A fringe benefit is a form of compensation provided to employees that goes beyond their normal salary or wages.

All You Need to Know About Fringe Benefits Tax

Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) is essential to Australia’s tax structure. Understanding its implications is vital for both employers and employees. This article will delve into the crucial aspects of FBT, from defining what it is to explaining how it’s calculated and its effects on your tax obligations.


Understanding Fringe Benefit Tax

Fringe Benefit Tax is an Australian tax system aimed at achieving fairness in income treatment. The tax targets certain fringe benefits provided to employees and their associates, and it’s imposed on employers by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) based on the benefits’ value. The FBT aims to prevent employers from avoiding income tax obligations by disguising employee salaries as fringe benefits. This enables them to lower their payable tax, as these benefits were not previously subject to income tax.

FBT doesn’t affect income tax directly, but it’s categorised as a ‘reportable fringe benefit.’ The Reportable Fringe Benefits Amount (RFBA) measures the grossed-up value of these benefits. Simply put, it represents the amount an employee would have earned pre-tax at the highest marginal tax rate (plus Medicare levy) to acquire those perks.

It is worth noting that although the RFBA is not considered part of an employee’s assessable income, it still holds tax implications. Employees are exempt from paying income tax or Medicare levy on this benefit. However, they must declare the fringe benefit to the ATO, and its value gets added to their taxable income for government benefits and obligations calculations. Employees must understand how receiving fringe benefits can impact their overall tax obligations


What are Examples of Fringe Benefits?

Fringe benefits are an extension of an employment package, over and above the traditional salary or wage. They are a tool that businesses use to attract, retain and reward their workforce.

A few examples of fringe benefits include:

  • General living expenses: This can include a variety of items such as payment for groceries, utility bills, or even your child’s school fees.
  • Car benefits: Employers might offer company cars or car-related allowances such as fuel cards or car maintenance assistance.
  • Entertainment benefits: This could encompass memberships to exclusive clubs, event tickets, corporate entertainment events, and more.
  • Housing benefits: These benefits can range from providing accommodation to an employee, rent-free housing, or contributing to an employee’s rent.

The benefits offered by organisations go far beyond commonly known forms. Fringe benefits vary greatly from one organisation to another, meaning that the scope of these perks is vast. While fringe benefits are valuable monetarily, they also play a crucial role in an employee’s job satisfaction and work-life balance.

Every FBT year, from 1 April to 31 March, employers need to assess the value of the fringe benefits they provide to their employees. When these benefits exceed the value of $2,000 in an FBT year, they are typically reported to the Australian Tax Office (ATO). This value is calculated individually for each person, depending on the range and nature of the benefits they receive.

FBT is a tax on non-cash benefits provided to employees and their associates, and is separate from income tax.


Reportable Fringe Benefits Amount

The Reportable Fringe Benefits Amount (RFBA) is a crucial Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) system component. As an employee, you receive fringe benefits from your employer, and RFBA represents the taxable value of those benefits. It’s calculated for the FBT year from 1 April to 31 March and considers your salary if you had bought each benefit with after-tax income. This means RFBA is “grossed-up” to reflect this amount accurately.

The ATO calculates this figure using the FBT rate equivalent to the highest marginal income tax rate plus the Medicare levy. This helps align the value of fringe benefits with a pre-tax salary that an employee would have to earn to purchase a similar benefit.

As an employee, you should know that the RFBA is not part of your assessable income for tax reasons but gets reported to the ATO. However, when calculating your taxable income, the ATO considers RFBA, which may impact other entitlements and obligations within a relevant tax period.

Employees may not have to pay income tax on the RFBA, but it is still considered in various means tests that government agencies use. This can impact eligibility for certain government payments and concessions, such as the Medicare levy surcharge and child support payments. It can also affect some tax offsets.


Consequences of Fringe Benefits

The Reportable Fringe Benefits Amount (RFBA) does not impact an individual’s assessable income. However, it can significantly affect various income tests, such as the liability calculation for the Medicare levy surcharge imposed on taxpayers earning above a certain income and not having appropriate private hospital insurance. To calculate the total revenue for this levy, RFBA is added to the taxable income, which could result in higher surcharges.

The RFBA can impact the amount of personal super contributions deductions an employee can claim, potentially reducing the available deductions and increasing your taxable income. If you are a low to middle-income earner looking to boost your super savings, be aware that the RFBA can affect your eligibility for super co-contributions. A high RFBA could mean missing out on this benefit altogether.

When managing your finances as a family, it’s important to remember the impact on Family Tax Benefit entitlements. This particular payment provides essential support towards raising children, and any fluctuations in your RFBA can cause a reduction in your entitlements. Therefore, assessing for potential changes is crucial when navigating through these payments.

The RFBA affects the tax offset given to a spouse for their super contributions. This offset serves as an encouragement for individuals to support their spouse’s retirement savings. However, if the RFBA is high, it can significantly decrease or even remove this offset completely.

The RFBA determines your entitlement to various tax offsets and obligations. These include your HELP debt repayment obligations, child support payments, and income-tested government benefits. If you work for an FBT-Exempt employer, then it’s crucial to notify either Centrelink or the Department of Human Services about your Adjusted Taxable Income.


Reducing Your Reportable Fringe Benefits Amount

One can work with their employer to receive a cash salary instead of fringe benefits. This tactic can prove useful, particularly if the person falls under a lower-income tax bracket. One way to lower the RFBA is through employee contributions. Employees can contribute from their after-tax income towards covering the cost of benefits, effectively reducing the taxable value of fringe benefits. Besides, employees have the option to choose benefits that are exempt from FBT. Such benefits include work-related items and do not require reporting, thus having any impact on RFBA.


Fringe Benefits Reporting for Ended Employment

When an employee’s employment ends anytime between 1 April and 30 June, and they have received fringe benefits during this period, the benefits are still subject to FBT. The employer must report the RFBA for the income tax year ending on 30 June of the next year to ensure that all applicable fringe benefits are accounted for in the respective tax year of the employee. This highlights how taxes associated with fringe benefits persist even beyond employment periods.

Always consult with a tax professional or advisor to understand how these laws apply to your situation.


Fringe Benefits Tax

The Fringe Benefits Tax may seem quite complex, but it’s an important topic employers, and employees must know about. Understanding how FBT operates, how to report it, and the tax implications is essential for fulfilling your tax obligations. While they can positively impact overall compensation, fringe benefits also potentially impact personal tax considerations and government benefits.

If you need further assistance with FBT or any other tax-related matter, visit our fringe benefits tax page for more information. Remember, tax laws are complicated and subject to change. Always consult with a tax professional or advisor to understand how these laws apply to your situation.

Anthony Dyson
Anthony excels in establishing and restructuring businesses and SMEs' tax and accounting compliance, as well as self-managed super funds. He carries out numerous daily responsibilities with ease and confidence. Anthony is not only naturally gifted, dedicated, and persevering, but also an expert in tax and accounting. Learn more about Anthony