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Arthur Murray (NSW) Pty Ltd V FCT (1965) 114 CLR 314

Describe about the Taxation Law and Practice for Preparement of Fees.

Facts of the case

The taxpayer was engaged in the business of providing dancing lessons and offered discount to students that paid fees in advance. This discount was offered to encourage the student from prepayment of fees. The agreement between the taxpayer and the students expressly provided that there would be no refund of prepaid tuition fees. The taxpayer transferred the fees received in advance into “suspense account” which was described by the taxpayer as “unearned deposit- untaught lessons account”. The taxpayer after providing dancing lessons to the students transferred the relevant fees into revenue account from the suspense account. However, as per the agreement, the taxpayer was not required to refund prepaid tuition fees but in practice, taxpayer refunded the fees of students that did not completed the lessons (Barnett & Harder, 2014).

The taxpayer treated the prepaid tuition fees, as “income derived” after the dancing lessons were completely provided to the students. Therefore, prepaid tuition fees received was not included in the assessable income of the taxpayer (French, 2013). The taxpayer in calculating the assessable income only included the fees for which the tuition has already been provided during the year. The commissioner of tax calculated the assessable income on receipt basis and included the prepaid tuition fees as ordinary income under section 25(1) of The ITA Act 1197.

Issues of the case

The taxpayer and the commissioner of tax calculated the assessable income of the taxpayer differently because they both differ in the treatment of prepaid tuition fees. The issue before the court therefore was to determine whether the assessable income of the tax payer should include the prepaid tuition fees (Courtney, 2014).

Conclusion of the case

The high court held that the general rule is if fees are received in advance for a service that has not yet been provided then such fees should not be included in the assessable income. The high court further held that though there was an agreement between the taxpayer and the student that no prepaid fees will be refunded but in practice, it was not followed. The taxpayer refunded the fees of the students if not all the lessons are taken by the student (Shetreet & Turenne, 2013). Therefore, the taxpayer could not include the prepaid tuition fees as income in the year of receipt because there exist a possibility that the taxpayer might have to refund the advance fees in case the tuition is not provided. The high court in this judgment concluded that the taxpayer derived income from providing services in the year the dancing lessons are provided and not in the year, the advance fees were received. The judgment upheld that the accounting treatment followed by the taxpayer is appropriate (Ferran & Ho, 2014).

The ITA Act 1997 and Methods for Calculating Income

The ITA Act 1997 in section 6-5(4) provides that if an amount is received by the taxpayer or anyone on behalf of the taxpayer then such amount received should be considered as income derived. The income derived during the year should be included in the assessable income of the taxpayer as per the section 6-5 of the ITA Act 1997. There are primarily two methods of calculating income for the purpose of tax this are “earning method” and “receipt method”. The taxpayer should adopt the method that most appropriately reflects the income of the taxpayer (Kenny, 2013). In Taxation Rule 98 /1in, Para 19 as per general rule it is provided that if income is derived from investment, income derived from sources other than business income and income derived by an employee then in such cases receipt method of calculating income is appropriate. The Para 20 of the TR 98/1 provides that it is appropriate to calculate income on earning basis if the income is derived from business of trading or manufacturing. It is to be noted that for the purpose of tax the earning method is considered as the most appropriate method of calculating income (Athanasiou, 2014).

The RIP Pty Ltd is engaged in the business of proving funeral and other related services. The reported profit of the company is $2.45 million for the year ending 30 June 2016. The company provided funeral services and earned its revenue from customers under various options (Brabazon, 2015). The different methods adopted by the company for collecting fees from customer are given below:

The company received fees by issuing a net 30-day invoice from the external insurance company.

The company also issued a net 30 days invoice to its customers for collection of fees.

The RIP Finance Pty Ltd provides credit under repayment installment plan the company also received fees from this company.

The company also received fees as installment in advance from customers under easy future plan.

The general rule is that the earning method is the most appropriate method for calculating income derived from business. In case of RPI Ltd as the funeral service is provided the income is derived and it should be recognized as revenue. The procedure adopted by the company is that after the funeral service is provided the company raise a net 30 days invoice. The company should recognize the income derived as revenue after the service is provided and the net30 day’s invoice is raised and should not wait for actual receipt of revenue (Mortimore & Dickfos, 2014).

