The tax implications of hiring casual workers in Australia

June 19, 2024
minutes to read
Ben Winford
Table of Contents

Who is considered a casual employee?

Before we discuss costs and taxes, let's clarify who qualifies as a casual worker in Australia. It's more than just someone who works a few shifts here and there. The Fair Work Act 2009 provides a clear definition: a casual employee accepts a job knowing there's no guarantee of ongoing work or a set schedule.

Here are some key characteristics that typically define casual employment:

  • No fixed hours or schedule: Casual shifts can vary weekly, depending on your business needs.
  • Flexibility: Casuals can usually accept or decline shifts as they choose and often swap shifts with other employees.
  • No leave entitlements: Unlike permanent employees, casuals aren't entitled to paid sick leave or annual leave.
  • Higher hourly rate: To compensate for the lack of benefits, casuals receive a higher hourly rate, usually with a 25% casual loading added on top of the base pay.
  • No notice period required: Casuals generally aren't required to provide notice when they resign, although this can vary depending on specific awards or agreements.

The 25% casual loading on top of a casual employee's base hourly rate is often the first thing business owners notice. This extra percentage compensates them for the lack of benefits like sick leave and annual leave, which can translate to significant savings for your business in the long run. However, it's important to factor this loading into your overall labour costs and see how it compares to the cost of hiring permanent employees with full entitlements.

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How do casual workers affect your business tax?

Casual workers can impact your business tax in several ways, both positively and negatively:

Potential tax benefits

  • Superannuation exemption: You don't have to pay superannuation contributions for casual employees who earn less than $450 monthly from your business. This can significantly reduce your payroll expenses, primarily if many casual staff members work limited hours.
  • Payroll tax exemptions: Some states and territories offer payroll tax exemptions or concessions for businesses primarily employing casual workers. These exemptions vary depending on your business's location and size, so it's worth investigating whether your business qualifies for any of these savings.
  • Tax deductions: Like any other employee, the wages you pay to casual workers are tax-deductible. This means you can deduct these expenses from your taxable income, potentially reducing your overall tax liability.
For a deeper dive into how small business tax rates are changing in the coming financial year (FY2025), and how that might affect your bottom line, check out this comprehensive guide on Thriday's blog:

Potential tax challenges

  • PAYG withholding: You are still responsible for withholding Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax from casual employees' wages and remitting it to the ATO. This involves understanding the tax rates and thresholds applicable to each employee and ensuring accurate calculations.
  • Superannuation obligations: If your casual employees earn more than $450 per month from your business, you must make superannuation contributions on their behalf. These contributions add to your overall labour costs and can quickly increase as your earnings grow.
  • Misclassification risks: If you consistently rely on casual employees for work that's actually permanent, you risk misclassification. This can lead to significant financial penalties, as you may be required to backpay entitlements like leave, superannuation, and paying fines.

Other tax considerations

  • Fringe benefits tax (FBT): If you provide non-cash benefits to your casual employees, such as a company car or entertainment expenses, you may be liable for FBT.
  • Goods and services tax (GST): If your business is registered for GST, you'll need to charge GST on your casual employees' services.

Overall, casual workers' impact on business tax is multifaceted and depends on various factors, including their earnings, industry, and the applicable tax laws. It's crucial to consult with a qualified tax professional to ensure you understand your obligations and maximise any potential tax benefits while minimising risks.

When casuals might cost more

Casuals might not always be the cost-effective option you envision. If your casual employees consistently work full-time hours, the higher hourly rate with the casual loading can make them more expensive than permanent employees who receive benefits. Additionally, since casuals might not receive the same level of training and investment as permanent staff, their productivity could be lower. The lack of commitment often comes with casual employment, making it difficult to build a consistent, reliable team, impacting overall efficiency.

Factors for your small business to consider

The decision to hire casuals should be based on carefully considering your business context. Consider factors like:

  • Industry: Some industries, like hospitality and retail, heavily rely on casual workers due to their fluctuating demand.
  • Workload predictability: Casual workers can offer much-needed flexibility if their workload is seasonal or unpredictable.
  • Business goals: Are you prioritising rapid growth, cost control, or a stable, experienced team?
  • Your specific tax circumstances: Understanding your tax obligations is essential for calculating the actual cost of casuals.

Hiring casual workers isn't a one-size-fits-all decision. It requires carefully calculating costs, benefits, and risks specific to your business. Weigh the financial costs, including tax implications and the potential for lower productivity or higher turnover, against casuals' flexibility and potential savings.

Consult with tax professionals or business advisors for tailored guidance to ensure you make the best decision for your bottom line and overall business success.

Frequently asked questions

What happens if my casual employee works regular hours for an extended period? There's a risk of them being considered a permanent employee under the law, entitling them to benefits like leave and potentially leading to misclassification claims.

Are there any tax incentives for hiring casuals? Some states offer payroll tax exemptions for businesses with a predominantly casual workforce. You may also be exempt from paying superannuation if the casual earns less than $450 monthly from your company.

How can I ensure I'm complying with tax regulations for casual employees? It's essential to keep accurate records of hours worked and wages paid. Consult with a tax professional or the ATO for guidance on your specific obligations.

What is the tax-free threshold for casual employees? The tax-free threshold is the income an individual can earn before paying taxes. For the 2023-2024 financial year, the tax-free threshold is $18,200.

DISCLAIMER: Team Thrive Pty Ltd ABN 15 637 676 496 (Thriday) is an authorised representative (No.1297601) of Regional Australia Bank ABN 21 087 650 360 AFSL 241167 (Regional Australia Bank). Regional Australia Bank is the issuer of the transaction account and debit card available through Thriday. Any information provided by Thriday is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether Thriday is appropriate for you. Team Thrive No 2 Pty Ltd ABN 26 677 263 606 (Thriday Accounting) is a Registered Tax Agent (No.26262416).

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