Provisional Tax – how does it work?

Provisional Tax – how does it work? 

If you had to pay tax of more than $5,000 in your last income tax return, you may have to pay provisional tax for the following year. Provisional tax is like paying progress payments on next year’s income tax.

The amount you have to pay relates to your expected profit for the year. In practical terms, the amount of provisional tax you’re expected to pay is based on the tax you were liable for in the previous year, often referred to as residual income tax (RIT).

Even if you are not required to pay provisional tax, you may still elect to do so, to spread your tax obligations over the year. This can help you manage cash flow and take away the pressure of paying a lump sum at the end of the year.

For a new business, the first-year provisional tax payment can be tough. You must pay last year’s income tax at the same time as the first instalment of next year’s provisional tax. There are a couple of ways we can help you reduce the pain.

If you are self-employed or a partner in a partnership you may be entitled to a discount of 6.7% on your first year’s income tax. This is to encourage you to pay tax early and relieve the financial strain before you must pay provisional tax for the first time.

COVID-19 and provisional tax

In order to shrink compliance costs for smaller taxpayers and allow them to retain cash for longer, the government has introduced some tax relief measures that affect the normal rules for provisional tax:

  • The threshold for provisional tax increased from $2,500 to $5,000 from the 2020/21 tax year. This means any current provisional taxpayers with provisional tax payments of less than $5,000 will have until 7 February following the year they file to pay their tax bill.
  • Depreciation for commercial and industrial buildings is reintroduced from the 2021/22 income year. If you are a building owner, you will be able to adjust provisional tax payments immediately in anticipation of additional deductions that become available.
  • If your business is affected by COVID-19 and:
    • you need to re-estimate your provisional tax as your income falls short of the estimate and provisional tax has been overpaid, it may be possible to arrange early refunds.
    • if you are unable to pay tax by the due date, Inland Revenue has discretion to write-off penalties and interest. You may be eligible for a UOMI (use of money interest) write off.

It’s important to keep your tax plan current. If circumstances change for your business, we need to adjust your plan. Let us know as soon as you can about the situation for your business.

Please ensure you check with your Accountant regarding the information above – they are best to advise you on this.

Provisional Tax explained

Provisional Tax explained 

If you are employed, your employer deducts income tax from your regular pay and pays it to the IRD.

But if you get your income from other sources such as self-employment, rental income or shareholder income, then you need to pay your income tax to the IRD in other ways.

Generally, after your first year in business, your accountant will finalise your accounts and determine your tax position. If your business has made a profit you will have income tax to pay on that profit. This is also called terminal tax or residual income tax. You have until the end of the following financial year to pay it.

Provisional tax can come into play at this point because if you have more than $2,500 in residual income tax to pay, you will have to start paying provisional tax. Provisional tax is income tax paid in advance of the end of the financial year, or paid as you go (not in arrears).

As a default, provisional tax is generally calculated at 105% of last year’s end-of-year tax (standard option) and usually paid in three instalments over the year (28 August, 15 January, and 7 May).

Talk to us if you think that your income is going to be substantially more or less than last year and we can help estimate a more accurate figure.

Other ways to pay provisional tax are by using the ratio option, where you pay a percentage of your GST return – this can be good for people with fluctuating or seasonal income – or by the AIM (Accounting Income) option, which uses your accounting software to calculate your provisional tax based on your profit (or loss) for the period. You generally pay in line with your GST periods for both of these methods.

It’s important to get provisional tax right. If you under pay or don’t pay on time, the IRD may charge you interest.

Get in touch to make sure you’re paying the correct amount, or to see if there’s a better option for paying provisional tax.