Australia finds AU$131m for data retention, $254m for e-gov luvvies

$6m for MP security, gadgets tax cuts, employee shares

BUDGET 2015 Australia's treasurer Joe Hockey has outlined several technology-related items in the nation's budget for 2015/16.

In a surprise announcement, the treasurer announced the government will abolish fringe benefits tax “on all portable electronic devices used for work, like mobile phones, laptops and tablets.”

Fringe benefits tax is paid by employers, so the measure is being advanced as a boost to small business. And also, presumably, to distributors and resellers of such devices.

Startup-land gets a new tax treatment for employee share schemes, with scrip now taxed once shares are sold rather than when they are granted.

Startup-land even gets its own moment to shine in the budget papers, which include a case study titled “Growing Alison's tech start-up” which explains that “as a proprietary company Rebecca would have restrictions on the number of people she can access finance from.”

The new crowdfunding laws “... will remove the costly elements of transitioning to a public company, enabling Rebecca to more easily raise funds from a large number of small investors".

“The new law will balance supporting investment, reducing compliance costs for small businesses and maintaining an appropriate level of investor protection.”

(A new class of public company with lower compliance costs? What could possibly go wrong with that?)

Hockey also re-announced his plan to tax imported digital intangibles, and to crack down on 30 multinationals who have “.. the capacity to aggressively minimise their tax.” If caught doing so, “they will have to pay back double what they owe, plus interest.”

How Australia's new anti-multinational tax avoidance law works

How Australia's new anti-multinational tax avoidance law works, in big colourful boxes

Deeper in the expenditure measures are some items of interest. Some $131m has been found to assist with implementation of mandatory data retention, a figure telcos don't think is enough.

Malcolm Turnbull's Digital Transformation Office (DTO) will get more than $250m over four years. The Departments of Social Services, Industry and Sciences, Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office are all being asked to kick in capital to get the Office up and running.

Several departments will also send cash to the Office each year. Interestingly, funding for the DTO will go into financial year 2018/2019, which suggests it will still be digitising services beyond the 2017 goal for getting the top 50 done.

Just $6m of capital will go on “Information technology security enhancements for Parliamentarians” and $296m has been found “to strengthen the capabilities of our intelligence agencies, including updating information technology systems.”

Whole-of-government IT procurement is expected to save $29.4m between 2016/17 and 2018/19, but nothing next financial year.

The budget also impacts readers beyond Australia, as it has removed the tax-free threshold on working holidaymakers' earnings. This removal means that those on working holidays will pay tax on the first dollar they earn in Australia.

Australian residents aren't taxed until the 18,201st dollar they earn.

A few months contracting in Australia just became a whole bunch less attractive and lucrative as a result. ®

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