PAYG System Advice for Employers

In Australia, employers are required to assist their employees in meeting their taxation and superannuation obligations. The ATO has implemented a system which employers can use to make this task easier, known as PAYG, or Pay As You Go tax withholding. The PAYG system enables employers to use their existing payroll system to automatically deduct amounts from payments made to the following:
• Employees and staff
• Contractors or other temporary workers
• Businesses which do not quote an ABN on their invoices or receipts.

Bear in mind that the PAYG system is not the same as payroll tax, which is a separate state-level tax. PAYG is used to enable easier and more efficient withholding and reporting of income so that it can be used to meet an employee’s end of period tax liability. They may then claim deductions or discounts for which they are eligible, and this amount is deducted from the PAYG withheld amount and returned to them.

PAYG Registration
Employers, or others who may need to withhold tax from payments, are able to register for the system online through the ATO’s business portal, or by phone. Your registered BAS or tax agent can also assist you in setting up the PAYG system for your business, ensuring that you meet your obligations and that the system is appropriately geared to your business structure.

Employers or businesses required to withhold tax are required to establish their PAYG registration before they make any payments on which tax needs to be withheld. This means that if you are in the opening stages of starting a businesses, you will need to set up your PAYG account before you are able to pay any employees or businesses which do not quote an ABN.

What Sort of Payments Require Me To Withhold Tax?
Payments made to workers, one-off payees, and some other businesses are the most common types of payments which require tax to be withheld via the PAYG system. These requirements differ depending on the nature of the employment relationship or business structure that you use to employ workers; for example, if you run a small business and hire workers as independent contractors, you generally do not need to use the PAYG system to withhold tax on their payments, unless they actually request that you do so as part of their contract.

For tax purposes, contractors are seen as independent and to be running an enterprise of their own. This means that they are required to report their own income and pay the required amount of tax for that income, minus any relevant deductions or discounts.

Regular employees, those whose employment is governed by an employment contract and are not independent from your business, generally need to have tax withheld on their pay using the PAYG system. Employees are not seen as independent from your business, and are not carrying on an enterprise of their own or capable of delegating their work to others as part of their employment contract.

Other Payments Which May Require PAYG Withholding

If you operate your own business as a partnership, or by yourself as a sole trader, and you draw payments from the business to contribute to your income, this is not assessed as a wage, and therefore you do not need to withhold tax on these payments. These payments will need to be reported as income, however, and you pay tax on drawings through your income tax return.

Some other forms of payment, besides wages payed to employees and some other workers, require you to use PAYG to withhold tax on the payments. These additional payments that require your use of the PAYG system include the following:
• Interest, dividends, and royalties which you pay to someone who not a resident of Australia
• Income from an investment, paid to someone who has not provided a Tax File Number (TFN)
• Payments to annuities and superannuation income streams
• Payments or wages for Australian residents who are currently working outside Australia
• Payments made to the beneficiaries of certain trusts
• Payments made to residents of foreign nations for the purpose of entertainment, gaming, sports, and construction.

PAYG and Employee Wages
If you have set up a business and would like to hire employees or workers, you will first need to register for the PAYG system. If you are registered, you then need to ensure that those you hire have a tax file number. If your new employees do not yet have a TFN, you can provide them with a Tax File Number declaration which they then deliver to the ATO.

For some employees, you may need to ask them to complete a withholding declaration. This declaration is used to organize the withholding amounts for some employees with special conditions, such as:
• Those who have a Higher Education Loan Program debt, i.e. a university or education debt, or Trade Support Loan as well as Financial Supplement Debt.
• Those who wish to claim certain tax offsets for which they are eligible.

PAYG Summary

The PAYG system is used to assist employers and others who hire workers that pay tax in meeting their obligations. This system can be set up online, or you can have your accountant set up the system for you. Your accountant can also assist you in arranging the other details, such as employee TFN information and any relevant withholding declarations.
As always with regard to tax, it is very important that you keep detailed records of your payments and the details of your PAYG registration. If your business ceases to employ workers, you should withdraw from the PAYG system. If you are unsure of whether or not you need to withhold tax on some payments and not others, then you should speak to your accountant or tax professional today to obtain clarification and ensure that you meet your obligations. Meeting your tax obligations to employees or workers is an important part of taxation compliance, and is monitored closely by the relevant regulators. Ensure that your business does not encounter unnecessary disputes or difficulties by arranging your PAYG and other employment obligations at the earliest opportunity.

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