A business becomes liable for fringe benefits tax where it provides car parking benefits in the form of a car parking facility for more than four hours on its premises to its employees, and the relevant car parking facility is situated within one kilometre of a commercial car park where the minimum all day cost is more than the current parking fringe benefit threshold ($8.66 a day for the 2017-18 FBT year).

Note that this one kilometre is a radius, and “by the shortest practicable route, from a car entrance to those premises”. Also this can be travelled by any means, as long as this produces “the shortest practicable route”.

But if you have a small business, car parking benefits provided to staff can be exempt from FBT. This can be a valuable exemption for smaller businesses. Note however that all of the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • the parking is not provided in a commercial car park
  • the providing entity is not a government body, a listed public company, or a subsidiary of a listed public company
  • its gross total income for the  year immediately preceding the relevant FBT year was less than $10 million, or it was a small business for the  year immediately preceding the relevant FBT year.

Some businesses located in large shopping centres have tried to help employees by subsidising the cost of parking fees which kick-in after a certain time elapses (such as where the first three hours are free but a fee applies after that). The danger here is that by doing this they may render themselves liable for FBT through the car parking benefit provisions as even shopping centre car parks that charge a fee are considered to be commercial car parks.

Also note that the ATO considers that a car parking facility run by a local council will generally be considered to be “commercial” where the fees are set on the basis of expenses incurred in operating that facility. Where the fees have been set at a rate to recoup capital expenditure and/or to at least cover the day-to-day running costs of the facility, or to recover a reasonable part of these costs, then the car parking facility will be considered to be commercial.