Dear Lifehacker, I have an old MacBook that I primarily use for work, that I have recently killed by spilling a cup of coffee onto it. I have been searching the net for tips regarding salary sacrificing a laptop and the tax benefits. I haven't really found any helpful information and were wondering if you would be able to assist? I know you people are not accountants, and that the process may differ from workplace to workplace, but I'm wondering if you can least point me in the right direction. Thanks, Anthony
The concept of salary sacrificing laptops as a way of buying them cheaply has been a popular choice for employees in the past. With a salary sacrifice scheme, a piece of work equipment such as a laptop is paid for out of your pre-tax income. That effectively offers a discount equivalent to your top marginal tax rate (and you didn't have to pay GST either). However, following a tightening of the relevant rules in 2008, the chances of your actually scoring a discounted laptop this way dropped significantly.
In the 2008 budget, the rules applying to salary sacrifice for laptops were tightened. The first major change was that people who had purchased a laptop via salary sacrifice could not then also claim depreciation on that machine in subsequent years. That loophole, which made it possible to purchase a laptop for almost no cost, has been completely closed.
The ATO also tightened up the rules surrounding whether or not fringe benefits tax (FBT) was payable on a laptop provided through salary sacrificing. FBT is paid by the employer, not the employee, on certain benefits provided through work. A laptop purchased through work via salary sacrifice is exempt from FBT, but there's two big conditions attached: the machine has to be primarily for work use, and that exemption is restricted to just one machine a year.
What does that mean? It means that if your employer already provides you with a laptop, then you're not going to be able to score a second one without it attracting FBT payments. And since they'll be paid be your employer, the incentive for them to offer a salary sacrifice arrangement is pretty low.
In any event, you'll only know if the salary sacrifice option is available by chatting with your boss. But if you fall into the "already have a notebook PC for work" category, the conversation is not very likely to come out in your favour.
A final thought: lids for coffee cups can often be a good idea.
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