The recent ruling on payroll tax and its application to medical practices has caused quite the flurry within the industry.
The ruling, released late December 2022, sought to explain the application of the “relevant contract” provisions in the Payroll Tax Act 1971 (Qld) (Act) to medical practices and clarify whether practices may be liable for payroll tax under the Act. Despite its intended purpose, the ruling has received criticism, with many practices fearing they will be forced to pay payroll tax on payments to doctors and have no choice but to pass those costs on to patients.
In response to the criticism, the Queensland Government announced a payroll tax amnesty on payments made to contracted general practitioners until 30 June 2025. Importantly, the amnesty does not extend to other medical and allied health professional including specialists, dental clinics, physiotherapy practices and radiology centres.
Although further details of the amnesty are yet to be released, what we do know is:
- to be eligible for the amnesty, medical practices must complete an ‘expression of interest’ form by 10 November 2023 ;
- the amnesty is only available for contractor payments to GPs who are registered as a general practitioner with the Medical Board of Australia; and
- if successful, medical practices will not be required to pay payroll tax on payments made to GPs up to 30 June 2025 and for the previous 5 years (from 2018 until 2025).
While the amnesty is a likely relief for eligible practices, there remains many questions to be answered including ‘What about the rest of us?’ ‘What happens after 30 June 2025?’ ‘How can medical practices ensure they are not exposing themselves to potential tax liabilities?’ and ‘Can the OSR go after medical practices retrospectively?’ How aggressive will the OSR be against GP practices that do not submit the expression of interest by 10 November 2023?
Even though many of these questions remain unanswered, it is important for medical practices to seek independent advice on how best to manage the situation based on current guidance. It may be the case that the existing structure of the medical practice needs refinement or the agreements with the doctors require amendment to better mitigate the risks.
What does this all mean for medical practices?
As many are already aware, the ruling did not provide medical practices with a clear business structure or practical steps to implement if they are concerned about payroll tax (aside from a tenancy arrangement which is likely impractical for mode practices to adopt). Some limited guidance may be gleaned from the ruling about when payroll tax does not arise. However as the interpretation of the ruling is uncertain, we recommend you seek independent legal advice before amending your agreements or undertaking a review of your current structure.
The ruling reiterated that each arrangement will be considered individually on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it is a ‘relevant contract’.
We will continue to monitor this issue and provide further updates, information and recommendations as more details on the amnesty are released.
In the meantime, medical practices should consider having their agreements with doctors reviewed in light of the ruling and seek advice on how best to minimise the potential risks associated with its current operations.
If you would like further advice including a copy of our ‘Information Document on the Payroll Tax Ruling’, please do not hesitate to contact Antony Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sabrina Austin (email@example.com).
 Public Ruling PTA000.6.1, Payroll Tax Act: Relevant Contracts – Medical Centres.
 Note this date was initially 30 June 2023, extended to 29 September 2023 and then to 10 November 2023. Watch this space for further extensions.