to be in use or installed ready to be used before the tax deduction could be claimed.  If only one oven was used or installed before the end of the financial year, then the business could only claim the immediate deduction for one oven in their tax return.  Assuming the other ovens are used before 30 July 2017, the immediate deduction could be claimed in the year they were first used or installed ready for use on the business’s tax return.

Can I buy multiple items and claim the immediate deduction even though the total being claimed is more than $20,000?

Yes. As long as you acquired the asset on or after 7.30 pm AEST on Budget night (12 May 2015) and use it (or install it ready for use) before 30 June 2017, then an immediate deduction should be available if each individual item costs less than $20,000.

Don’t forget about the cash flow implications.  Depending on when you purchase the assets it might be another year before you can claim the deduction.

The same principle applies to items that relate to an existing asset, like machinery.  If what you are purchasing qualifies as a depreciating asset in it’s own right, then you can claim it.

Whatever the asset is, the same principles apply.  Your business needs to qualify as a small business entity, the asset needs to be purchased and used (or installed) after Budget night and before 30 June 2017, the asset must cost less than $20,000, and the asset must be a depreciating asset.  Not everything will qualify.

What sorts of assets can I claim an immediate deduction for?

To be able to claim the $20,000 immediate deduction, the asset needs to be a depreciating asset.  A depreciating asset is an asset whose value you expect to decline over time.  Examples include computers, furniture, and motor vehicles.   So, no investment assets.

We’ve had some very interesting questions from people wanting to know what they can and can’t claim the immediate deduction for.  Take artwork being advertised by a local art gallery.  The gallery tells you that your business can buy anything up to $20,000 and claim an immediate deduction for it.  Is this correct?  The answer is, it depends.

There has to be a connection between the artwork and your business for it to be a depreciating asset.  For example, the artwork could be displayed in your office reception or waiting area.

The Tax Office says that the life of an artwork for tax purposes is 100 years.  So, deducting the artwork immediately is a big tax bonus.