Small Business Glossary

FBT - Fringe Benefits Tax

Fringe Benefits Tax, or FBT, is a tax paid by employers on non-cash benefits provided to employees.

The Fringe Benefits Tax, commonly referred to as FBT, is a tax imposed on employers by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for the non-cash benefits provided to their employees. These benefits can range from the use of a company car to health insurance premiums paid on behalf of the employee. The concept of FBT is an integral part of the Australian taxation system and has a significant impact on the way small businesses operate.

Understanding FBT is crucial for small business owners as it can influence their decisions regarding employee remuneration and benefits. It may seem complex at first, but with a comprehensive understanding, it can be navigated effectively. This glossary entry aims to provide an in-depth understanding of FBT, its implications, and how it can be managed within a small business context.

Understanding FBT

The Fringe Benefits Tax is a tax paid on certain benefits employers provide to their employees or their employees' associates. FBT is separate from income tax and is calculated on the taxable value of the fringe benefits provided. The ATO has specific guidelines on what constitutes a fringe benefit and how it should be valued.

FBT is levied on the employer, not the employee, and is paid in addition to the income tax. The rate of FBT is currently set at 47%, aligning with the highest marginal tax rate, including the Medicare Levy. The purpose of this alignment is to discourage employers from providing fringe benefits instead of salary to avoid higher tax rates.

Types of Fringe Benefits

There are various types of fringe benefits that can attract FBT. These include car benefits, entertainment benefits, expense payment benefits, loan benefits, debt waiver benefits, housing benefits, living away from home allowance benefits, and board benefits. Each of these benefits has specific rules and valuation methods associated with it.

For example, car benefits occur when an employer makes a car they own or lease available for the private use of an employee. Entertainment benefits include providing entertainment by way of food, drink, or recreation. Expense payment benefits involve the employer paying or reimbursing an employee's personal expenses.

FBT Exemptions and Reductions

Not all benefits provided to employees attract FBT. Certain benefits are exempt from FBT under Australian tax law. These exemptions are designed to encourage certain behaviours or to reduce the administrative burden of FBT compliance on small businesses.

Exemptions may apply to benefits such as work-related items, minor benefits, emergency assistance, and certain benefits provided by religious institutions. There are also various ways to reduce the amount of FBT payable, such as providing benefits that are income tax deductible, employee contributions, and using the valuation rules to reduce the taxable value of benefits.

Implications of FBT for Small Businesses

FBT has several implications for small businesses. It adds to the overall tax burden and can influence decisions regarding employee remuneration and benefits. The compliance requirements associated with FBT can also be significant, particularly for businesses that provide a range of fringe benefits to their employees.

However, with careful planning and management, it's possible to minimise the impact of FBT on a small business. Understanding the types of benefits that attract FBT, how they are valued, and the available exemptions and reductions can help businesses manage their FBT obligations effectively.

FBT and Employee Remuneration

FBT can influence how small businesses structure their employee remuneration packages. Since FBT is levied at the highest marginal tax rate, it can make certain fringe benefits less attractive than others. Some businesses may choose to provide higher salaries in lieu of fringe benefits to avoid FBT.

However, providing certain fringe benefits can be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining employees. For example, the provision of a company car or health insurance can be a significant incentive for employees. Therefore, understanding FBT can help businesses strike the right balance between providing attractive benefits and managing their tax obligations.

FBT Compliance

Complying with FBT requirements can be a significant task for small businesses. It involves identifying and valuing the fringe benefits provided, keeping appropriate records, calculating the FBT liability, and lodging an FBT return with the ATO.

However, the ATO provides various resources and tools to assist businesses with their FBT compliance. These include FBT calculators, guides, and checklists. There are also professionals who specialise in FBT compliance who can provide valuable advice and assistance.

Managing FBT in Small Businesses

Effective management of FBT involves understanding the rules, planning ahead, and seeking professional advice when needed. It's important for businesses to regularly review their fringe benefits to ensure they are compliant with FBT requirements and to identify any opportunities for tax savings.

Businesses should also consider the impact of FBT when making decisions about employee remuneration and benefits. This includes considering the tax implications of providing certain benefits and whether it would be more tax-effective to provide additional salary instead.

FBT Planning

FBT planning involves identifying the fringe benefits that a business provides, understanding the FBT implications of these benefits, and planning how to manage the FBT liability. This can involve choosing to provide certain benefits over others, structuring benefits in a way that reduces the FBT liability, or making employee contributions to reduce the taxable value of benefits.

FBT planning should be a regular part of a business's tax planning process. It's also important to keep up to date with any changes to FBT law, as these can have a significant impact on a business's FBT obligations and strategies.

Seeking Professional Advice

Given the complexity of FBT law, it can be beneficial for small businesses to seek professional advice. Tax professionals can provide advice on how to manage FBT obligations, identify tax-saving opportunities, and ensure compliance with FBT requirements.

Professional advice can be particularly valuable when a business is considering providing new fringe benefits, when there are changes to FBT law, or when a business is undergoing a review or audit by the ATO.


FBT is a complex area of tax law that has significant implications for small businesses. However, with a comprehensive understanding of FBT, businesses can navigate their obligations effectively, manage their tax liability, and make informed decisions about employee remuneration and benefits.

While FBT can be challenging, it also presents opportunities for tax planning and can be a powerful tool in attracting and retaining employees. With careful management and the right advice, small businesses can turn FBT from a burden into an opportunity.

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