Calculation of Income for RIP Pty Ltd

The company runs a scheme of easy future plan and under this scheme the fees are received in advance by the company with the promise of providing funeral services in the future. The advance fees received under the easy future plan scheme are non refundable (MacDonald, 2012). In case a member defaults in paying all the installments under this scheme then the fees that are already paid to the company are forfeited and transferred to a separate account called “Forfeited payment account”.  The company should immediately recognize the forfeited fees as income because RIP Pty Ltd has no liability to provide funeral service to the discontinued members under this scheme. Based on the above discussion it can be concluded that the RIP Pty Ltd derives the income as the funeral service is provided (Fegan & Stephens, 2012).

In the case of Arthur Murray, it was concluded that income is derived in the year the service is provided to the customers. The case also states that as per general rule the fees received in advance should be recognized as income in the year the service is provided.  In easy future plan the RIP Pty Ltd receives fees in advance and in future it provides the funeral services. The company includes the fees received in advance as income in the year the fees are actually received (Gaal, 2013). The circumstances in the case of Arthur Murray are similar to that of RIP Pty Ltd so the principle held in the case of Arthur Murray is applicable in the accounting treatment of RIP Pty Ltd. Therefore, the company should not include the fees received in advance as income in the year the advance fees are received but it should include the advance fees in income in the year of providing the funeral service (Passant, 2016).

The taxation Rule 98/1 provides that there are two methods of accounting of income for the purpose of tax. These methods are earning method and receipt method.  The receipt method is also known as cash basis or cash received basis because under this method income is derived in the year the actual or constructive income is received. As per section 6-5(4) of the ITA Act 1997 it will be considered as income derived if the taxpayer or anyone on behalf of the taxpayer receives income (Dzhumashev, 2014). There is another method apart from receipt method for accounting of income for tax purpose. Another method of accounting for tax is the earning method and it is known as the accrual method or cash and credit method. Under this method, income is derived as it is earned and a recoverable debt is created. If the task that is required to be performed under the agreement has been performed completely then the taxpayer can legally claim the amount and it is referred to as recoverable debt. Therefore, it can be said that the commissioner and taxpayer can choose the earning method or receipt method for calculating income for the purpose of tax (Vann, 2014).

Treatment of Prepaid Fees for RIP Pty Ltd

The RIP Pty Ltd runs a scheme called easy future plan. Under this plan, the customers are required to pay fees as advance installments and the company agrees to provide funeral service in future. The advance fees paid by the customers are non-refundable. If a customer fails to pay all the advance installments then the partial fees received are forfeited and are transferred to a separate account called “Forfeited Payment Account”. The company does not have any liability, as the customers did not pay complete fees. Therefore based on the fact that the fees are non refundable and the company has no liability to provide service in future it is advised to RIP Pty Ltd that the forfeited fees of $16200.00 should be treated as income in the year the fees are forfeited (Paturot et al., 2013).

The trading stock is referred to as anything that is manufactured or acquired in the ordinary course of business and is used for manufacture, sell or exchange of goods as mentioned in section 70-10 of the ITA Act 1997. The CGT assets and financial agreements are included in definition of trading stock.  It is provided in section 70-25 of the ITA Act 1997 that the amount incurred for trading stock should not be of capital nature.  Therefore the caskets and accessories purchased by the RIP Pty Ltd that are used in the ordinary course should be treated as trading stock and not capital assets (Brody et al., 2014).

The section 8-1 of the ITA Act 1997 allows general deductions and the amount paid for the purpose of purchase of trading stock buy the RIP Pty Ltd is allowed as deduction as deduction under this section. The deduction for purchase of trading stock is allowed in the year the trading stock becomes part of stock in hand of the company. It is also provided in section 8-1 of the ITA Act 1997 that general deduction under this section is allowed for expenses that is necessary for carrying on business and produce assessable income. In the given case, RIP prepaid an amount of $25000.00 for purchase of stock that is to be delivered in next income year. Based on the above discussion it is advised that the          prepayment amount should be treated as advance for the income year 30June 2016 (Robson, 2014).

