The road transport associations have indirectly teamed up with the TWU to oppose the Australian Taxation Office cuts to long- distance driver travel claims. But what is their agenda? The Interstater ponders
THEY’RE AT it again, chewing away at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). You might not believe this but ‘they’, being the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) are purporting that the industry is presenting a united front because they are being supported by the National Road Transport Association ( NatRoad), the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) and, oddly enough, the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
Surely, without any drivers making their thoughts and feelings known, it’s hardly united.
Collectively they would have you and the ATO believe that they are best placed in ‘advising’ the ATO where it has gone wrong with the reduction of long- distance drivers’ travel claims. They told the ATO that it should revert back to the old amount of $97.40, plus a small adjustment for a little bit of CPI.
Now, firstly, have they been hit on the arse with a bolt of lightning lately? What makes them think that they can mention the term CPI when none of their members would dare utter those three letters? When was the last time anyone in trucking received a CPI increase?
Secondly, why is it so important to these so- called experts whether the travel allowance is $97.40, $55.30 or a flat 10 bucks? Surely they are aware very few of their members pay it anyway.
Perhaps the ATO needs to be shown just how dishonest the whole industry is when it comes to paying these allowances.
So let’s be perfectly clear. What this means is that when you are being paid per kilometre, you are supposed to be paid ‘X’ amount of kilometres, let’s say 5000 for the week, multiplied by say 44 cents per kilometre (for every kilometre). So that’ll be $2200 gross for the kilometres driven.
For those that don’t seem to acknowledge it, there should also be an amount for all of the loading, unloading, fuelling, washing the truck etc. For the sake of balance, let’s say $30 per hour for an average of 20 hours per week minimum.
So what have we got there? We have $2800 gross. Not a bad return for the time, danger and loss of home-time with the ones we love. Now we do have to pay tax on all of that. Well, we don’t pay the tax, our employers do; hence any reduction in the amount of tax paid really reduces the amount that they have to pass onto the ATO.
So how can an employer in the trucking industry reduce the amount of money that leaves their bank account and arrives in the coffers of the ATO? He or she simply has to reduce your gross taxable income somehow. How is that done? Remove as many tax-free benefits as possible prior to calculating the gross, something like $97.40 per day times six. So now we have $2800, less ($97.40 x 6) $584.40, leaving tax payable on $2215.60 only.
What this standard operating procedure achieves is a tax payment reduction for everyone employing a truck driver, multiplied by the amount of truck drivers they have in their employ.
Just so we are clear here, it also means that the drivers are paying their own travel allowance. But if and when the truck driver is audited by the ATO, he must be able to substantiate the full amount claimed with a full year of receipts. The employer is sitting high and dry, and doesn’t have to show cause as to how the deficit happened, even though the driver had no hand in how much was forwarded to the ATO.
Can anyone guess why the employers are seething about having less reductions available at present? That is why all of these associations are joining forces to fight a common interest.
They are fighting like an AdBlue Kenworth on a hot day climbing the Moonbi Range.
The ATA has prior form on dealing with the ATO in regard to screwing drivers in the past with superannuation. They were so extreme in their need to please their masters, they had the ATO staff give up and bow to their demands.
Superannuation is legislated to be paid on a person’s base rate and because long- distance drivers are paid a base rate of ‘X’ amount of cents per kilometre, what that means is they are to be paid currently 9.5 per cent of every kilometre driven – nothing more, nothing less.
In plain speak, you are to be paid 9.5 per cent for the first 1000km you drive, 9.5 per cent for the last 1000km driven and 9.5 per cent for every kilometre in between. But they don’t because they conned the ATO into believing that they knew otherwise; they were wrong, but that doesn’t matter when the ATO is afraid of you.
Again, these associations will once again go on the attack until they get their way, leaving truck drivers worse off. And why will that happen? Because you don’t have anyone telling your side of the story! The TWU will be there, but how deficient are they to tell your story when they have not walked five miles in your shoes?
I have a saying when it comes to our plight and it goes like this: “Not enough people know what it is that we do for a living.” And to take that a little further, the ATO has no idea what we do for a living or how we do what we do or what’s involved in doing what we do for this country.
The ATO isn’t on the attack against we truck drivers, it is simply trying out our resolve. It is doing what it is supposed to do, but they are looking in the wrong wallet and they are asking the wrong people to explain. But that’s okay because most truck drivers are of the belief that their boss is a good bloke that wouldn’t rip them off. That is until one day when they leave that job and look back over their shoulder and think for a split second: “Did I just get ripped off or what?”
But then, it’s too late.
If it wasn’t for this magazine and its website, hardly anyone would even know about this. Do you think that is by accident? Why haven’t more truck drivers heard about this? What chance do our friends, the owner-drivers (or ‘small family businesses’ as Michaelia Cash refers to them as) have of getting a rate rise, CPI or otherwise, when the reduction in the cost of employing a company driver means the opposing costs of ‘using’ an owner- driver is greatly reduced?
The only hope owner-drivers have of being in a better position to scratch out a rate rise is if and when ( because it must happen) long- distance company drivers start being paid by the hour for every hour worked and driven.
To coin a phrase that not many owner- drivers like to be reminded of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal which would have taken care of these anomalies well and truly by now.
The point missed by the TWU is this: the recent reduction by the ATO won’t have much of an effect on the majority of truck drivers because most don’t receive the allowance anyway.
The only real difference now is drivers will hopefully pay more attention to getting a receipt and filing it, knowing it means a real tax return unlike anything they have previously seen.
There is another way of looking at this and that is if no- one had their allowances deducted from their weekly pay and kept the receipts for every legitimate purchase they made throughout the year, then claimed the whole lot at tax time, their next holiday would be well and truly funded, and their car would be in a much better condition mechanically as well.
DOING THE MATHS
Is there anything to be learned from all of this? Absolutely! Never trust anyone that you drive for and lobby to be paid by the hour. Remember, an EBA must not leave you worse off than you would be under the Federal Award. And always remember that any EBA can be broken by either side.
Once that EBA has been broken, then both parties must revert back to the award.
Do the maths, work out exactly how many hours you work per week, and that is made up of every 15-minute block of time that is associated in facilitating the workings of your employer’s business. Any loading, unloading, fuelling up, running around chasing tyre fitters, auto electricians, windscreen fitters, Cummins, Detroit or Caterpillar – doesn’t matter where you are, in your home town or thousands of kilometres away, if you can’t reach out and grab a beer out of your fridge at home, or give your wife and/or kids a kiss, then you are at work and must be paid. Firemen are, politicians are, salesmen are, and all those that sell things to this industry are too. We are no different.
TWO OF THE BEST
We lost one of the most popular blokes on June 18, one that I and many of you would have known – John ‘Bear’ Taylor, an ex Eastoe’s Transport company man. Now we have lost another great highway man in John ‘Whiplash’ Niessink, ex Kwikasair and beyond.
Two of the very best ever. RIP gentlemen.
“An EBA must not leave you worse off than you would be under the Federal Award.”
THE VOICE OF THE TRUCK DRIVER