As per section 6-5 of the ITA Act 1997, any income that is received by a resident taxpayer should be included in the ordinary income as per this section.  Therefore, the dividend that is received by the RIP Pty Ltd should be included in the taxable income. The company will be able to take franking credit as the dividends are fully franked. The advance payments for rental storage are not included in the list of capital asset provided in section 100-25 of the ITA Act 1997. Therefore, amount paid in advance for rent should not be treated as capital assets. The advance rent includes rent of four months of the current income this rents is allowed as general deduction under section 8 of The ITA Act 1997. The unused long service leave should be included in the assessable income as per section 83-80 of the ITA Act 1997. In this case, RIP Pty Ltd paid a three-month long service leave in advance this advance should be treated as expense and not as advance for the income year 30 June 2016 (McClure et al., 2016).

Methods of Accounting for Income

The taxpayer can claim general deductions under section 8 of the ITA Act for producing assessable income. The list of CGT assets as provided in section 100-25 of the ITA Act 1997 includes land and building. The expenses incurred by the taxpayer for land and building should not be included as general deduction under section 8 of the act (Saad, 2014). These expenses should be treated as capital nature and not as general deduction.  The expenses related to construction of onsite parking, expenses for equipment, expenses for landscaping are to be treated as capital expenditure and not as general deduction.

Reference

Athanasiou, A. (2014). Changing from cash to accruals accounting. Taxation in Australia, 48(8), 459.

Barnett, K., & Harder, S. (2014). Remedies in Australian Private Law. Cambridge University Press.

Brabazon, M. (2015). Australian International Taxation of Attributed Trust Gains. Australian Tax Review, 44(3), 141-166.

Brody, E., Breen, O. B., McGregor-Lowndes, M., & Turnour, M. (2014). 5 An Unrelated Income Tax for Australia?. Performance Management in Nonprofit Organizations: Global Perspectives, 17, 87.

Courtney, W. (2014). Contractual Indemnities. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Dzhumashev, R. (2014). Corruption and growth: The role of governance, public spending, and economic development. Economic Modelling, 37, 202-215.

Fegan, T., & Stephens, M. (2012). Taxation of entities. Concise Collection of Tax Fundamentals, A, 31.

Ferran, E., & Ho, L. C. (2014). Principles of corporate finance law. Oxford University Press.

French, R. (2013). Law-complexity and moral clarity. Brief, 40(6), 25.

Gaal, J. (2013). CGT Small Business Reliefs: The Comprehensive Practitioner's Handbook. CGT Small Business Reliefs: The Comprehensive Practitioner's Handbook, xxviii.

Kenny, P. L. (2013). Aligning Income Tax Laws with Accounting Rules: A Simplified Tax System Case Study. Available at SSRN 2340888.

MacDonald, A. (2012). Introduction to taxing of trusts. Concise Collection of Tax Fundamentals, A, 51.

McClure, R., Lanis, R., & Govendir, B. (2016). Analysis of Tax Avoidance Strategies of Top Foreign Multinationals Operating in Australia: An Expose.

Mortimore, A., & Dickfos, J. (2014). Using schemas to demonstrate the methodology of solving complex tax problems: A case study. Journal of the Australasian Tax Teachers Association, 9(1), 230.

Passant, J. (2016). Tax and the Forgotten Classes-A Snapshot of History.Available at SSRN 2721266.

Paturot, D., Mellbye, K., & Brys, B. (2013). Average personal income tax rate and tax wedge progression in OECD countries.

Robson, A. (2014). Australia's carbon tax: An economic evaluation.Economic Affairs, 34(1), 35-45.

Saad, N. (2014). Tax knowledge, tax complexity and tax compliance: Taxpayers’ view. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 109, 1069-1075.

Shetreet, S., & Turenne, S. (2013). Judges on Trial: The Independence and Accountability of the English Judiciary (Vol. 8). Cambridge University Press.

Vann, R. J. (2014). Hybrid Entities in Australia: Resource Capital Fund III LP Case. Tax Treaty Case Law.

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